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Watching Paint Fry

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Francis Bacon's Broken Statue and Sadow (1984), left, which a client bought for under $3 million in 2006, but which is now worth, Heirston says, closer to $15 million. Center and right, two Georg Baselitz works purchased by clients.   

Though she handles a range of personalities (Kate and Andy Spade; Tom Clancy and his wife, Alex; all three Miller sisters), her best clients don’t have names most people would recognize. She doesn’t have epic collectors like hedge-funder Steven Cohen, who has worked with art adviser Sandy Heller to create one of the most important collections of contemporary painting over the last six years, or Charles Schwab, who worked with Mary Zlot. It’s collectors like these who make their advisers’ reputations. “I feel,” Heirston says, “like I’m grooming a few people to get there.

“I’m getting calls for pretty major, major pictures now” from dealers, she says, mentioning a $5 million Peter Doig and a Monet haystack. “Which I have to say is really an evolution from even a couple of years ago.”

In recent years, she’s put her clients’ money—and her own—in such emerging artists as Piotr Uklanski, Urs Fischer, and Ugo Rondinone. Over the mantel of her art-stuffed, all-white living room is a purple metallic “tinfoil” painting by Anselm Reyle. Heirston bought the work only two years ago for $10,000. A buyer paid $192,000 for a very similar work this past spring, and in London last month someone paid over $600,000 for a Reyle in a different style.

She was an early supporter of Richard Prince (“Kim came to my studio twenty years earlier than most people,” he says). She bought Cindy Sherman for clients when her work was still a bargain, and even pressured a few to buy late Rauschenbergs. Today she’s long on Baselitz. “Almost all of my clients have one or two Baldessaris in their collections,” she says of the painter’s painter whose prices are in the midst of a significant upswing. “Most of my clients have a Ruscha …”

And, of course, she’s tried to make everyone buy a Reyle.


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