Skip to main content

Frieze London

2019 – What a year!?

Without a doubt, 2019 will be remembered as a year of transition.

A year full of political and financial uncertainties which consequently also reflected on the art market.

Although the art world was confident, not anticipating major changes in Europe’s so-called “big apple” – London – Brexit led to the closure of some galleries and the opening of their headquarters from London to Paris, to name some of them: – White Cube, David Zwirner, Pace Gallery.

The year was enriched by the 58th Venice Biennale curated by Ralph Rugoff “May You Live in Interesting Times” which – as the title suggests – proved to be a true reflection of the climate of great changes we are experiencing, with works focused on current themes concerning international politics, environmental emergency and social problems such as the issue of migrants, the feminist movement, racial and gender equality.

On the occasion of the Biennale, the city’s foundations and museums have prepared exceptional exhibitions such as the retrospective on Jannis Kounellis at the Prada Foundation, Arshile Gorky at Ca’ Pesaro, the monograph on Georg Baselitz at the Academy Galleries, Luc Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi, Pino Pascali at Palazzo Cavanis and Alberto Burri at the Cini Foundation.

With a witty appearance the street artist Banksy, not officially invited to exhibit but also inevitable figure that this year has caused a lot of talk about himself, was also noted.

In addition to this performance followed by a mural in the Dorsoduro district, Banksy was able to anticipate and ride the Brexit wave with the work “Devolved Parliament“, strategically put up for sale by Sotheby’s on the occasion of the last London auctions prior to the exit of the Great Britain from the EU, marking the record for the artist with 11.1 million euros.

Always on time on occasions, this time anticipating Christmas, the artist offers his version of Santa Claus on a wall in Birmingham, rendering the tragic beauty of the holidays into flesh and blood.

Instead, Maurizio Cattelan, on the occasion of Art Basel Miami – after 15 years of absence – presented his new sculpture “Comedian“.

The edible banana attached to the wall with adhesive tape and priced at 120,000-150,000 $, was a winning strategic move to get the whole world talking about it, and it is clear that the old concept of the value we attribute to things is reconfirmed to be still very much popular.

Cattelan had leapt to the headlines already in September when his work “America“, a massive gold toilet, was stolen during his recent solo show at Blenheim Palace, Oxford.

2019 was a year characterized by very important retrospectives dedicated to great artists, such as Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern in London, Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy, Mario Merz and Cerith Wyn Evans at the Hangar Bicocca in Milan, the aforementioned Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace in Oxford, Lucio Fontana at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and many others.

The result of 4 years of work, with almost 80 works on display, I would say that the exhibition of the year was “The Young Picasso – Blue and Pink Periods” at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, where even the prestigious monograph on Rudolf Stingel had a huge feedback.

In international auctions the climate of uncertainty was recorded in the appearance of a smaller number of works valued above 20 million dollars, perhaps a symptom of a period of little confidence.

Despite this the general results were quite positive again this year, so much so that we have witnessed excellent records, including Jeff Koons who has reconfirmed himself as the most paid living artist in the world with the “Rabbit“, a sculpture of 1986, sold at auction in May by Christie’s New York for 91.1 million dollars.

It was a year of great changes for the historic Sotheby’s auction house – founded in 1744 – which passed into private hands following the sale last June: entrepreneur and collector Patrick Drahi bought the giant of the sector for 3, 7 billion dollars.

The main international trade fairs have registered excellent sales and the recently concluded Art Basel Miami, featuring a positive climate, seems to be no less so.

Similar to it, Frieze London has also enjoyed excellent feedback from the public and buyers, so much so that in the climate of uncertainty many have called it a bubble of happiness.

Also Fiac in Paris saw a great success both in sales and in public, a result obtained also thanks to the first benefits of the shift of interests.

The Turner Prize – established in 1984 – was for the first time assigned to all four finalists, Lawrence Abu Hamdam, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani.

The innovative proposal came precisely from the artists through a letter to the jury explaining that at such a difficult time, their choice to present themselves as a collective is a symbolic gesture in the name of sharing and solidarity, in art as in society.

Technology, including new startups, art created by artificial intelligences or Cryptoart – a market that involves only digital works of art to be purchased with digital currency is also playing an increasingly important role in the art world.

We are in the era of interactive images and many museums are moving to accommodate new methods of using and learning. In Italy, the M9 in Mestre and the MAV in Ercolano are an example, the new generation museums that use advanced technologies and immersive installations.

The desire to live a 360° cultural experience is increasingly leading to the creation of virtual tours in many cities of art, the most recent promoted in Milan on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

In recent years, online art sales have shown considerable growth (in double figures) and have produced revenues of about $ 6 billion, a sign that the art market – very traditional in structure and dynamics – is opening up more and more to new languages.

I imagine that the future of art will reserve us many beautiful surprises and also in 2020 there will be fun!


