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Warhol painting sells for $35 million at Art Basel

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Warhol painting sells for $35 million at Art Basel
Art Basel attracts exhibits from 285 international galleries. Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP
09:52 CEST+02:00
A self-portrait by American pop artist Andy Warhol sold for $35 million on Wednesday at Art Basel, the world's largest contemporary art fair, as naked Swiss performance artist Milo Moiré is denied entry.

The Warhol ‘fright wig’ picture was one of numerous pricy masterpieces snapped up by art enthusiasts browsing through booths representing 285 international galleries.

A Damien Hirst work called ‘Nothing is a problem for me’, from 1992, was sold on Tuesday for nearly $6 million, while a Jeff Koons piece called Dolphin Balloon went for $5 million.

While such spectacular sales are welcome, Art Basel director Marc Spiegler told AFP the show had been successful "because it has always tried to stay very much in tune with what's going on in the art world."

For instance, in 2000 the show took a leap of faith when it opened its Unlimited section, offering up museum-scale pieces.

This year, 78 projects fill a massive Unlimited hall, ranging from Giuseppe Penone's 'Trees', featuring a giant fir tree trunk with the centre removed, to a huge, translucently colourful installation of hanging window blinds by Haegue Yang.

Not all artists are willing to work within the confines of the show, however.

Majida Khattari was forced to remove her exhibit of "homeless" mannequins covered in jewels and designer handbags, set up uninvited outside one of the halls as a commentary on global inequality.

And Swiss artist Milo Moiré was forced to cover up when she attempted to enter the show with the names of clothing items scrolled on her naked body.

Moiré previously caused a stir in April at the Cologne art fair in Germany when she squeezed paint-filled eggs out of her vagina while standing naked on  step ladders above a canvas to create a “PlopEgg” painting.

According to newspaper Basler Zeitung, Moiré, who was not officially exhibiting at the show, was denied entry on the basis that the artworks had been carefully selected and curated, and there was therefore no place for spontaneous exhibits. She was forced to put on clothes before entering the show as a member of the public.

Moire’s performance may not have been so out of place, however.

Installations involving living people are stealing the show at Art Basel this year.

The show has dedicated a section called 14 Rooms to performances and live art by top international artists.

Marina Abramovic's 1997 piece ‘Luminosity’, in which a naked woman uncomfortably straddles a bicycle seat fixed onto a wall and bathed in bright light, explores themes of "loneliness and spiritual elevation", according to organisers.

Damien Hirst's rotating cast of identical twins sit in carbon copy positions, mirroring each other as they lift a glass of water, eat chocolate and leaf through identical books.

And visitors to Xu Zhen's ‘In just a blink of an eye’ are confronted with a person frozen in mid-air, in a seemingly gravity-defying pose.

"It's really about creating experiences with human beings as the material," Spiegler told AFP.

New York artist Jeff Zimmerman said he especially liked the inclusion of visitors in the artwork.

"It was nice to make the viewer a little uncomfortable," he said, adding: "And it's not for sale, and I think that's important in this environment to have that occurring."

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