Basel’s New Money & a Gagosian Ouster

larry gagosian
To the outside world, Gagosian Gallery is a fearsome selling machine with more gallery space than any competitor. Inside, it’s still very much one man’s business. Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images
Marion Maneker
June 16, 2024

When the gallery emails started to come out fast and furious on Tuesday afternoon, all in an attempt by the biggest players to define both Art Basel and the broader market, the tone that emerged was both feisty and defensive.  Iwan Wirth railed against “doom porn” and “gossip networks,” while praising “a more humane pace.” David Zwirner tried to counter “a narrative out there that the art market is weak” by claiming instead that it was “certainly performing well” at the Messeplatz. 

As an example, Zwirner pointed to his top sale of the week, Joan Mitchell’s Sunflowers from 1990-91, which he said sold on the first day of the fair with an asking price of $20 million. In fact, Zwirner was so emphatic about the timing of the sale that he told ARTnews’s Devorah Lauter that the Mitchell sale “really happened today.” And yet at least one collector insisted that the sale was made a month ago. This person was alluding to the fact that other Mitchells were on offer during the May sales, and it seemed inconceivable that Zwirner would refrain from shopping his best work from an artist while the types of collectors who can afford a $20 million painting were considering her work.