Basel Opens for VIP Collectors

Basel -- Steven A. Cohen and Philip Aarons are among Wall Street investors, billionaire collectors and art advisers with VIP access to the world’s largest modern and contemporary-art fair in Switzerland.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network are also there for the VIP opening.

The stampede began yesterday at Art Basel, when a section of the fair populated with oversized sculptures and sprawling installations opened to “first-choice” VIPs. Hundreds of people mingled on the plaza outside the exhibition hall drinking champagne.

The tiered opening continues today and tomorrow, and the show opens to the general public on June 19.

Each June, the fair transforms the quiet Swiss city on the Rhine River into the epicenter of the art market.

With as much as $4 billion worth of art for sale, according to an estimate by insurer AXA Art, it’s the largest edition since the fair’s inception in 1970.

Real-estate developer Martin Margulies, who has a private contemporary-art museum in Miami; and billionaire Indonesian collector Budi Tek, who opened a private museum in Shanghai on May 17, were also on hand.

Art Shopping Spree

The world’s leading galleries are among 285 exhibitors from 34 countries offering works from early 20th-century masterpieces to new canvases with just-dried paint.

Attendance is expected to reach 86,000 over six days, organizers said. Warren Buffett’s NetJets Inc., a sponsor of the fair for the 11th year, has booked more than 100 private flights in and out of Basel.

The summer shopping spree is in Basel, where galleries have already sold or reserved works before the fair’s opening.

Francis Bacon’s small 1959 portrait, priced at $3.5 million, was set to be among 75 artworks at Chicago- and New York-based Richard Gray Gallery, whose clients include hedge-fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin, chief executive officer of Citadel LLC.

The painting was sold and won’t be exhibited, said Paul Gray, the gallery’s director.

Other works are still on schedule including a 1963 silkscreen painting by Robert Rauschenberg, offered at $8.5 million, and Dan Flavin’s neon sculpture named after Russian constructivist artist Vladimir Tatlin and valued at $2.5 million. The gallery is also selling “Montcalm Pool, Los Angeles” a vibrant 1980 swimming pool scene by David Hockney for $1.75 million.

The value of the art at the fair is up 128.6 percent from 2011, when Hiscox Ltd. (HSX) put the estimate at about $1.75 billion. Axa Art’s estimate for this year ranges from 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion ) to 3 billion ($4 billion) euros.

Warhol Portrait

Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art is selling Willem de Kooning’s “Woman (Arthur’s Woman)” 1969 semi-abstract of a redhead for $15 million. Skarstedt Gallery yesterday sold an Andy Warhol self-portrait, shown above, in a fright wig for $30 million. The buyer is American.

“Unlimited,” the first section of the fair to open, features large-scale works like Carl Andre’s 100 meter-long (328 feet) sculpture consisting of 300 steel square plates that diagonally traverse the exhibition floor. Its current price is $5 million, according to Konrad Fischer Galerie.

Colorful Venetian blinds cascade from a 30-foot ceiling, courtesy of Korean artist Haegue Yang. The work is available for 400,000 euros through Kukje Gallery from Seoul.