Hollywood producer Brian Grazer, the Oscar winner who has collected art for more than a decade, made his first trip to the Art Basel Miami Beach fair yesterday.
He chatted with entertainer-entrepreneur Sean John Combs, music producer Jimmy Iovine and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt at the Gagosian gallery booth, where an $8.5 million sculpture by Henry Moore and a $9 million candy egg sculpture by Jeff Koons awaited buyers.
“I am overwhelmed,” said Grazer, 62, sporting camouflage pants and his usual spiky hair. “I’ve never been here before. The prices are crazy.”
Grazer, whose movies include “A Beautiful Mind,” was among a select group of collectors attending the largest U.S. art fair before it opens to the public today. Held at Miami Beach Convention Center, the fair’s 12th edition features 258 galleries from 31 countries and offers more than $3 billion of mostly postwar and contemporary works, with a bull market for art driving prices for some items above $20 million.
Early visitors included billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, private-equity executive Wilbur Ross, real estate mogul Michael Shvo, hedge-fund manager Adam Sender, former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner and actors Val Kilmer and Michelle Williams. “The Wolf of Wall Street” star Leonardo DiCaprio walked the aisles with New York-based art adviser Todd Levin.
“Someone described today as the ‘Black Friday’ of the art world,” said Maxwell Anderson, director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “It has the same pent-up demand and finite moment of opportunity.”
The fair comes on the heels of a record-setting season in New York where the auction houses sold about $2 billion of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art last month. Christie’s held the largest auction ever, selling $692 million of works in less than three hours, including Francis Bacon’s $142 million triptych that became the most expensive artwork sold at auction.
“Really good auctions give people confidence,” said Barbara Gladstone, a dealer with galleries in New York and Brussels.
Trading was brisk and many galleries reported steady sales.
London and Berlin’s Sprueth Magers gallery said it sold a Sterling Ruby abstract spray-painted canvas for $550,000 to a museum.
New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash sold two large spray-painted paintings by emerging artist Keltie Ferris at prices from $40,000 to $50,000.
Mary Boone Gallery sold a group of 12 Han Dynasty urns splattered in bright paint by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei; it was priced at $350,000. Barbara Kruger’s digital print on vinyl stamped with the word “Value” went for $275,000, the New York gallery said.
White Cube gallery, with branches in London, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo, sold 90 percent of its booth by 5 p.m., according to Tim Marlow, director of exhibitions. Its priciest work was Damien Hirst’s 8-by-8-foot glass vitrine, “Devil’s Gate,” filled with butterflies and bugs; the asking price was 1.85 million pounds ($3 million). Theaster Gates’s 7-by-7-foot abstract piece made of wood, rubber and tar sold for $175,000.
The gallery sold out an edition of three neon signs -- each spelling “The Last Great Adventure is You” -- by Tracey Emin, a British artist whose first U.S. museum exhibition opened this week at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. The asking price was 65,000 pounds.
“Suddenly, today it felt like a feeding frenzy,” Marlow said.
At Christophe van de Weghe’s booth, Combs walked out with a photograph under his arm. Shot by Ricky Powell in 1985, the black and white image depicted Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The asking price was $5,000.
Not everyone was buying. As he browsed nearby, Miami-based real estate developer Allen Greenwald was reminded of once passing up the chance to purchase a small Warhol “Mao” portrait for $5,000, as a similar piece hung on a wall at van de Weghe’s booth.
“I wanted a Marilyn,” he said of the missed opportunity.
“How much is that Mao?” Greenwald asked a gallery staff member.
“It’s $1.5 million,” the young man said.
“Oh boy,” said Greenwald.
At the David Zwirner gallery’s booth, visitors were greeted with a large sculpture of a black and orange polka dot pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama, priced at $600,000, accompanied by two matching paintings. All sold quickly. Nearby, Koons’s 2003 pink-eared, stainless steel toy elephant on a pedestal was priced at $20 million.
The elephant, still available by late afternoon, “might take a little massaging” to sell, Zwirner said.
By then, most of the booth was spoken for. Along with the Kusama pieces, Zwirner sold two sculptures by German artist Isa Genzken, who has a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
One Koons sculpture, a “balloon” version of the ancient Venus of Lespugue figure, sold despite not being at the fair. It was still at the artist’s studio, Zwirner said, but the gallery found a taker at $8 million.
“It was a big day,” Zwirner said. “As big as I can remember.”