Wirth said that he’s aware of these trends, but has also simply brought work by Mitchell to Art Basel for years, and has held multiple exhibitions of her work at its galleries. In fact, this very work was last sold out of a show at the Hauser & Wirth London space in 2007, Wirth said. He did not reveal the earlier price paid, but acknowledged they’ve gone up considerably in that time.
“We’ve always sold every Mitchell that we’ve brought to Art Basel, the prices have just moved,” Wirth said.
Later in the day, Zwirner sold an untitled painting by Mitchell from 1958 to an Asian collection for an asking price of $7.5 million, after it was circled by three collectors and institutions all afternoon. And around the corner, Lévy Gorvy also had a significant work by Mitchell, a large untitled work from 1959 dominated by a thrashing of blood red, priced at $14 million—by mid-afternoon, it was on hold for a collector, and gallery co-owner Brett Gorvy said the deal was hopefully forthcoming shortly. When asked how the gallery priced the work, Gorvy revealed that in the past year, he’s sold five Mitchell works privately for figures between $12 million and $14 million, and in the years to come, Mitchell’s market is poised to go much higher. (After the publication of this story, Lévy Gorvy told me that the Mitchell was confirmed as sold in the last hours of the fair.)
“When you have a strong market force, the prices change—shortly, we’re going to see $20 million to $30 million Mitchells,” he said.
Gorvy said that Mitchell has long been a staple of German and Swiss collections, and that the new interest comes from a reevaluation of her as an Abstract Expressionist—and her role as a woman artist in a male-heavy movement.
“She’s a female artist, but she’s also an artist who’s been a time coming,” Gorvy said.
A few booths away, Van de Weghe had sold a giant Mitchell diptych—No Room in the End (1977), 9 feet high and nearly 12 feet long—for an undisclosed price, but other dealers were still working on selling their works by the artist. Often, collectors prolong pulling the trigger in the opening hours of the fair, even if several galleries had pre-sold some of the big-ticket items. (Over the weekend in Zurich, I heard from a source close to the gallery that Hauser & Wirth had already found a buyer for Brice Marden’s Passage, 1973–74, from the collection of Giuseppe and Giovanna Panza, which their daughter consigned in full to the gallery. The asking price was said to be $14 million.) Richard Gray had a smaller untitled work by Mitchell on sale for $2 million that was still available by the afternoon.
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