Coming just over a month after Hurricane Sandy smashed its way through Chelsea, this year’s VIP openingof Art Basel Miami Beach held more suspense than usual. Would sales be strong enough to help those dealers most affected by the storm recover? When the doors opened yesterday morning, there wasn’t the headlong surge of collectors seen in the past—fair organizers limited VIP cards this year in an effort to tamp down the frenzy. But, happily, the combination of a market buoyed by November’s record contemporary art auctions and the fair’s tight selection of high-quality, if perhaps unusually safe, art led to what was reported as excellent commerce across the board—though few mammoth sales.
One relieved gallery was Casey Kaplan, which saw its basement art storage area flooded during the storm and an entire show’s worth of work by the newly signed 76-year-old artist Giorgio Griffa—it was to be his first display in New York in 40 years—damaged. That work is now with a conservator, but in the meantime the gallery brought three elegant paintings by Griffa to the fair, all simple, delicately colored brushstrokes on raw fabric.
“His work has the same relationship with nature and spiritually as the Arte Povera artists but was not grouped with them because he is a painter,” said the gallery’s Loring Randolph. “His works always look unfinished because he believes that the paintings are universal, and that his brush is simply a conduit for paintings that have been around for thousands of years.” The works were between $17,000 and $40,000, and one found a buyer, as did a bright $67,000 Liam Gillick sculpture. “We’ve sold something by every artist we brought,” Randolf said. A Marlo Pascual was on hold.