Christmas came early to print dealers during Art Basel Miami Beach week when, by Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008, it was looking like many of them would at least break even. Glenn Dranoff, one of the organizers of the Ink Miami print fair, Dec. 4-7, 2008, claimed that none of the 13 participating dealers had registered any complaints; all plan to return next year, as far as he knew.
Dranoff himself was happy to report the sale of Andy Warhol’s tarted-up version of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus for a healthy price, though he declined to be specific (at auction this past October these fetched $47,000-$95,000). John Szoke was also pleased with his business at the fair, and his director Michael Lisi reported that the gallery had sold a number of works by Pablo Picasso.
Several of last year’s Ink participants, including dealers Susan Sheehan, William Shearburn and Jim Kempner, decided to switch venues and participated in Art Miami, Dec. 3-7, 2008. They reported mixed results. Shearburn said he had made a number of sales, including a Carl Andre floor piece for around $90,000 and a John Chamberlain tabletop sculpture for $18,000, but mysteriously sold no prints. Nevertheless, he was happy to be free of Ink’s works-on-paper limitation that had hampered his ability to show original works.
Jim Kempner agreed, as he was exhibiting sculptures by Carole Feuerman, but was quick to report that his print sales were doing fine. One of the standouts was a rare 1992 Sol LeWitt portfolio, edition of two, which was purchased by a private collector for $7,500. By Saturday, Susan Sheehan’s booth sported several red dots for Willem de Kooning’s Untitled prints from 1986, which were priced at $25,000 and $28,000 apiece, and gallery director Andrew Ehrenworth said they had also sold a Warhol Shoe print from 1955.
Betsy Senior and Larry Shopmaker, of Senior & Shopmaker Gallery on East 26th Street in Manhattan, participated in the Miami art fairs for the first time. They debuted a striking new Alex Katz woodcut, titled Forest and measuring 30 x 68 inches, priced at $9,000. They are exclusive distributors for the work.
During Miami art fair week, a visit to the Rubell Family Collection in the city’s Wynwood Art District was a must for collectors anxious to see what the Florida "Power Couple" was presenting this year in their deluxe two-story facility, a former DEA warehouse. The new show, titled "30 Americans," featured works by 31 African-American artists from the Rubell collection, ranging from Robert Colescott and David Hammons to Nina Chanel Abney and Noah Davis.
The show includes several editioned pieces, including Kerry James Marshall’s spectacular woodcut Untitled from 1998-99, a suite of 12 panels that altogether measures more than 8 x 50 ft, and that stretched across the back wall of the main gallery. This unique edition of eight (each one is a different color) features images of a black family in relaxed conversation in their life-sized tenement apartment. Known for monumental figure paintings, Marshall says black figures are largely absent in works collected by museums and other institutions. One can rest assured this woodcut is the largest ever to represent black people (or white ones, for that matter).
Upstairs, print connoisseurs could also appreciate the sardonic humor of Glenn Ligon’s 2000 diptych print, Condition Report D. The left panel presents the statement "I Am a Man" in simple bold black type, while the right panel presents the same phrase covered with annotations discussing the print’s condition, such as, "dark spot," "hairline crease," etc., completely obliterating the meaning of the piece.
The main event of Miami art week is, of course, Art Basel Miami Beach at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Dec. 4-7, 2008. Among the handful of print dealers still exhibiting at the fair was Carolina Nitsch, who admitted she was worried about the art market. By Saturday, she was relieved to report that sales were very good. "Strong work will always stand out," she declared, after selling Bruce Nauman’s Double Poke, a neon sculpture originally issued as a multiple to benefit the New Museum, for an impressive $250,000. She also sold a large etching by Richard Dupont for $4,500, and a suite of Carolee Schneemann’s challenging performance photos from the 1970s, which famously show the naked artist pulling various objects from her vagina. The buyer of this last was a museum.
The booth of Two Palms Press was crowded with viewers anxious to get a gander at Richard Prince’s new naughty portfolio of 19 print collages, entitled "Dead or Alive" and debuting at $200,000 for an edition of six. Prince’s mélange of images of de Kooning’s "Women," clipped from museum catalogues and grafted onto pulp-magazine pinups, enables viewers, according to the press release, to finally experience "unrepressed de Kooning." Thanks to the stiff price, sales were repressed as well -- at least so far.
Down the aisle, Olafur Eliasson’s newest edition, a set of three color engravings titled The Colour Circle Series (2008), published by Danish print-maker Niels Borch Jensen, was faring much better. Three large color wheels, each measuring ca. 72 x 69 inches, explore the ways that Eliasson articulates the presence of light through color. Apart from their philosophical and scientific implications, the works are just plain beautiful. The price is roughly $10,000 each, when converted from Euros.
For those who want to keep it a green Christmas, D.A.P. was offering reusable vinyl stickers by artists depicting full-sized Christmas trees. On view was the newest edition by Phoebe Washburn, titled Wood Wall as Safari Vest as Tree (2008). Priced at $100, it doesn’t shed needles and can be used again next year.
DEBORAH RIPLEY is a print specialist at Artnet.