Big Buys at Beach Art Basel

Miami Beach -- Dominique Levy, whose namesake gallery sold more than two-thirds of the works in her booth at Art Basel Miami Beach, said the fair attracts collectors who are able to spend $100,000 to $1 million.

With 73,000 people visiting the fair this past weekend, that yields a collective art purchasing power in the tens of billions of dollars.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network were among the power buyers at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Some spent far more $1 million, as the five-day fair ended Dec. 7 with dealers reporting robust sales.

The works in Levy’s booth went for prices ranging from $75,000 to $3 million.

A painted, three-foot-tall sculpture made of crushed car metal by John Chamberlain sold for $3 million at Mnuchin Gallery. One of Damien Hirst’s giant mirrored medicine cabinets at White Cube fetched 4 million pounds ($6.3 million).

Collectors didn’t take a breather at the 13th edition of the largest contemporary art fair in the U.S., even on the heels of record auctions in New York last month wherein $2.3 billion of art was sold.

Some dealers reported almost selling out the works in their booths at the Dec. 3 preview for select guests. Many galleries had brought additional works to replace the early sellers.

Colorful Abstracts

Among the trends at the fair, colorful mostly abstract paintings for $500,000 or less were a draw. George Condo’s “The Clown,” a bright pastel work of a semi-surreal face and polka-dotted body, sold for $400,000 at Skarstedt Gallery.

At Mitchell-Innes & Nash, two vivid abstract paintings by Keltie Ferris sold for $30,000 to $50,000. At the Sean Kelly gallery, two saturated, ornate paintings of women set against leafy backgrounds by Kehinde Wiley sold for $125,000 each.

Sculptures -- glowing, crumpled, or merely stone -- were also in demand. At Paula Cooper Gallery, a black, reflective “Mirror” sculpture by Sherrie Levine sold for about $150,000.

At the booth of Paul Kasmin Gallery, a circular light-box sculpture by Ivan Navarro went for $150,000 and two abstract sculptures by Saint Clair Cemin were purchased for more than $250,000 each.

Collectors including J. Tomlinson Hill, vice chairman of Blackstone Group LP and celebrities such as Michelle Williams toured the booths at the VIP preview.

James Chanos, the founder of hedge fund firm Kynikos Associates who is known for betting against companies and markets, said he thought a slew of works at the fair were overpriced.

Price Ranges

“Some of the prices for living artists are too expensive,” Chanos, an art collector, said at a cocktail reception Dec. 5 at his South Beach home filled with art including works by Theaster Gates and Daniel Arsham that he purchased last week in Miami.

When gallerist David Zwirner was told that the works in his booth were out of a journalist’s price range, he pointed out a small photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans.

“It’s only $8,000,” he said. “We always make sure there’s such a thing out there. We know that not everybody has tons of money.”

Collectors hit up the satellite fairs around the city, where they were more inclined to find gentler prices. At New Art Dealers Alliance’s preview on Dec. 4, people packed the aisles, severely restricting movement.

Homework Done

“People are coming with purpose,” said Simon Preston, whose gallery is on the Lower East Side of New York. “They know the work, they’ve done their research, and they’re coming to buy.”

Jack Hanley Gallery sold four works by Alicia McCarthy for $3,000 to $8,000 and nine paintings by Alain Biltereyst priced at $3,000 each, all within the first hour. As Hanley recited the prices, three collectors attempted to buy a painting by McCarthy that was already sold.