Some of the big names for sale at Art Basel are the German masters of the early 20th century, such as Egon Schiele, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner and Gustav Klimt – and they are famously presented by London-based Australian art dealer Richard Nagy. He has been able to exhibit in Basel since 2005, although he says: ‘It is fairly brutal, and there are no guarantees that you can exhibit in the future.’
Even though away for more than 25 years, Nagy still considers himself Australian: ‘I have only got one passport, and that is Australian. But you can’t make a a living dealing in art at this level in Australia. 99% of the Australian market consists of Australian artists, just like any other art market.’ As he sees it, another obstacle for international art in Australia is that there is not the depth of wealth accumulated over many generations unlike in Europe or the USA, where there are also much larger populations. So price levels of international art are still an issue for Australian buyers. His assessment of his current Art Basel is positive: ‘It is already better than 2009, plus we have a number of reserves that I hope to see converted. This year, we have seen a lot more Americans, who skipped 2009, and of course their dollar is stronger.’
But Australians do not only sell, they buy, too. London-based consultant Olivier Varene bought a very large charcoal painting by Alain Huck reputedly on behalf of Tasmanian art collector David Walsh. Henri-Pierre Jaccaud who exclusively represents the Swiss artist, considers it a masterpiece and works by Huck are hard to come by, selling very quickly. ‘The Banquet’ was bought for Euro 50,000 and is likely to go to Walsh’s Museum of the Old and New opening in 2011.
Australian land is also on sale at Basel, well, at least a model it: ‘Wrapped Coast, Project for Australia’ from 1969 by Christo. The Botany Bay coastline is available at Italian gallery Tega for Euro 500,000 – and probably good value for Sydney real estate. The two accompanying mixed media works sell for Euro 170,000 each, and a bulk buy would surely get you a better deal.
The first official day was packed, and the general mood was buyoant, with many exhibitors and collectors emphasising the quality of works on show. Certainly the 56 big scale works in the ‘Art Unlimited’ section brought the smiles and playfulness out in every visitor.
– Article originally published in Australian Art Sales Digest