Natalie Portman Browses FIAC, $6 Million Sculpture Sells

Steve Cohen’s art adviser and actress Natalie Portman browsed France’s biggest contemporary art fair as the event battled its London rivals for sales.

The London-based dealers Waddington Custot, which opted to exhibit in Paris rather than the U.K.’s Frieze Masters, placed a Jean Dubuffet sculpture outside the Petit Palais, opposite FIAC. It sold for about $6 million just before the fair.

Portman and her husband Benjamin Millepied, a choreographer and co-star of the movie “Black Swan,” were seen at the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain. Separately, Sandy Heller, art adviser to Cohen, was also seen there, without the SAC Capital founder himself.

They were among 73,543 visitors to Paris’s FIAC. The figure released yesterday beat some 70,000 reported at Frieze the week before.

“They’re now comparable in quality and newness,” Matthew Armstrong, curator of the Lightyear Capital art collection in New York, said in an interview. “FIAC is getting better, Frieze is getting a bit more predictable.”

Dubuffet’s posthumous and monumental painted-polyurethane work “Welcome Parade,” consisting of five multicolored dancers, was originally intended for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The sculpture had been made from the artist’s original models by Waddington in collaboration with Pace Gallery in 2008.

Further sales of works by artists such as Picasso and Pierre Soulages saw Waddington Custot take about $9 million at FIAC, according to gallery founder Leslie Waddington.

International Collectors

Uli Sigg (Switzerland), Francois Odermatt (Canada), David Roberts (U.K.) and Henry Kravis (U.S.) were among the international collectors spotted at FIAC, whose 40th edition featured 180 galleries from 25 countries.

“This year they were choosing between London and Paris,” Susan Dunne, president of the New York branch of Pace, which exhibited at both fairs, said in an interview. “Frieze started as a fair for inexpensive emerging talent. That formula has slightly fallen by the wayside.”

Dunne said Pace sold more by value at FIAC, in the Grand Palais, than during the previous week at Frieze in London’s Regent’s Park. The 2011 Kiki Smith colored bronze sculpture “Harmonies II,” priced at $200,000, was among the gallery’s sales.

Unlike its London rivals, FIAC shows 20th-century classics as well as works by living artists under the same roof. Younger dealers exhibit in the upper galleries of the Grand Palais.

Totemic Sculpture

Montreal-based Odermatt snapped up a 2013 totemic dyed-plaster-and-fur sculpture by the 33-year-old Gavin Kenyon, priced at $12,000 with the New York dealer Ramiken Crucible, which sold all its Kenyon pieces within hours of the opening.

Auction prices for contemporary art have risen 34 percent over the last 10 years, according to a report published on Oct. 21 by the French database Artprice. With resale prices rising, collectors are keen to buy works from source at dealer gatherings such as art fairs.

One of them was lucky enough to be at the front of the list of collectors waiting to buy paintings by Oscar Murillo. The young Colombian-born artist’s 2013 abstract, “0 + X = 145,” was hanging on the booth of the New York- and London-based dealer David Zwirner at FIAC. Auction prices for Murillo soared to $401,000 in September. Zwirner was charging $120,000.

Crowded Calendar

After their obligatory visit to Art Basel in Switzerland in June, collectors are having to select which events to attend in an increasingly crowded art calendar.

While FIAC has become increasingly contemporary, 11 year-old Frieze has entered the market for pre-21st century works with its sister fair Frieze Masters, now in its second year.

“The fair looked good, though some thought it was a little too big,” said James Roundell, founding director of Masters first-time exhibitors Dickinson, who sold the 1969 painting “Shirt Collar 14 ½" by the Italian Arte Povera artist Domenico Gnoli, priced at 2.5 million pounds ($4 million).

“The location is a slight problem and there is just too much going on in Frieze Week,” Roundell said.

The Frieze organizers said in an e-mailed release that to improve the “visitor experience” at Frieze London, “capacity was reduced this year and for the first time tickets sold out every day.”

Muse highlights include Catherine Hickley on German art, Greg Evans on television and Stephanie Green’s D.C. Scene.

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