Blankfein Portrait, Freud, Bacon Works Ignite Online Art Fair

A work by Fred Tomaselli made with gouache on printed watercolor paper. Source: James Cohan Gallery via Bloomberg

Here’s an art fair you can attend in your pajamas and avoid all air kissing.

Today at 8 a.m. New York time, the online VIP Art Fair opens to anyone who wants to register. The almost 20,000 who have done so include 375 folks from China and Hong Kong, 91 from Greece and two from Botswana. Everyone can view 2,000 artworks for free.

VIP, which stands for “viewing in private,” takes place only on the Internet, so no one can elbow you while you ponder Fred Tomaselli’s psycho-doodle portrait of Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The rainbow-colored gouache is on display in a virtual booth of James Cohan Gallery, one of the fair’s 138 participants from 30 countries.

“The idea is outstanding and just needs to be tested to see how people react,” said London-based collector Amir Shariat, chief executive of Auctor Capital Partners Ltd., who has been sent more than 100 e-mailed invitations from VIP exhibitors. “It will make contemporary art accessible to be a much broader public.”

Dealers can input price ranges for each work, starting at less than $5,000 and going up in increments to more than $1 million.

“April 28, 2010,” (the day the New York Times printed a photo of Blankfein being questioned on Capitol Hill on its front page), is listed between $10,000 and $25,000. To find out the actual price -- $20,000, in this case -- you’d have to contact the gallery.

Gagosian, Zwirner

VIP has attracted such big-name dealers as Gagosian, David Zwirner, White Cube and Hauser & Wirth, along with many emerging galleries. Dealers don’t have to report sales to the organizers and pay $5,000 to $20,000 to rent a booth, compared with $10,500 to $65,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach.

For greater access -- to have a live chat with a gallery representative or search the artwork database by price range -- potential buyers have to pay $100 during the first two days and $20 thereafter. One ticket is valid for the duration of the fair that runs until 7:59 a.m., Jan. 30.

“There’s a lot of anticipation,” said Augusto Arbizo, director of New York’s Eleven Rivington gallery that will show in an emerging art section. “It seems like it will be very open. If you are a dealer you can look at another dealer’s inventory. Normally, I can’t go to Zwirner and look up what Neo Rauch they have.”

Two New York-based couples -- dealers James and Jane Cohan and Internet entrepreneurs Jonas and Alessandra Almgren -- have spent more than three years devising the fair.

Freud, Bacon

While the number of works with price tags of more than $1 million shrunk at art fairs since the beginning of the recession, VIP has more than 50 pieces in the category including paintings by Rauch, Gerhard Richter, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“I can show sculpture that I would not be able to show at a regular fair,” said Arbizo, who will have a 12-foot-tall foam and resin piece by Kevin Zucker, priced at $40,000. “It would cost me a fortune.”

Information: The fair runs through Jan. 30.

(Katya Kazakina writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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