The Back Room: Basel Beckons

Every Friday, Artnet News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy.

This week in the Back Room: A breakdown of the biggest themes at Art Basel, Mondrian’s wonky market, a big moment for the Southeast Asian scene, and much more—all in a 7-minute read (1,877 words).


Top of the Market

Basel Breakdown

Wolfgang Tillmans, Concorde L449-19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28 (1997). Galerie Buchholz, David Zwirner. Courtesy Art Basel.

Art Basel returned to the Messeplatz in its traditional summertime slot for the first time in three years. VIP activity was strong—but as art market players toasted a quasi return-to-normal, stock markets cratered, cryptocurrency prices nosedived, and inflation rates continued to skyrocket.

Reports from the fair’s opening days indicate that galleries have yet to directly feel the recession coming downwind, but some players already appear to be anticipating a new reality.

Here are five key takeaways from the week.

High Prices

Art Basel is one of the few fairs where art is routinely traded for prices in the seven and even eight figures. Here are a few of the nosebleed-level transactions reported by galleries.

  • $40 million: Louise Bourgeois‘s Spider (1996) at Hauser & Wirth
  • $16.5 millionJoan Mitchell‘s Bergerie (1961–62) at Pace
  • $12.5 million: Felix Gonzalez-Torres‘s Untitled (Tim Hotel) (1992) at David Zwirner
  • $5.5 million: Georg Baselitz‘s Hirtenkopf (1986) at White Cube
  • $2.5 millionMilton Avery‘s Bikini Bather (1962) at Xavier Hufkens

International Activity

In the early hours of the VIP preview, gallerists expressed pleasant surprise about the return of Asian and U.S. collectors, who were conspicuously absent from Art Basel’s last edition nine months ago. Mera RubellQiao…


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