“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

What do you know about Art Basel?

Art Basel Linda Bajare

As every year, the appointment with Art Basel is back, open to public from 13 to 16 June, with the most important contemporary art fair in the world, born in 1970 thanks to the intuition of gallery owners and collectors Trudl Bruckner, Balz Hilt and spouses Ernst and Hildy Beyeler.

The founders – eminent personalities and avant-garde figures, were looking far ahead and sensed the great potential for a new market destined to change the history of art.

Legendary personalities such as Trudl Bruckner, a Swiss gallerist who during her 44 years of activity made “Basel zuliebe” – “for the love of Basel” – her slogan, is one of the female figures standing at the origins of the fair’s conception.

Together with her on the way to transforming Basel into an international center of contemporary art, the spouses Beyeler, cultured and sophisticated “old style” collectors – both patrons and merchants – created a collection of over 200 absolute masterpieces by artists such as Rothko , Klee, Giacometti and Picasso, with whom the couple had developed relationships of friendship and mutual respect.

In 1997, the Beyelers established the Foundation named after them, which has become the most visited in all of Switzerland and the most international, with 52% of foreign visitors.

Created as an answer and alternative of the German Art Cologne, the Swiss fair was successful from the very beginning, with over 16,000 visitors to the inaugural exhibition, 90 participating galleries and 30 publishers from 10 different countries.
The numbers were destined to grow exponentially within very few editions, if we consider that to date the participating galleries have risen to 290 coming from 34 countries.

Basel, from a typical town on the Rhine, becomes an international meeting and exchange place for all art dealers, art lovers and collectors and after 49 years it continues to be the most important international event in the field of art, not only in terms of the market, but also research.

The exhibition includes all forms of artistic expression such as painting, graphics, installation, photography, performance and video art, developed especially since the late 90s with “Video Forum”, a section dedicated to the interaction of art with technological media and first of all with the video art, then “Art Unlimited” was launched, giving space to large-scale installations created through the use of a wide variety of means of expression.

Demonstrating its international character, since 2002 the Basel fair has expanded overseas for the winter edition that takes place in Miami under the name of Art Basel Miami Beach (scheduled this year from 5 to 8 December). It was also in those years that Art Basel Conversations appeared, discussions with the main representatives of the art world – among the art collectors, museum directors, curators, artists, art critics and architects – providing access to information first hand on various aspects of the art world.

If prior to the Art Basel fair all the fairs were of a national character, then since its foundation the meaning of artistic manifestation has changed, and all the directors who have followed one another over the years have wanted to impress that seal of internationality and of superlative quality that is still maintained intact in its primacy. The commission carefully considers the candidates – galleries, artists and related works proposed for the exhibition – and this selection guarantees and protects the requirements necessary to participate in the prestigious fair.
The international character of the event is once again is emphasized by Art Basel Hong Kong, launched in 2013, allowing for a privileged observation point of the dynamics of the Eastern market. The next appointment is from 19 to 21 March 2020.

The turnover of millions of dollars for each edition and the huge capitals that revolve around Art Basel are amazing, with astounding numbers that reflect the economic impact the big fairs have on the global art market.
The main actors are mainly three: Art Basel – which belongs to the MCH group – Frieze London and Tefaf Maastricht: continuous expansion across continents and support from financial institutions (UBS in the case of Art Basel) are just some of the factors that determine the constant increase in growth.

Among other things, it became known these days that MCH Group, the company owning Art Basel and Masterpiece London, has decided to sell the Art Düsseldorf fair in order to focus more on the two “flagship horses” of their team.

So, what role do non-commercial events play in the art market?
The question could be answered with the statement: “See in Venice, buy in Basel”, this is the collectors’ motto that can serve as an example suggesting of the close link between the non-profit Biennale and the most famous commercial fair.
Venice, with its prestige, provides good visibility to the participating artists and gives an overview of the news and new interesting names.

There is no doubt that sales are made earlier in the Serenissima (Serene Republic), a fact that is confirmed by over one hundred exhibitions held in addition to the official Biennale program of this year.
For example, the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery supports artists such as Lee Bul, Baselitz, Vedova and Ghenie present in Venice, and three of them are offered for sale in Basel.
Just as the Carpenters Workshop Gallery offers to buy the work of Maarten Baas, an artist presented at the Biennale. Equally the White Cube offers the artist Ibrahim Mahama, who represents the Ghana Pavilion.
At the exhibition we also find other artists participating in the 58th Biennale, such as Zanele Muholi, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Mawande Ka Zenzile, Frida Orupabo, Kris Lemsalu, Tamás Waliczky, Cathy Wilkes, Arshile Gorky, Günter Förg, Martin Puryear, Christoph Büchel.


“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”


[social_buttons nectar_love=”true” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” linkedin=”true”]