by Rosetta Stone
Our theme this month, children, is naughty, naughty, naughty. Begin with the current artnet auction, "Femme Fatale," Dec. 3-15, 2009, a collection of provocative prints devoted to the girl who has everything, a lot of it belonging to someone else. From Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor and Patti Hearst to a troupe of anonymous beauties, these ladies spell "goddess" with a capital "G."
Highlights by the Pop Art greats include an Andy Warhol Liz (ca. 1964) in great condition (est. $65,000-$75,000) and a Roy Lichtenstein Crying Girl (1963) that translates the spirit of Pablo Picasso’s "weeping women" into the Pop idiom (est. $30,000-$40,000).
For those who are tempted by revolutionary heroines, the sale has Russell Young’s 2002 screenprint-on-canvas of that grim bank robber Patty Hearst (est. $12,000-$15,000) and Wang Guangyi’s ever-optimistic lithograph Face of the Believer (2003) (est. $4,000-$6,000).
Other notable lots include David Hockney’s lithograph of Big Celia in a sultry pose on a patterned bedspread (est. $30,000-$40,000), Henri Matisse’s 1938 black-and-white linocut Teeny (est. $1,800-$2,800) and an unbelievable Tattooed Lady by Otto Dix from his 1922 "Circus" portfolio (est. $15,000-$20,000). Who could possibly resist?
Down in Miami, the 2009 installment of Art Basel Miami Beach had its share of off-color moments. Most shocking was the opening-day move by Asher Edelman, the cut-throat 1980s corporate raider turned art dealer, who had U.S. marshals seize four artworks right off of the booth walls of Galerie Gmurzynska from Switzerland. The dispute is over a $750,000 Robert Ryman painting, reportedly damaged in transit, but Edelman took paintings worth ten times as much. Barbarous!
Then there was Christian Haye, the handsome young New York art dealer whose booth was altogether empty, and not because of a conceptual artwork. Besieged by debt (one dealer said he owes as much as $2 million to his star artist, Julie Mehretu), Haye may pull up stakes and move his operation to Berlin.
Still drawing crowds was the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, in an 11-foot-tall equestrian portrait by Kehinde Wiley based on a Peter Paul Rubens painting in the Prado, on view in the booth of Deitch Projects. The picture sold to a European museum for an impressive price of $175,000 (with discount), insiders say.
Other sales included David Hammons’ huge untitled drawing from 2001, made by bouncing a basketball on paper, which hangs on the wall with a suitcase jammed behind it (darling, it’s called "traveling" when a basketball player moves without bouncing the ball) at Jack Tilton Gallery ($1,000,000), and David Salle’s lovely new ten-foot-wide painting (done in his ’80s style) titled With All Due Respect Sir, We Need Modesty Blaise (2009) at Mary Boone Gallery ($320,000).
Still other sales included Anselm Reyle’s untitled bright orange biomorphic pedestal sculpture from 2005 at L&M Arts ($350,000), and Sterling Ruby’s looming American Risk (2009), a red-and-blue drip sculpture shaped a little bit like a cobra ready to strike, at PaceWildenstein ($200,000). All prices include a notable discount, presumably.
Speaking of prices, all nine works from the 1980s by Peter Halley at Mary Boone Gallery last month were priced at $300,000, and all were marked with red dots.
With action like this, it’s clear that the spirit at Art Basel Miami Beach was jolly, at least at the high end. The fair was smart to take the entire convention center hall, resulting in wider aisles, larger booths for the galleries and a more pleasant (and less crowded-seeming) experience overall.
"People are taking their time," said Jim Oliver, a director at Boone Gallery, "but they’re still buying." Gone is the frenzy that characterized Art Basel Miami Beach in 2006 and ’07, and also gone is the nervousness about price levels that marked the fair’s 2008 installment. "We’re optimistic," added Oliver, "that the market is back."