Art Basel 2022. The art market returns to its pre-pandemic splendor

Art market returns to pre-pandemic splendor at Basel Art Fair despite war in Ukraine and turbulent markets, inflation giving wealthy collectors one more reason to afford a canvas to several million.

2 mins read
art basel 2022
Work of Lawrence Weiner, ”Out of sight”, Art Basel, Basel, 2022. Photo: Profimedia

From the early hours of Art Basel (2022), Switzerland’s major art fair, which takes place from June 16 to 19, leading galleries have sealed very big sales.

Zurich-based Hauser & Wirth has set a new record for a spider by Franco-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois, which fetched 40 million dollars (38 million euros).

But it also multiplied sales to seven figures, notably selling a work by Armenian painter Arshile Gorky for 5.5 million and an oil on canvas by Francis Picabia for 4 million. For the first day alone, its sales were around $75 million.

The American gallery David Zwirner, which belongs to the German art dealer of the same name, has for its part sold a piece by the conceptual artist Félix Gonzalez-Torres for 12.5 million dollars and a canvas by the southern artist African Marlene Dumas for 8.5 million.

“The fair benefits from an intense energy with many collectors that we had not seen for so long”, welcomed Marc Glimcher, the director of the American gallery Pace, which sold an oil on canvas. by Joan Mitchell for $16.5 million and placed several of Jeff Koons’ future NFTs, which will come with a moon sculpture, for $2 million each.

art basel
Jan Dibbets, „R.R. Variations”, Art Basel, 2022. Photo: Profimedia

Like sales of yachts, luxury cars, fine watches and jewelry, the art market recovered strongly in 2021 after the shock of the pandemic in 2020 with the sharp rebound of the stock market last year which has inflated the heritage of very large fortunes.

After falling 22% in 2020, the art market recovered 29% in 2021 to climb back to $65.1 billion, according to an estimate by Clare McAndrew, author of a report for Art Basel, who notes that collectors’ budgets have also increased significantly over the past year.

But in the meantime, the war in Ukraine and the tightening of the central bank’s key rates in the face of inflation have caused major shocks in the financial markets.

art basel 2022
Hanne Darboven, „Ost-West-Demokratie, 1983”, Art Basel, 2022. Photo: Profimedia

– Alternative to the Stock Exchange –

For now, insurers specializing in the art market have not observed any breaks in the amounts insured since the invasion of Ukraine.

“The art market is picking up strongly”, also notes Nicolas Kaddeche at Hiscox. The return of fairs as health restrictions are lifted is pushing collectors to come back to buy. “But there is a second important phenomenon that will have a positive effect on the art market, which is inflation,” he believes.

“In my opinion, art will, even more than before, be a safe haven against inflation that is galloping,” he said in an interview with AFP, noting a strong request for all collectibles, such as cars.

Same observation at Axa XL, where Hans Laenen, customer manager for Asia Pacific and Europe, expects the increase to continue, barring major upheaval “in a situation which can change very quickly”.

“With the stock markets which are more volatile, the art market can be seen as a more stable investment. This can even attract other investors who will turn to works of art, rather than to the stock market”, he believes, especially since the high prices at auction are fueling buyer confidence.

Periods of concern for the economy, however, tend to favor values ​​considered safe, to the detriment of young artists.

“In case of risk aversion, people tend to focus on artists they know,” admitted Clare McAndrew in an interview with AFP.

“But I imagine that could change this year,” she predicts, with the return of fairs that allow you to come back and discover young artists.

Visit the official website to explore more this year edition of the art fair Art Basel 2022.


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