The art-market circus travelled from one tent to another as Paris+ par Art Basel launched in the Grand Palais Éphémère on October 19, straight after London’s Frieze fairs. The new event does not look dramatically different from its longtime predecessor, Fiac, which had been in the same venue last year, but feels like a refreshed version whose offerings meet higher expectations.
Highlights among the modern and contemporary art include a small Alberto Giacometti editioned bronze of his wife and model Annette, priced at €1.45mn (c1953-54, Kamel Mennour), Robert Motherwell’s France-appropriate “Je t’aime No II” (1955, $6.5mn, Pace gallery) and, at Lisson Gallery, four new paintings by Yu Hong ($278,000 each, one sold on opening day). The Art Basel brand has brought respected dealerships such as New York’s Acquavella Galleries to a Paris fair for the first time.
The extension at the back of the fair, with 57 of the 156 exhibitors, feels like a separate event but is markedly better quality than at Fiac last year. “We could do with a few more square metres, but are very happy here,” said the Parisian gallerist Fabienne Leclerc.
Dealers said they met more Americans than they had done at Frieze, as well as VIP visitors from Asia and Latin America. “The number of collectors is exceptional per square metre,” said Anne-Claudie Coric, executive director of Galerie Templon. She was pleased to note that the more cosmopolitan crowd still served their French artists well — her early sales included works by Philippe Cognée (€60,000-€80,000) and Gérard Garouste (€95,000), as well as a new Kehinde Wiley painting ($880,000).
Sales seemed slower than at the London fairs last week, but the overall mood was high. The gallerist David Zwirner — who had not disguised his discontent with Fiac in 2021 — said of the opening-day dynamics that it “all bodes very well for the future of Paris+ par Art Basel”.
Also in Paris, Sotheby’s wrapped up its mammoth auctions of 1,131 pieces of furniture and other objects from the mid-17th-century Hôtel Lambert (October 11-17). The five live sales and one online offering made a total of €76.6mn (with fees), comfortably ahead of their combined €63.5mn high estimate (without fees). The contents were sold by Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani and family, who had bought the house in 2007 and oversaw its serious restoration before the hôtel particulier sold on earlier this year.
At the auction, the distinctly French rule of “pre-emption” came into play — a 1921 law that means that a state-owned museum has the right to step in after a lot has hammered and replace the winning bidder (at their price) as the buyer of a work. To saleroom applause, representatives of French museums stood up to exercise the right, including the Château de Versailles, which bought a pair of Louis XIV marquetry pedestals originally delivered to their palace in 1684 by André-Charles Boulle for €1.4mn (with fees, est €500,000-€1mn) and a Louis XVI guéridon, or side-table, by Adam Weisweiler (c1784) for €500,000 (with fees, est €150,000-€250,000).
London’s Frieze-week auctions of contemporary and modern art fared well as the weakness of the UK’s currency enticed international bidders. Christie’s made an above-estimate £60.3mn (£72.5mn with fees) at its evening sale on October 13, with Sotheby’s and Phillips’s equivalent sales coming within estimates at £83.1mn (£97.1mn) and £15.2mn (£18.7mn) respectively.
Christie’s better performance against estimates “showed the difference that one buyer, probably from Asia, can make”, says Morgan Long, managing director at the Fine Art Group. She was referring to telephone bids made through Xin Li-Cohen, Christie’s deputy chair and a point person for the continent’s billionaires. Her bidder peppered the sale as she won works including a 1971 cloud study by Gerhard Richter (£11.2mn with fees, est £6mn-£8mn) and underbid on the evening’s top lot, David Hockney’s third-party guaranteed “Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime” (1968-69) which sold for a surprisingly high £18mn (£20.9mn with fees, est £7mn-£10mn).
Sotheby’s scored the highest price of the season — £23mn (£24.3mn with fees) for Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes” (1963, third-party guarantee), though this was below its low estimate of £30mn. The generally good-quality sale had eight works withdrawn, accounting for up to £12mn and including Damien Hirst’s “I love you more than words can say” (1999, est £300,000-£500,000). This came from the collecting couple Sherry and Joel Mallin, who still plan to offer the work, now earmarked for Sotheby’s London sale in March.
All sales showed a continued appetite for newer artists on the auction scene, though the crazy prices were more tempered this season. One of this year’s hits was the well-deserving Scottish painter Caroline Walker, who had her auction record broken at three consecutive sales in a row: £239,400 at Christie’s; £516,600 at Phillips; and then — just hours later — her “Indoor Outdoor” (2015) sold at Sotheby’s for £529,200 (all with fees, estimates up to £150,000).
Galleries marked the 10th anniversary edition of London’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair with some handsome displays through Somerset House. Vigo gallery brought work by artists including Zak Ové and Lakwena Maciver, both of whom had produced courtyard installations for the fair’s previous editions, while this year’s installation — the UK debut of Grada Kilomba’s O Barco/The Boat (2021) — added to the fair’s weighty works.
Other highlights demonstrated the vast scope of the loose term “African art” and included “Epiphany” (1994-2001), an installation of more than 80 crucifix-based sculptures by the Ontario-born, African diaspora artist Jan Wade (Richard Saltoun gallery, priced at £300,000) and works by the African-Caribbean American artist Miguel Angel Payano Jr (Galleria Poggiali, €4,500-€14,000).
Fair newcomer Unit London sold out its works by Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi from Zimbabwe (£7,000) and the South African Sthenjwa Luthuli (£33,000). This gallery has built its presence largely online and through social media since it was founded in 2013 but, said co-founder Jonny Burt, “the interaction with people we have met here, including museum curators, has made us realise the reason for doing art fairs.”