As Art Fair Ends, It Becomes Clear: Girls Ruled

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Art shopping over the weekend. Photo: Getty Images


Amid the dense and hedonistic five-day spree of partying at Art Basel Miami Beach, it's easy to forget that millions of dollars of art changed hands, too. And when the rhinestones had settled, the surprises went far beyond the no-shirt dress code (for men, at least) at the Visionaire party Saturday. Art dealers at the fair, which drew a record 40,000 attendees, had braced for Russian buyers, hedge-fund spending, and buzzy interest in the new new things. Instead, Latin Americans went on a binge, artists from the seventies outdrew emerging stars, and there was furious — even competitive — buying by a suite of New York–based real-estate developers.

So who bought what?

David Edelstein, of New York's Tristar, which owns the Desert Passage in Las Vegas among its properties, bought two Ross Bleckners from dealer Mary Boone, who took an Art Basel booth for the first time this year. "I spent more at the fair than I'd planned to," Edelstein later confessed. His sometime business partner, Ross Klein, head of W hotels, spent $75,000 to commission video and performance artist Robin Rhode to build a site-specific artwork for his under-construction W South Beach.

Larry Gagosian, meanwhile, was spotted everywhere, sometimes squiring developer Aby Rosen to events, sometimes with hedge-funder Steve Cohen — but never with both. His booth sold a Robert Therrin immediately and a Damien Hirst not long after, among other works. And Peter Brant was the rumored buyer of a $550,000 silver-leaf Elizabeth Peyton in David Zwirner's booth; in one of the bigger blowouts, Zurich's Gallery Gmurzynska sold 23 Louise Nevelsons at prices from $12,000 to $200,000.

What was the hottest gallery at the fair? The Los Angeles gallery SandroniRey, which had a booth at cutting-edge satellite fair NADA, where Kanye West and Jay-Z were spotted. SandroniRey nearly sold out its inventory.

The hottest trend? Security. Collectors jumped on existing bandwagons, buying the better-known artists already owned by the better-known collectors, like Charles Saatchi, and buying from better-known galleries. Even one of the swifter-selling young artists had a familiar name: Isca Greenfield-Saunders, daughter of photographer Timothy.

And the hottest artwork? In an installation that Phillips de Pury chief Simon de Pury dubbed "marvelous," dealer Gavin Brown turned over his huge, backyard-size stand to a single, tiny sculpture. A crumbled cigarette pack attached by an unseen string to a spinning motor in the ceiling skittered around the room, hypnotically capturing buyer attention. It sold, and given the crowds, you should remember the artist's name: Urs Fisher.

Overall, girls ruled: Dealers Mary Boone and Marianne Boesky prospered; Diane Arbus and Natalie Frank sold. The best parties were starring Dita Von Teese and sponsored by Rosa de la Cruz or featured Yoko Ono leading people blinking flashlights to the tune of " Give Peace a Chance." For Taschen art books, which had a busy store at the fair, the best-selling book was The Big Book of Breasts. —Alexandra Peers