Hedge Fund Manager Sender Shows Art Collection, Blasts Fairfax

Adam Sender
Adam Sender, art collector and Exis Capital Management Inc. fund manager. Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

Adam Sender was one of the first hedge-fund managers to get serious about contemporary art when he started buying in 1998, and now he plans to show just how serious.

The founder and chief executive officer of Exis Capital Management Inc., whose 1,000 works have been valued at about $100 million, will display 70 of them publicly for the first time next month. The exhibition will run Nov. 29 to Dec. 4, coinciding with Art Basel Miami Beach, the largest contemporary-art fair in the U.S.

Titled “Home Alone,” the show will take over Sender’s 5,000-square-foot Miami house, now empty and on the market. Among the works are pieces by Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman and Chris Ofili as well as emerging talents Diana Al-Hadid and Rashid Johnson.

“We bought a beautiful house but it wasn’t the right house for us,” Sender, 42, said in an interview. “We had an ability to rent it but we figured, why not throw a show for Art Basel.”

Sarah Aibel, the Sender Collection’s curator, chose provocative and physically imposing works, suggesting that the art has pushed out the collector.

Matthew Barney’s image of Johnny Cash flipping the bird will look down from the top of a staircase. Richard Prince’s treatment of a Gary Gross photograph showing a naked, 10-year-old Brooke Shields will hang on the wall of a child’s bathroom.

“I am playing with the idea that it’s a house, not a museum,” said Aibel. “It’s a domestic, personal space, just like a private collection is a personal interpretation of art history.”

‘The Very Best’

Sender, who practices Ashtanga yoga, first worked with Todd Levin, a veteran art adviser, from 1998 to 2008.

“I was trying to buy the very best work,” Sender said. “It was not possible to afford the very best Warhols but you could buy a masterpiece by Richard Prince for $100,000 or $150,000.”

His collection is divided among his offices and homes in Manhattan, Sag Harbor, New York, and Miami, where he moved with his wife, Lenore, last year.

After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in history, Sender joined Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors LP. He founded his own hedge fund in 1998.

Exis Capital’s Walrus fund returned 6.1 percent in September and 18 percent since the beginning of 2011, according to an investor letter.

“Our performance since 2006 has been great, with a 15 percent gain in 2008 and no down years,” Sender said.

Art Portfolio

As for the art holdings: “Some artists are doing a lot better than before 2008 and some artists are not doing as well,” he said. “But overall, the portfolio of art has done really well between 2008 and right now.”

Sender owns more than 30 pieces by Sherman, whose auction revenue has jumped 39 percent since 2008, according to art-market research company Artprice. He owns more than 20 works by Prince, whose auction prices have fallen 60 percent since their 2008 peak.

Sender continues to spend on art. At the Armory Show earlier this year, Aibel bought work by Andrew Hahn, whose humorous silk-screens cost $2,000.

“Collecting is a long-term process and it’s very different from what I do all day, which is trading,” Sender said. “It’s the yin and yang.”

‘Tender Nurse’

He also sells. A room-size installation by Mike Kelley fetched $2.7 million at auction in November 2006; Prince’s “Tender Nurse” brought in $2.3 million.

“I spent a tremendous amount of money on art and was feeling the comfort of taking a little bit off the table,” Sender said. “If it’s not floating your boat anymore, you are entitled to sell it. What we do with the proceeds is we buy more art, and we buy younger art.”

He declined to discuss how much money he manages.

“Most of the assets in the fund are friends and family and my own money,” he said. “We haven’t been able to raise any significant capital since Fairfax of Canada sued us in 2006.”

Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. sued several hedge-fund firms, including those run by Cohen, James Chanos and Daniel Loeb.

The suit alleged that the hedge funds acted to harm the firm because they were betting its stock price would decline. The company demanded $8 billion in damages. Cohen and SAC were dismissed from the lawsuit last month. The case is pending for the other parties.

“The damage this suit has caused is immense,” Sender said. “A suit which is completely frivolous, and a complete fantasy.”

“Nobody who has waded through the thousands of pages of publicly filed evidence in this case would call Fairfax’s claims a fantasy,” said Michael Bowe, Fairfax’s lawyer, in an e-mailed statement.

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