Art Basel is upon us once again. Artists, collectors, gallerists, dealers and curators have flocked to Switzerland for the 49th annual fair to connect, collaborate, buy and sell the new and noteworthy. Though the art market is constantly in flux, Art Basel helps dictate what’s trending, from contemporary sculptors to classic abstract painters.
Whether an artist is fresh on the scene or has been permanently cemented in the annals of history — as Associate Home & Art Director Brittany Gersh and Associate Merchandise Manager Brenna Tracy reveal below — either option can be a sound investment. Ready to collect but not sure where to start? Read on for our experts’ rundown of the artists to invest in now.
Le Gisant by Xavier Veilhan; AbstractStone 150 (2014) by Arik Levy
Those seeking noteworthy newcomers with bold, inventive pieces should consider a largely overlooked medium: sculpture. In today’s Instagram-obsessed frenzy, many may be quick to stick to two-dimensional works that will instantly decorate their living room wall. “The galleries exhibiting at Art Basel show the best of the best in a multitude of media,” says Brittany Gersh. “And for people who constantly feel disconnected or alienated due to social media, sculpture is a great way to engage with the realm of physicality.”
Xavier Veilhan’s Le Gisant and Arik Levy’s AbstractStone 150 are optimal examples of stimulating sculpture. Both angular and abstract, Veilhan’s piece seems to evoke a sense of claustrophobia that extends to both object and viewer, while Levy contemplates the nature of space and the duality of absence and presence.
“Visceral reactions are exactly what good art should produce, and pieces from these Art Basel veterans — established contemporary artists in their own right — will only go up in value,” says Gersh. “Due to the current place they’re at in their careers, now is the perfect time to snag one of their works.”
THE MODERN MASTERS
Sunflower VI (1972) by Joan Mitchell; Fish and Wings (2006) by Frank Gehry
Juxtaposed with the lesser-known names at Art Basel lie the icons, masters and blue chip hall-of-famers: i.e., la crème de la crème of fine art. “Collectors are still chasing iconic works by blue chip artists — trophy pieces — presumably because in addition to having curb appeal, they also perform very well as investments,” comments Gersh.
Frank Gehry, the pioneering architect best known for designing sensual visions of aluminum for both Spain’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, is one such sought-after artist. His oeuvre extends from the aforementioned structures to lithographs, works on paper, sculpture and more. “Gehry revolutionized architecture by breaking away from blocky Modernism, and this perspective is also reflected in his sculpture, like Fish And Wings,” says Brenna Tracy. “Because of his place in history, anything by Gehry is a worthwhile purchase and almost guaranteed to resell in the future for even more.”
Abstract Expressionist painter Joan Mitchell is also a notable artist whose work’s value has steadily continued to rise throughout the years. Her large canvases are full of movement, carefully chosen color and deliberate brushstrokes, washing the viewer in thought and emotion as most abstract paintings do. “The works of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and other painters from this time period have long sold for thousands — if not millions! — and finally Joan Mitchell is securing her place in the ranks with her recent $14 million sale at this year’s opening,” notes Gersh. “While the art world has long been a boy’s club, female artists like Mitchell are being recognized and works like Sunflower VI are smart pieces to purchase now.”
THE ONE AND ONLY BASQUIAT
Easter Eggs by Jean-Michel Basquiat & Andy Warhol; Untitled (Cabeza) (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat
If you’re looking for the best of both worlds — a modern, iconic artist with a contemporary feel — look no further than Jean-Michel Basquiat. Stark contrasts, obscure symbols, frenzied line work, masks, crowns and skulls populate Basquiat’s paintings, a signature style he honed for years in the streets of 1970s New York. “While certainly celebrated for redefining Neo-Expressionism and renowned during his career, Basquiat essentially started out as a graffiti artist,” notes Tracy. “Public awareness of graffiti artists such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Mr. Brainwash has led to a deeper appreciation for originators like Keith Haring and Basquiat.”
With the canonization of street art in the last twenty years, interest in — and the value of — Basquiat’s pieces has skyrocketed. “These two examples — the Basquiat painting and the Warhol-Basquiat collaboration — will always retain their value,” advises Tracy. “Basquiat is an all-star at every worthwhile art fair and beyond, and blue chip art is a solid investment. Late artists with a well-established and well-catalogued oeuvre bring essentially stable returns over time.”
But above all else, to thine own self be true. “My number one piece of advice is to buy what you love, as the art market is not an absolute,” says Tracy. “Primarily, the return-on-investment should be the pleasure you derive from living with a piece. Whether it’s a contemporary sculpture or a classic painting, the actual monetary ROI is just a bonus!”