For millennia, art has been a symbol of wealth and elevated stature in the home of the upper class. From spiders to moon phases, let’s look at the most expensive paintings sold at this year’s installation of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland.
Louise Bourgeois’ Spider (1996) $40 million
Setting a new record from the artist’s auction with an $8 million sale in 2019, this piece sold for a cool $40 million, making it Bourgeois’ highest ever recorded sale. While art tends to increase in value after the artist has passed away, this piece could become the highest price tag on a contemporary work by a female artist. The piece was crafted by Bourgeois not to simply convey an animal but to illustrate her connection to it in both personality and familiarity.
Arshile Gorky’s Betrothal I (1940s) $5.5 million
The title’s allusion to marriage comes from the faintly discernible figures in the work. The use of delicate and deliberate lines emphasizes Gorky’s attempt to engage with the human unconscious in his works. His impact on abstract expressionism placed him as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His work sold for $5.5 million from Hauser and Wirth.
Mark Bradford’s Cobra (2022) $3.5 million
Mark Bradford’s Cobra symbolizes the artist’s exploration and investigation of line work and the demarcations that come with it. The sharp curves carve elegant contours throughout the piece. Mark Bradford is a contemporary artist whose social abstractionist style has caught the attention of curators and collectors worldwide since 1998. The piece sold for $3.5 million at Art Basel Switzerland from Hauser and Wirth.
Pace Gallery: Joan Mitchell’s Bergerie (1967) for $16.5 million
One of Pace Gallery’s biggest sales was of Joan Mitchell’s 1967 masterpiece Bergerie for a whopping $16.5 million. Mitchell was a strong female artist in the abstract expressionist scene amidst a predominantly male community. Her influence on abstract expressionism paired with her life and work experience at a barn in 1961 inspired the work.
Pace Gallery: Jeff Koons’ Moon Phases NFT line for $2 million a piece
Jeff Koons has designed the first NFT series to go to the moon. The line consists of the different moon phases and was sold by Pace Gallery at $2 million each. Each piece comprises a sculpture of the moon designed to be permanently placed on the lunar body, a glass moon sculpture for the buyer’s collection on Earth, and an NFT of the lunar sculpture with Koons’ signature. Koons sought to design an NFT line that would be historically and culturally significant, further strengthening the intertwinings of creativity, exploration, and excellence.
Such high-priced sales from the event signify a rebirth of art sales since the pandemic. From lunar NFTs to pieces exploring the demarcations between social structures and cultural norms, these works not only act as an ode to the dedication and creativity of their artists, but serve as a symbol for the rebirth of contemporary art post-pandemic—rekindling the unhindered hunger for high-quality masterpieces in the wake of a recession.