The Back Room: Initial Descent?


This week in the Back Room: sorting through South Florida, a rookie sensation at the Rubell, a Hong Kong competition-stoker, and much more—all in a 5-minute read (1,504 words).


Top of the Market

Cruising Altitude

Galerie Nagel Draxler at Art Basel Miami Beach. Photo: Courtesy of Art Basel.

Galerie Nagel Draxler at Art Basel Miami Beach. Photo:
Courtesy of Art Basel.

If the usual haze of boozy nights, high temperatures, and end-of-year fatigue has left you unsure of what to take away from Miami Art Week 2022, the best answer is that the market is responding well to lowered expectations.

After Art Basel Miami Beach’s dual VIP days were over, Katya zeroed in on the “signs of renewed pragmatism” visible throughout the last, largest fair of the year. Both the material on offer and the price tags it carried were friendlier than at previous editions—and might be a harbinger of what’s to come in 2023.

By ABMB’s close, the richest reported price for sold works was $7 million, the bottom line for both a 1979 Philip Guston placed by Hauser and Wirth and a 1998 Agnes Martin canvas placed by Pace. More than a dozen other works found homes for between $1 million and $5 million.

Yet the bigger stories were written on the other side of the ledger. Katya summed it up this way:

“While sales were still buoyant across the fair, especially for emerging artists, many big-ticket items faced resistance and remained unsold” by the time the public began pouring into the convention center Thursday.

Asking prices topped out at $32 million for an Andy Warhol fright wig painting at Acquavella Galleries. A large Jean Dubuffet tagged “at that level” was on view at Nahmad gallery—far short of the $50 million Rothko it brought to the fair in 2018. David Zwirner had a $20 million Jasper Johns, “which, dealers whispered, had been previously offered privately for $35 million.”

Guess what? None sold during previews.

So it went elsewhere, too…


Other Works Unsold Above $5 Million

  • $20 million Jean-Michel Basquiat canvas at Christophe van de Weghe 
  • $12 million Alexander Calder sculpture at Pace 
  • $7.5 million Jeff Koons egg basket sculpture at White Cube 
  • $7.5 million Calder sculpture (1962) at Gray Gallery

Just as telling were the wares that major dealers didn’t even bother to bring in the first place.

Blum and Poe traveled without any Mark Grotjahn works, opting instead to spotlight Lauren QuinAsuka Anastasia Ogawa, and other rising stars priced at $75,000 or less.

There was no sign of art-fair staple Alex Katz at Peter Blum Gallery’s booth, either, despite the acclaimed retrospective of the artist now being staged at the Guggenheim. The gallery devoted its stand to works by emerging artists Rebecca Ward and Kamrooz Aram, whose prices top out at $60,000. Most were sold by day two.

The interior of Karsten Greve’s stand included a few pricey (and unsold) Cy Twombly paintings and drawings, but the gallery had better luck with new figurative paintings by Israel’s Gideon Rubin, which went quickly at prices of $14,500 to $34,500.

That range wasn’t far off the sweet spot across the bay at NADA Miami, where works under $25,000 sold briskly during the fair’s preview day.

In fact, dealers at the two fairs were thinking more similarly than ever about all facets of the business this year, it seemed. Some blue-chip dealers even balked at their usual hotels’ rates and set out in search of more affordable options.

“This is certainly something I haven’t heard in years past,” said Tim Blum of Blum and Poe.


The Bottom Line

The new pragmatism on display in Miami last week may be the surest sign yet that the collecting class by and large believes the economy is overdue for a downturn. Yet the fact that they were still buying, even at somewhat lower price levels, should calm fears of impending catastrophe.

Remember, the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and the COVID lockdowns both qualified as generational strains on the world economy, not typical recessions. As a result, many in the trade (especially the younger set) have forgotten that a down-cycle does not necessarily mean doom.

Miami Art Week 2022 could be a valuable reminder of all this. If and when the contraction arrives, business may not be … but most likely, it will still be business.


