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Swiss art fair shows off million-dollar artworks

Julia Lyubova in Basel


Some 285 art galleries from 40 countries are showcasing their works at this year's Art Basel exhibition in Switzerland – one of the world's most prestigious art fairs. 

Here, art pieces are sold for millions of dollars, as artists and galleries strive to get noticed and introduced to the world stage. 

The most expensive artwork sold at this year's fair was the double painting Sunflowers by the American painter Joan Mitchell, which changed hands for $20 million at the David Zwirner gallery. The abstract expressionist created the work in 1991, a year before her death. The Zurich gallery Hauser and Wirth also had record sales of around $45 million on the first days of the fair.


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Art Basel features thousands of works by artists ranging from Picasso and Kandinsky to rising stars of the industry – and at the ShanghART and MadeIn gallery space, more than 60 artists from China are represented. 

While ShanghART has been showcasing at Art Basel for 25 years, this year is the first time for MadeIn. The space is dominated by Alien 3, a sculpture by one of China's most recognized contemporary artists, Xu Zhen. 

Born in 1977, Xu is one of the representative figures of his generation of Chinese contemporary artists. He has gained international recognition for his innovative art practices. Alien 3 depicts a Roman column zigzagging on the body of a Han dynasty dancing lady. 

Also catching the eye is a photo collage by one of China's most important contemporary artists, Yang Fudong. Beyond God and Evil depicts a fictional scene from the Song Dynasty. Born in Beijing in 1971, Yang now lives in Shanghai and is working on a wide range of mediums, including photographs, paintings, films, and installations.

A notable newcomer to Art Basel this year is the Bank gallery from Shanghai. On display here are works by two artists sharing one of art history's greatest love stories - Bulgaria's Maryn Varbanov and China's Song Huai-Kuei, known around the world as Madame Song. 

The couple met at Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1954, where Varbanov was one of a group of exchange students. And now, at the other end of Varbanov's long career as a tapestry artist, the Butterfly piece he created with Song is on display at Art Basel.

Swiss art fair shows off million-dollar artworks

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