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Art Basel Draws World’s Wealthiest to Miami



Art Miami is the city’s original and longest running contemporary and modern art fair.

Pablo Picasso’s Visage aux Mains (Face with Hands) (1956), which was stolen from Leslie Smith Gallery’s booth at Art Miami.

Miami police investigate on scene of stolen Picasso plate on Friday, December 5.

View of booths at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Sunday, December 7, marked the conclusion of Miami Art Weeks 13th and largest annual fair. It lived up to its reputation of being a top tourist draw for south Florida, with millions in sales of contemporary art, an invasion of street artist and luxury brand-sponsored parties.

The contemporary art show, Art Basel Miami Beach, set a stage for wealthy art collectors to mingle with penniless art enthusiasts to all absorb the magnificent works.

“The driving force behind this show, behind the art market in general is it’s been more global this year,” said Mathias Rastorfer, co-CEO of Zurich-based Galerie Gmurzynska. “We’ve seen collectors from Asia, Latin America, some from Russia.”

A private collector bought a 1918 Picasso painting titled Venus and Amor from the gallery for around $1 million, along with a pair of black and gold circles by Robert Indiana works for $3 million.

Lehmann Maupin Gallery, which is based in Hong Kong and New York City, sold Adriana Varejão’s Polvo Portraits IV for an estimated $400,000 and Teresita Fernández’s Golden for around $300,000.

“After someone has bought the mansion and the yacht and everything else they might to turn to art,” said Mary-Anne Martin, whose Latin American specializing gallery Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art had a Wifredo Lam painting worth $1 million reserved for a collector.

Close to two dozen satellite fairs erected on Miami’s mainland. The Wynwood district was packed with crowds to gawk at the giant street art murals by Shepard Fairey, Cleon Peterson, Ron English and Brazil’s Os Gêmeos.

Director Nick Korniloff said that one of the fairs, Art Miami, Barcelona-based Galeria Mayoral sold Marc Chagall’s 1962 painting Esquisse Sur la Branche for $550,000, while Dranoff Fine Art based in New York City sold an Andy Warhol portrait for $460,000.

Miami Became a magnet for the world’s wealthiest during the first week of December, with multiple exclusive, luxury brand-sponsored parties, including $50 million worth of apartments were marketed by various real estate firms.

In the Design District, which now hosts high-end stores like Hublot, Bulgari and Christian Louboutin, while Buenos Aires-based developer Alan Faena hosted an Argentine barbecue for his forthcoming Miami Beach condominium and adjoining exhibition space.

Sometime after 10:30 pm Thursday night, December 4, a damper was put on the event when Pablo Picasso’s Visage aux Mains (Face with Hands) (1956) was stolen be unknown perpetrators from the Amsterdam-based Leslie Smith Gallery’s booth at Art Miami. Police are classifying the heist of the 16.5 inch in diameter silver plate as grand theft.

Upon arriving to Art Miami on Friday morning, gallery owner David Smith discovered that the plate was not in its holder. He told the Miami Herald, “I’ve been doing art shows all my life. I’ve never, ever had anything stolen.” The missing work is part of a 20-piece series and is valued at an estimated $85,000.

The police cordoned off the booth after being notified, in order to conduct an investigation into the theft. This amplified his loses. Smith expressed to the Herald that not only has he lost his prized Picasso, now he must also turn away customers on one of the busiest mornings of Art Miami week.

So far the police have limited leads to follow. The Herald was told by a Miami Police Department detective, “There is no video surveillance or witnesses to this incident.” The tent hosting Art Miami was under 24-hour security until Sunday night. After the fair closed for the evening, the doors were chained and thereafter only an approved list of cleaners and individuals involved with the fair were permitted to enter. Art Miami employs the same security firm as Art Basel in Miami Beach.

On Saturday, December 6, fair director Korniloff announced that Art Miami would give a $5,000 reward for the return of the Picasso, in response to its theft. This is based on a theory that the thief is after the reported $400 the plate would be worth in melted down silver, because a more expensive piece hanging above it was left untouched.

The following statement was sent on Monday, December 8, from Art Miami director Nick Korniloff to artnet News about the latest regarding the investigation:

We are currently continuing to cooperate with authorities regarding the missing work. The police are conducting their own investigation and are diligently going over the time frame in which the work went missing and who had approved access to the facility. In the seven years that we have owned and operated the fair we have never had a loss and utilize the exact same security company and measures as Art Basel Miami Beach. It is our policy to all exhibitors that they place small valuable objects that can easily be hidden into their secure closet areas at the end of day. We have issued a $5,000.00 reward for the return of the work with no questions asked—based on our own internal conclusion that whomever took the piece knows nothing about art and took it based on the fact that they thought it to be solid silver. […] It makes absolutely no sense that this work would be targeted by anyone with knowledge of art. We hope that the piece is returned to the owner to preserve the existence of the work for future generations.

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