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Art Basel Miami Beach '07: Promising sales on Day 1 a reflection of firm market

Concerns about the impact of the tumultuous economy seem unwarranted as buyers crowd Basel

Sales at Art Basel Miami Beach were bound to come under close scrutiny as turbulence in the financial markets continued to hit the headlines, particularly in the US. But the economic uncertainties seemed irrelevant as the fair opened yesterday.

“The only thing we have left is the wine,” said Tim Blum of Blum and Poe (C17), surveying his stand at the Art Basel Miami Beach vernissage last night. Murakami’s Daruma the Great, 2007, was sold for around $1.5m, as were two Tatsu Nishi clocks at $25,000 (plus installation expenses) along with works by Mark Grotjahn and Chiho Aoshima. Mr Blum’s experience was echoed widely across the fair. Some stands were so packed that they were impossible to enter and at others queues formed just to speak to junior staff members. Within six hours of the fair’s opening, reported sales were strong.

Thaddaeus Ropac (E9) sold a big Baselitz Olaf Wieghorst, 2007, for $600,000 to a German buyer, an Alex Katz Large Marine 1, 2007, for $450,000, as well as works by Tony Cragg, Jason Martin, Tom Sachs and others to a balance of European and American collectors.

In fact, it was the American collectors who seemed to dominate buying on the first day. Beth Rudin DeWoody bought Stebau #5, 2007, by the Korean artist Lee Bul for around $80,000 from Lehmann Maupin (F13). Arndt and Partner (A5) sold Shi Zinning’s Look, 2007, (€65,000; $91,000) to a “very good collection in Denver” within seven minutes of the fair opening, according to gallery director Matthias Arndt.

“It was a feeding frenzy,” said Mark Hughes, director at Lelong (E5). “We had our first sale at 12.03 and haven’t stopped since.” Among his sales was Kate Shepherd’s Pewter, America, Death, Revere, 2007, which went to a New York collector for $45,000.

Supernova, the inaugural semi-curated section for new art (see p10), was quiet at first as collectors focused on the main fair, but this did not prevent collectors emptying Jack Shainman’s stand (Q4) of works by Subodh Gupta (What You’re Thinking Is Not The Same, 2007, a sculpture of stainless steel pots and pans, which sold for €320,000; $450,000), El Anatsui and Bharti Kher.

Victoria Miro (A7) was one of many dealers still confident in the market’s strength. “Recent financial turbulence hasn’t affected the market at all. I can’t see any change, it seems exactly the same as last year,” she said.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper Art Basel Miami Beach Daily as 'Day one: strong opening sales at Art Basel Miami Beach as market remains firm'