Multimillion dollar contemporary art festival begins

Art Basel in Switzerland is expected to see record sales this year. Among the pieces on display is a Mark Rothko on sale for US$50 million and a Picasso that could fetch US$30 million.

At Art Basel, widely recognized as the world’s premier modern and contemporary art fair, there is a market for everything and everyone. More than 4,000 pieces of art from 284 galleries are competing for attention from thousands of art dealers and collectors.

Multimillion dollar contemporary art festival begins

Multimillion dollar contemporary art festival begins

For most people, the value of the art shown at the gigantic halls might seem absurd. The works include the ‘Les Dormeurs’ by Pablo Picasso, on sale for US$30 million at the booth of New York-based dealer Landau.

Cheim & Read, another New York-based dealer, has had a major sale already on the first day of the fair. An untitled painting by American abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell has sold for US$6 million to an American collector on the morning of the VIP day.

“Art Basel is the gold standard of art fairs. There is no place in the world that quite compares to what we do here. And I think every gallery knows that and every collector knows that. People bring their A-game, and I know that collectors that are serious, that have long term relationships with galleries, come here so that they can find the best works, that they might not be able to find somewhere else in the world,” said Adam Scheffer, partner at Cheim & Read.2015061809374961411 2015061809374796821

The art work with the highest price tag of the fair is most likely a painting by the American-Jewish painter Mark Rothko. The untitled work from 1955 will set a buyer back US$50 million.

But according to Mark Spiegler, director of Art Basel, the top range of the art market does not necessary reflect the market as a whole.

“It is not a market that has sort of exploded all over the place the way technology has sometimes. It is still a business which is complicated, which involves a lot of physical things like moving artworks around, and producing works and sending them to fairs, and so on and so forth. So it is a business that is generally growing, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is on easy street,” Spiegler said.

Even at Art Basel, it is possible to find cheaper works selling for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.