With $2.5 Billion of Art, Sender Trove, Miami Basel Woos Buyers

"White Snow Dwarf (Bashful)" (2010) by Paul McCarthy, on view at Hauser & Wirth's booth at Art Basel Miami. Source: Hauser & Wirth via Bloomberg

Art Basel Miami Beach opens to VIPs today with as much as $2.5 billion of art, ranging from Picasso and Giacometti to emerging artists Carol Bove and Theaster Gates.

For this 10th edition of the biggest U.S. art fair, the Miami Beach Convention Center alone features more than 260 galleries showing works by 2,000 artists. Add to that numerous satellite shows, including Art Miami, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), Pulse and Scope.

“All major American museum directors are expected to be here,” said Marc Spiegler, co-director of the fair whose main sponsor is UBS AG. He anticipates “the strongest contingent of Brazilian and Chinese collectors ever and a strong Russian presence.”

Local collectors Don and Mera Rubell, Rosa de la Cruz and Adam Sender will show off their private treasures to the public. Streets and parks will be dotted with art, including an 11-foot-tall sculpture of a pig hauling a house on its back by Chinese artist Zhang Huan.

“Ten years ago, Miami was not known as an art destination,” said Mary Hoeveler, a New York-based art adviser who grew up in the Florida city. “Now it is, particularly during this time of year.”

In the wake of the equity markets’ worst Thanksgiving-week drop since 1932, Miami Basel teems with events, parties, luxury brands and celebrities like Sean John Combs.

Dior, Fendi, Ruinart Champagne and Ferrari will woo high-net-worth clients by showing off their collaborations with artists who’ve created videos, bikinis and at least one 8-foot-tall stainless-steel skull dotted with 345,798 Swarovski crystals -- and it’s not by Damien Hirst. Michael Benisty collaborated with Swarovski on the piece, called “Die to Live.”

Flights, Finance

NetJets Inc., a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and a Miami Basel sponsor since the fair’s inception, expects to book more than 150 fair-related flights into the Miami area, a decline from pre-recession’s 222 flights in 2007. The company didn’t release the figures last year.

“The art market is disconnected from the financial markets,” said Amir Shariat, London-based art collector and chief executive of Auctor Capital Partners Ltd. “These days, people feel safer owning a great artwork than having money in the bank.”

The main fair will present $2 billion to $2.5 billion in insured art, according to Christiane Fischer, president and chief executive officer of AXA Art’s North American operations.

Prices at the main fair include a $2.5 million Franz Kline abstract painting and Giacometti’s $1.5 million “Standing Woman” sculpture from Richard Gray Gallery. New York’s Untitled gallery has paintings and assemblages by two Los Angeles artists, Matthew Chambers and Brendan Fowler, with prices ranging from $10,000 to $25,000.

Warhol Cats

L&M Arts devotes its booth to Andy Warhol drawings from the 1950s to the 1980s. Featuring cats, shoes, female heads and electric chairs, they will be priced between $25,000 and $400,000.

David Zwirner offers Dan Flavin’s light sculpture “Untitled (to Piet Mondrian)” (1985), made with red, yellow and blue fluorescent light, for $400,000.

Paul McCarthy’s $950,000 pink silicone dwarf will be among the priciest pieces at the booth of Hauser & Wirth gallery. More affordable is a smeared 8-by-6-foot rectangle made of mirrored tiles by the gallery’s new addition, 34-year-old Rashid Johnson, for $75,000.

“To me the key is to see the art,” said Shariat. “The art at the fair, the art at different collections, the museum shows. If I see something fantastic, I’ll buy it.”

Art Basel Miami Beach runs Dec. 1-4 at Miami Beach Convention Center; http://www.artbaselmiamibeach.com.

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