Financiers Flock to FIAC

Paris -- French billionaire Bernard Arnault and U.S. financier Henry Kravis are browsing at France’s largest art fair as a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting and a wrecked Ferrari were among early big-ticket sales.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are in full force at this exciting art fair.

Bertrand Lavier’s 1993 found-object sculpture “Dino,” consisting of a written-off Ferrari Dino GT4, was among the quirkier objects at FIAC in Paris. It sold for $250,000. The Basquiat work was bought by an unidentified Greek collector for slightly less than $5 million.

The Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain is part of an increasingly crowded art calendar, after the Frieze and Frieze Masters fairs in London last week.

Unlike its London rivals, FIAC shows 20th-century classics as well as works by living artists under the same cast-iron roof of the Grand Palais.

An unidentified Turkish collector bought the Ferrari from the Paris-based dealer Yvon Lambert. The French artist was the subject of a retrospective at the Pompidou Center last year.

Brussels-based dealer Vedovi sold Basquiat’s 1984 “O.M.R.A.V.S.,” showing a lone black figure among electricity pylons on a plain white background.

Basquiat has become a FIAC staple, helped by soaring auction prices. A record 163 million euros ($224 million) was paid for works by the New York former graffiti-artist at public sales in the first half of 2013 and values have risen 500 percent over the last decade, according to the French database

Leafless Tree

This year’s 40th edition of FIAC features 180 galleries from 25 countries. The centerpiece is “Iron Tree,” a 2013 sculpture by the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

The life-size recreation of a leafless tree is made out of bolted iron castings of wood found in the mountains of southern China. From an edition of three, the piece was being shown by the Berlin gallery Neuger-Riemschneider.

The German dealership was showing at FIAC for the first time, attracted by the event’s setting and the possibility of meeting -- and selling to -- French collectors such as Arnault and Francois Pinault, who slipped into the fair for a sneak preview on Tuesday, according to dealers.

One sculpture from the edition sold to a German collector during the first few hours of the preview, said the gallery, which wouldn’t divulge the price. The asking figure was about 1 million euros ($1.38 million), dealers said.

Direct Dealing

Collectors are keen to buy contemporary artworks directly from dealers, before they make higher prices at auction.
The U.S.-based artist Wade Guyton, who makes computer-printed abstracts, is one of the hottest names in the market at the moment, with works now selling for more than $1 million at auction and privately.

The Paris-based dealer Galerie Chantal Crousel had a 2013 white and blue inkjet painting by Guyton on its stand. It had been presold to a collector who is donating it to the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. The price was $350,000, said gallery partner Niklas Svennung.

“We want to sell works by Guyton to museums,” said Svennung. “It’s the only way that we can ensure the long-term future of the artist and his work.”

New York- and London-based dealer Michael Werner was showing a 2013 dirt-encrusted abstract by the Colombian-born Oscar Murillo, who was seen at the fair. Auction prices for this London-based artist reached $401,000 in September.

Zwirner sold Murillo’s “0 + X = 145” for $120,000 for a collector who’d reserved the painting before the fair. The gallery also found buyers for Luc Tuymans’s 2013 painting “Cold Shoulder” priced at $1.2 million and a unique Thomas Schutte bronze, “Bronzefrau Nr. 13,” for 2.5 million euros.