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Art Basel

December 8, 2012

Well, here we are in the midst of the biggest art fair in the US, right here in little ole Miami Beach, and yes the traffic is miserable, more-than-the-usual celebs and near celebs are here and the restaurants are packed, but it’s all GOOOOOD!

Once a year for the past 11, the art world descends on Miami Beach–and related events all around the area–to buy and sell mostly contemporary art and to party. Our personal Art Basel is fairly restrained this year: Laura does not have her works in any gallery as she’s had in two past years, and we’re on the guest list for only one event, a reception at the Romero Britto Gallery tonight. Passed on another invite from an artist friend (and former Key West resident)–just didn’t work out. Also passed on the main exhibition at the Convention Center this year after attending for the past few years. Most everything is WAY too expensive, though we did find a reasonably-priced, cool oil by a Brazilian artist two years ago. Still, we’ve been out and about every night with the sea of New York, London, Paris, etc. gallery owners, museum curators, hangers-on, etc.–last night at Michael’s Genuine in the Design District. We used to be regulars at Michael’s but hadn’t been there for the better part of a year; mostly wanted to check out the transformations going on in the DD with Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, et al. in the process of opening stores to form what the area’s developers hope will be SoHo South, or some such. I have my doubts. Anyway, it was a fun night with friends (and several hundred others!). Dinner at Altamare on the Beach tonight–a regular haunt of ours–where Laura’s photos grace the walls.

Oh, and yes, I’ve been working on White Tie and Tales. Well, mostly some small revisions suggested by its (so far) only reader, my editor Laura. She was VERY positive.

So there you have it. And for those of you who are interested in more Art Basel Miami Beach, I’ll end by reproducing what the Wall Street Journal had to say it in today’s edition. [Reproduced without permission but with full attribution!]


Art Basel: From Bargains to Billionaires


 If you’re a Russian couple visiting the Art Basel Miami Beach fair and you’ve just paid around $250,000 for a wall-size work by Barbara Kruger that reads, “Greedy Schmuck,” there’s only one thing left to do: Pose in front of it and ask a friend to take a celebratory snapshot.

Moments like this have popped up all week long in Miami, where the world’s wealthy have gathered to shop for contemporary art—sometimes with white, fluffy dogs in tow. The fair opened to the public Thursday and closes Sunday.

Overall, the mood has been mostly upbeat, with dealers reporting enough sales to recoup their fair-related fees and collectors swapping tales of artworks they’re taking home. Yet the trading pace has been more measured than feverish, and dealers like Rachel Lehmann said they have met fewer first-time buyers than in years past—a sign that wary newcomers may have sat out this round.

 Also missing in action: Steven Cohen, the mainstay collector whose hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors was recently implicated in an alleged insider-trading scheme. Federal prosecutors haven’t charged Mr. Cohen with any wrongdoing, but he must be keeping a lower profile because he wasn’t spotted anywhere at the fair. (Mr. Cohen’s longtime art adviser, Sandy Heller, did attend, though.) Mr. Cohen’s spokesman declined to comment.

Their absence barely registered because the aisles of the Miami Beach Convention Center brimmed with billionaires at the fair’s VIP opening on Wednesday. Los Angeles entrepreneur Eli Broad and Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn stopped by, as did actors Owen Wilson and Kellan Lutz (Emmett in the “Twilight” saga).

Hong Kong developer Richard Chang strolled around with Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso, and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton sipped coffee to stay on the go. New York collector John Friedman said he made a half-dozen purchases—including a sculpture by Puerto Rican artist Angel Otero: “I’m having a good day, but my wallet is having a really bad one.”

What’s selling best so far? A few pieces by Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons topped $2 million, but the majority of fair offerings have been trading for far less—and are also small enough to be carried home, if need be.

On Wednesday, Tanya Bonakdar had no trouble finding a buyer for Sarah Sze’s $28,000 knee-high untitled sculpture of photographs suspended by wooden sticks, but a soaring installation by the same artist, “Model for a Weather Vane,” was still available Friday afternoon for $60,000 at London’s Victoria Miro Gallery. Ai Weiwei’s 3-ton cube sculpture at London’s Lisson Gallery outpost didn’t get any takers right away, either. A dealer there said prospective buyers needed to be sure the $388,000 work wouldn’t “ruin their floors” on account of its weight. (A gallery director said a prospective buyer has since put the work on hold.)

One of the few large-scale works that did sell quickly was “Kosmaj Toy,” a space-age sculpture built from red Lego bricks by Cuban art duo Los Carpinteros. Sean Kelly gallery sold it to a U.S. art foundation for $142,000.

Los Angeles artist Andrea Bowers also had a hit with her series of platforms similar to the kind used by environmentalists who sit in trees to protest logging, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Collectors, who treated Ms. Bowers’s pieces like porch swings, bought several at Anton Kreps Gallery for up to $25,000 apiece.

Mr. Koons, whose oversize sculptures have sold for over $30 million at auction lately, also garnered the fair’s biggest buzz by confirming plans Thursday to sell his next body of artworks through New York dealer David Zwirner—the rival of his longtime dealer, Larry Gagosian. Mr. Gagosian’s gallery said it still represents the sculptor, but a Zwirner representative said the gallery is aiming to debut Mr. Koons’s pieces in May.


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