Here in Miami, a small sign in the art-fair booth of the Coplan Gallery, a local photo gallery, says it all “20% discount … Five for $12,000.” It’s Kmart special time at Art Basel Miami and its satellite fairs. With collectors being “outright ruthless” in their negotiating, complains one dealer sourly, and sellers in a mood to comply, it’s all about markdowns and modest expectations. Art worlders who believe “Go big or go home” didn’t come this year (Gavin Brown is noticeably absent).
At many booths, $30,000 seems to be a magic number, as if all the art dealers in the world had met secretly at Sant Ambroeus to decide that would be the starting price point of the year for wealthy collectors. A Zurich gallery is offering Karl Lagerfeld’s photographs of Jeff Koons and his exhibition at Versailles for $30,000 at the main fair. At rival Art Miami, large Ellsworth Kelly prints are popular in that price range. For $30,000, collectors can buy one of 100 huge, gleaming cobalt-blue bubbles by leading Chinese contemporary artist Ai Wei Wei.
The artist, lounging at the main fair, says he was commissioned by a real-estate developer to place 100 of them on nearby Watson Island to showcase the property’s view. Two years ago, when he began the project, he chose the material because it was luxurious: “In ancient times,” high-quality porcelain was made for the emperor” but — now he's just glad that more people can afford the work.
One of the sleeper hits has been an art show for charity at the Ritz-Carlton on Collins Avenue which offers small anonymous works by artists, celebrities, and students for $50. Only after buyers pick do they find out who they got. More than 300 sold in a couple of hours. And Miami pioneer art dealer Diana Lowenstein, who opened twenty years ago, this year is offering three exhibitions, one featuring all artworks priced at $999 — her gallery was packed.