[Read More]



Paint Drippings

The latest Wet Paint will be up later today, but last week’s edition joined ascendant artist Alexandre Diop at the opening of his Rubell Museum residency show, and clocked David Zwirner checking into Miami with a suspiciously small suitcase…

Here’s what else made a mark around the industry since last Friday morning…


Art Fairs

  • We rounded up everything that sold at Art Basel Miami Beach‘s 20th edition, from a $7 million Philip Guston painting at Hauser and Wirth, to a $6,500 work on paper by Carla Chaim at Galeria Raquel Arnaud. (Artnet News Pro)
  • From Sung Tieu to CJ Chueca, we tapped 7 artists poised to break out from Miami Art Week. (Artnet News Pro)
  • Frieze has appointed Fatos Üstek to replace Clare Lilley as curator of Frieze Sculpture. She will oversee the 2023 edition of the brand’s public art exhibition in Regent’s Park surrounding Frieze Week. ()


Auction Houses

  • Grisebach sold an (unguaranteed) Max Beckmann self-portrait for a hammer price of €20 million ($22 million), or €23.2 million ($24.4 million) after fees—the highest price ever achieved at auction in Germany. The previous record was €9.5 million for a Ming dynasty sculpture sold in 2021. (Artnet News)
  • Christie’s Hong Kong‘s 20th/21st Century art and Post-Millennium evening sales scraped together a within-estimate HK$817.8 million ($104.8 million). Harmed by the withdrawal of blockbuster lots, the total was only around half the amount brought in by the equivalent sale last year.  (Artnet News)
  • Sotheby’s seniorinternational chair Patti Wong will depart the auction house at the end of 2022, after clocking more than 30 years of service at the house. Her next step, as well as Sotheby’s plans for her replacement, remain open questions. ()



  • Gerhard Richter has joined David Zwirner, leaving his longtime dealer Marian Goodman after 37 years. The 90-year-old artist will have a solo show at one of Zwirner’s New York spaces in March 2023. (Artnet News)
  • Pace named Samanthe Rubell its new president. She will lead a newly-formed “Round Table” of the gallery’s 10 most senior directors alongside Joe Baptista, who was promoted to partner. ()
  • Artist management and creative agency ICNCLST will represent the estate of Rammellzee, overseeing brand strategy and commercial partnerships while working closely with Jeffrey Deitch, who represents the late artist’s studio output. ()



  • Veronica Ryan is the latest winner of the Turner Prize. The 66-year-old Montserrat-born sculptor was recognized for her work on the 2021 Spike Island exhibition “Along a Spectrum” as well as her three larger-than-life sculptures of Caribbean fruits made to honor the Windrush generation. (Artnet News)
  • Philanthropist Adrienne Arsht donated $10 million to the Met’s contemporary performance series, Met Live Art. ()
  • Rita Ouédraogo and Azu Nwagbogu will serve as co-curators of Buro Stedelijk, an initiative of the Stedelijk MuseumRijksakademie, and De Ateliers conceived to foster relationships between studio practices, art schools, and museums in Amsterdam. ()


NFTs and More

  • Arcual, the new blockchain-based platform for art transactions from Art Basel and the Luma Foundation, launched in Miami Beach amid the ongoing crisis in the larger crypto space caused by the collapse of FTX. (Artnet News Pro)
  • Penske Media Corporation purchased , bringing the art world’s three leading print magazines, including  and , under a single umbrella. (Artnet News)

[Read More]


“If it’s a bequeath that costs us to look after the damn thing, it’s not much of a bequeath if you ask me.”


Auckland, New Zealand mayor Wayne Brown questioning the wisdom of committing public money to caring for nearly $200 million worth of art donated to the attendance-challenged Auckland Art Gallery by the late hedge-fund magnate Julian Robertson. (Bloomberg)


Work of the Week

Christine Ay Tjoe’s

Christine Ay Tjoe, Stars From the Black Idea (2012). Courtesy of Christie's.

Christine Ay Tjoe, Stars From the Black Idea (2012). Courtesy of Christie’s.


Date:                    2012

Estimate:             HK$1 million to HK$2 million ($128,562 to $257,124)
Sale Price:           HK$6,048,000 ($777,597)
Sold at:                Christie’s Hong Kong 21st Century Art Day Sale
Sale Date:            December 1


Christine Ay Tjoe’s expressive abstract paintings have been quietly gathering market steam over at least the last two years. In Christie’s day sale in Hong Kong last week, this 2012 painting more than tripled its high estimate after fees… and still came nowhere close to setting a new auction record for the artist.

Fierce bidding competition drove a 2016 work by Ay Tjoe,  to sell for HK$10.3 million ($1.3 million) at Christie’s Hong Kong evening sale only hours earlier. Although it went for nearly five times the top end of the presale estimate,  also fell far short of her all-time high: a premium-inclusive price of HK$13.5 million ($1.7 million) paid for a work at Christie’s Hong Kong in May 2021.

“Christine Ay Tjoe is undoubtedly an iconic representative of the new generation of Southeast Asian female artists,” Sihan Hu, associate specialist of 20th/21st century Asia art at Christie’s, told Artnet News. “She focuses on human philosophy with impactful and painterly brushstrokes, giving contemporary abstract paintings a strong placement in the art market.”


Thanks for joining us in the Back Room. See you next Friday.


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