By the end of Art Basel Miami Beach’s VIP preview this week, art dealer Kavi Gupta sold 35 sculptures by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates.
Among them were 24 plinths with embedded porcelain plates, displayed on the lawn in front of the Bass Museum of Art in Miami and priced at $30,000 each. A $250,000 wooden structure featuring 240 gleaming black-and-white, glass-lantern slides on its ceiling went to the trustees of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
“It’s been crazy,” said Gupta. “Most things were sold in the first three hours.”
Sales were brisk at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the largest U.S. art fair runs through Dec. 4. Collectors who got first dibs Wednesday on as much as $2.5 billion worth of art included Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s partner Dasha Zhukova.
Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones checked out an $8 million painting by Pablo Picasso and a $12 million painting by Cy Twombly at the Acquavella Galleries. A separate group that included Sean John Combs, sporting an arm sling, supermodel Naomi Campbell and Vladislav Doronin, chairman of Moscow-based real-estate developer Capital Group, made several stops, including one at Gagosian gallery. Blue-chip art could be found all over the fair: Andy Warhol’s self-portraits and flowers, Anish Kapoor’s satellite dish-like sculptures and one giant, plush, long-nailed creature by Takashi Murakami.
‘In The Mood’
“People are in the mood to buy,” said art dealer Christophe van de Weghe, who sold a 2004 abstract painting by Gerhard Richter for $2.8 million and a small 1961 Frank Stella for $1 million.
Broad said he bought a large-scale drawing by Kara Walker priced at $175,000 at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. gallery. Mexico’s La Coleccion Jumex acquired a sculpture by Carol Bove, priced at $150,000 at David Zwirner gallery.
“Contemporary art is becoming accepted as a better store of value,” said California-based collector Dean Valentine. “What else would you put money into? Dollars? Euros? Most asset classes have been disappointing.”
Collectors seemed comfortable buying artworks priced at $100,000 or less, according to dealers. First-time exhibitor Algus Greenspon gallery from New York quickly sold two raw, film poster-inspired paintings by Emily Sundblad for $8,000 and $25,000.
Paris-based Emmanuel Perrotin sold drawings and ceramic sculptures by Klara Kristalova priced between 2,000 euros ($2,692) and 28,000 euros. Galerie Eigen + Art, which has spaces in Leipzig and Berlin, sold Carsten Nicolai’s sculpture of sound waves cast in aluminum for $50,000.
Those few pieces priced at $10 million or more, including Picasso, Twombly and Jeff Koons, lingered.
Wendi Murdoch left the VIP opening of the fair having reserved a photograph by Cindy Sherman at Skarstedt gallery.
“It’s my second time at the fair,” the wife of News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, said at a barbecue beach party she co-hosted with Zhukova at Soho Beach House, where Paris Hilton mingled with actors Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody. “We look and we learn.”
There was more energy at the opening of the New Art Dealers Alliance, or NADA, fair yesterday, where younger galleries sold emerging art, some at prices below $1,000. Within two hours, paintings were pulled from the walls and packaged in bubble-wrap to be carried off by buyers.
Miami-based nonprofit organization Locust Projects sold all 30 prints of gold American flags by Andrew Schoultz, at $500 each. Buyers snapped up Martin Creed’s $150 doodle prints at the booth of New York nonprofit group White Columns. Newman Popiashvili gallery sold several small paintings and photographs by Georgian and American artists ranging from $800 to $12,000.
“We are still in a recession, or at least that’s how it feels to a young gallery,” said co-owner Irena Popiashvili. “I show artists in the price range that collectors can respond to immediately.”
Art Basel Miami Beach runs through Dec. 4 at Miami Beach Convention Center; http://www.artbaselmiamibeach.com. UBS AG is the fair’s main sponsor; NADA runs through Dec. 4 at Deauville Beach Resort; http://newartdealers.org.