Billionaires Snap Up $8 Million Miro, Fontana in Paris

"Autobiographies (The Giraffe)," a 2012 work by French artist and writer Sophie Calle. It was sold for $40,000 by the New York dealer Paula Cooper at the Oct.17 preview of the FIAC fair in Paris. The event at the Grand Palais runs through Oct. 21. Source: Paula Cooper Gallery via Bloomberg.

A Joan Miro painting priced at $8 million was among the flurry of big-ticket sales last night at FIAC as Paris’s biggest contemporary art fair faced the twin threat of local wealth taxes and an expanded Frieze in London.

Miro’s 1927 Surrealist abstract “Peinture (Le Cheval de Cirque)” was sold by the New York-based Helly Nahmad Gallery at the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain. Tornabuoni Arte, which has a gallery in Paris, sold a red-punctured Lucio Fontana “Concetto Spaziale, Attese,” from 1967-68, priced 2 million euros ($2.63 million).

French billionaires including Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault, who is applying for dual Belgian nationality, were spotted at the VIP preview, usually seen as a gauge of the art market, as were international collectors such as Alberto Mugrabi from the U.S. and Omer Koc from Turkey.

“The tax situation is a concern,” said Tom Heman, a director at Metro Pictures, a U.S. gallery that shows at FIAC rather than Frieze London. “We’re selling well at the moment. We’ll see what happens next year.”

French legislators are debating a socialist budget that plans to raise taxes on high earners and assets. An exodus of collectors would damage sales, even though a proposal to include some artworks in tax calculations was rejected, dealers said.

Metro took barely an hour to sell half of the 10 smaller 2012 Robert Longo ink-and-charcoal “Studies of the American Flag” it was showing on its booth, priced at $35,000 each. Longo’s large-scale triptych of the same subject, priced at $600,000, was on reserve.

Lisson’s Kapoor

The London-based Lisson Gallery found an early buyer for a hemispherical 2012 Anish Kapoor fiberglass wall sculpture, tagged at 500,000 pounds ($807,000).

This year, 182 dealers in contemporary and modern art are exhibiting on two floors at the Grand Palais, three days after the inaugural Frieze Masters fair in London.

“Today was D-Day,” Victoire Disderot, of the Paris-based Galerie Daniel Templon, said. “We were going to feel what things would be like over the next few months. It seems collectors still want established names and to discover new artists.”

The 2012 portrait “Romaine Munroe” by the U.S.-based painter Kehinde Wiley, with a price of $150,000, was bought by a French collector. It was among early sales at Templon’s booth.

Competing Fairs

FIAC is one of Europe's three big fairs devoted to modern and contemporary works, now that Frieze London has added its competing “Masters” element. Art Basel, the biggest of them all, takes place in June.

The New York-based dealer Paula Cooper exhibits at Art Basel and FIAC.

“There’s an elegance to this fair,” gallery director Steven P. Henry said. “Paris does draw surprising people. I’ve seen collectors from Turkey and even the Ivory Coast. Business has been rather hectic, almost aggressively so.”

During the first few hours, Cooper sold a 2012 Rudolf Stingel silver abstract for $400,000 to a U.S. collector and Sophie Calle’s two-piece “Autobiographies (The Giraffe)” for $40,000 to a French client.

In the last two years, in response to the growth of the contemporary market, FIAC has a smaller proportion of galleries dealing in art from the first half of the 20th century.

“It’s become a really commercial fair,” the Brussels-based art adviser Henry Bounameaux said. “It’s not so interesting. You know you are going to see works by artists like Louise Bourgeois. It’s not like Frieze Masters, where you could be surprised by old things.”

Frieze Figures

The inaugural edition of Frieze Masters attracted 28,000 visitors, the London-based organizer said in a statement on Oct. 16. Picasso's 1969 painting “Buste d'Homme” was among the confirmed big-ticket sales of modernist works, priced at $9.5 million by New York dealers Acquavella.

Zurich-based Old Masters dealer David Koetser sold a still life by the 17th-century Dutch artist Adriaen Coorte, priced at $3.7 million, to a collector of 20th-century works.

The 10th edition of Frieze London attracted 55,000 visitors, said organizers. No confirmed sales of works priced at more than 1 million pounds were reported, validating dealers' perceptions that the majority of transactions were for recently produced pieces valued at less than 100,000 pounds.

“Europe can cope with two major fairs in the autumn,” Jennifer Flay, the New Zealand-born director of FIAC, said. “I have absolutely no problem with that. I think it’s great that Frieze is rectifying, perhaps, its too great concentration on contemporary art by putting a little bit more focus on modern. I think it’s necessary. There’s always been room for both of us.”

(Scott Reyburn and Farah Nayeri write for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are their own.)

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