Fairs USA

The Art Show: Flying the flag for US dealers

Heavyweight collectors and sales across the board were reported on opening night, but dealers were hesitant to proclaim the fair a triumph just yet

Seventy US dealers are flying the flag at the upmarket Park Avenue Armory at the Art Show, the fair organised by the Art Dealers Association of America, until 7 March. The fair, which has moved back to coincide with the Armory Show, is showcasing big-ticket modern classics, from a $3.5m Francis Bacon 1959 oil Study for Portrait Looking Right (John Berggruen, C12) to a $2.5m Pink Lady by Helen Frankenthaler (Knoedler & Company, A6), dated 1963. There is also a smattering of more recent work by artists including Roxy Paine, priced from $18,000 to $60,000 (James Cohan, B3), and Christopher Williams (David Zwirner, B2) whose photographs are priced at $32,000 a piece.

Heavyweight US collectors, including Amy and John Phelan, Wilbur Ross and Agnes Gund, as well as New York artists such as Eric Fischl and Ellsworth Kelly attended the opening charity gala. “I just walked in and bought a nice little Kippenberger—we’re in the mood today,” said secondary-market dealer Christophe van de Weghe, adding: “The market is much better than last year. There is so much more optimism.”

This translated into early sales across the board. A solo show of works by Fred Wilson proved popular at PaceWildenstein (A7), with prices from $25,000 to $85,000 enticing the Toledo Museum of Art to buy Iago’s Mirror, 2010.

This wasn’t by any means the only single artist presentation. Alighiero Boetti at Sperone Westwater (D2), Albert Oehlen at Luhring Augustine (A2) and William Kentridge at Marian Goodman (B1) were trumped by the outstanding Willem de Koonings at L&M (B4) and the split drawing show of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele at Galerie St. Etienne (C7). “Galleries have to take the risks that museums can often no longer afford to,” said Lucy Mitchell-Innes, the new ADAA President.

Richard Feigen (C2) felt that the strength was still in the Art Show’s heartland of sure-fire modern masters: “The art world is inundated with money—there’s so much liquidity out there because people are afraid of currency. They’ve been told that art is a place to park money.” So, is the market on the turn? Despite swift sales on opening night, most dealers were hesitant to proclaim the fair a triumph just yet—“I’ll let you know on Sunday,” said Nicole Klagsbrun director Ruth Phaneuf.

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