California Collectors Cream of Crop

Los Angeles -- Sotheby’s auction house is making a big push for its latest target -- the new wealthy along the West Coast of the U.S. -- by showing off more than $200 million of art.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network see huge acquisitions of important artworks by California-based collectors.

Armed with highlights from its upcoming New York sales including canvases by Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns along with Old Master painting and jewelry, Sotheby’s starting this month will woo the rich from San Diego to Seattle with exhibitions, wine tastings and dinners in private homes.

Andrea Fiuczynski, Sotheby’s chairman of West Coast, has listed a younger generation of Hollywood producers and actors in Southern California including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire; venture capital firms in San Francisco; technology executives in Silicon Valley; and wealthy Chinese and Indian families along the coast.

Biggest Collectors

The market already is home to some of the biggest American collectors such as David Geffen, Larry Ellison, Sheldon Adelson, and Elaine Wynn -- who paid $142.4 million for Francis Bacon’s triptych last year (The latter two billionaire collectors are picture here).

Next year, top international galleries Hauser & Wirth and Spruth Magers plan to open outposts in Los Angeles. The city also will host the first U.S. edition of Paris-based Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) art fair in March.

More Staff

Sotheby’s has expanded its staff in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the past year. Recent hires are Fiuczynski, who had spent 28 years at rival Christie’s, and Scott Schaefer, former curator of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Sotheby’s will add an estate lawyer and Chinese specialists to its West Coast team.

Christie’s took a group of blue-chip and emerging art to Los Altos, California, in the Silicon Valley earlier this month, to target newer collectors.

The 24 lots from Christie’s First Open and November auctions had been valued at as much as $10.1 million. The top lot was Roy Lichtenstein’s “Girl in Mirror,” estimated at $2 million to $3 million. The show was accompanied by a panel discussion titled, “StART Up: Beginning (and Growing) Your Art Collection.”

More highlights from the New York November sales will go on tour in San Francisco in late October, Christie’s said.

Different Interests

Sotheby’s Fiuczynski has analyzed the demographics of various locations in order to target different groups’ interests.

“L.A. is not San Diego and San Diego is not Santa Barbara,” she said. When Fiuczynski moved to Los Angeles in 1997 with Christie’s, one of her first events coincided with a Lakers game. Many clients chose basketball over her contemporary-art sale. “Lesson learned,” she said.

Private Dinners

This week, Sotheby’s Sunset Boulevard space is showing November auction highlights including works consigned by the estate of Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The most expensive lot to be shown is Rothko’s 1951 canvas “No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)” consigned by the Schlumberger oil family.

Another highlight is a small 1983 “Flag” painting by Johns, estimated at $15 million to $20 million. The iconic work was acquired directly from the artist the year it was made.

Building Brand

To build the brand, Sotheby’s is investing in cultural sponsorships. Earlier this month, it hosted a dinner with LACMA director Michael Govan to celebrate the opening of “Variations: Conversations in and Around Abstract Painting” exhibition.

In April, Sotheby’s was a sponsor for a gala at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where Fiuczynski conducted a charity auction.

“My M.O. is to create a vibrant schedule so that people see Sotheby’s as a cultural destination and not just a place to transact,” she said.