As burlesque acrobats twirled on poles and champagne flowed in the palm-lined courtyard of a 1930s Miami mansion, actor Sylvester Stallone was focused on Art Basel Miami Beach fair.
“I can’t wait,” Stallone, a collector, artist and co-star of “Creed,” the latest edition of his “Rocky” movies, said Tuesday at a party on the eve of the opening preview. “I’ll be in a very acquiring mood.”
He wasn’t alone. On Wednesday, wealthy collectors grabbed paintings and sculptures by blue-chip and emerging artists at the start of the 14th edition of the largest art fair in the U.S. While volume was brisk, the priciest works met early resistance in a market some see as increasingly frothy.
Hedge fund managers Kenneth Griffin and James Chanos, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and directors of top U.S. museums browsed the aisles at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The show, which runs through Dec. 6, features 267 galleries and 4,000 artists, with works valued at $3 billion, according to insurer and fair sponsor Axa Art.
“For works priced between $20,000 and $100,000 people come in and spend, they don’t even think about it,” said art dealer David Nolan, who sold 12 pieces three hours into the show. “Mostly we sold to new people. They all presume it’s a good investment.”
Business at the upper end of the market picked up on Thursday. Francis Bacon’s “Man in Blue VI” sold for $13.5 million at Van de Weghe Fine Art. The gallery also sold a Picasso painting that had an asking price of $10.5 million.
Miami’s Art Basel week includes competing exhibition openings, poolside parties and exclusive dinners. On Tuesday, guests braved traffic-clogged streets to go from South Beach to the design district galleries to the packed opening of Art Miami, the city’s oldest art fair.
Galerie Gmurzynska, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, threw a party at the former mansion of fashion designer Gianni Versace, with Stallone co-hosting. Guests included DiCaprio, Pamela Anderson, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb and basketball great Scottie Pippen.
Early sales at David Nolan Gallery included a group of five drawings by Carroll Dunham, priced at $75,000, and two abstract sculptures by Mel Kendrick, at $50,000 each.