Art buyers flock from abroad for week
A visit to Art Basel is a great winter escape, but people who appreciate and buy art aren’t here just to party, observers said.
“Art Basel has put Miami on the map as a cultural and art destination,” said Vanessa Grout, a principal of CMC Group. “The Miami client really buys – if you go back to Art Basel day after day, it is not the same art that was being shown before. There are ‘sold’ stickers; they are they are doing business.”
She sees a connection between art and real estate. Many young buyers are spending not just for homes, but for art to fill them. “Both have benefitted. Many young people are collecting pieces by emerging artists. The $10,000 price may be a painful expense, but there is a lot of perceived value and it doesn’t get consumed, like wine or trips or dinners out. Certainly, $1 million is a lot of money for a piece of real estate, but there is a tremendous amount of underlying value.”
While she said she has seen “a fair share of partygoers, there are certainly serious purchasers, too. Now that the economy has recovered, it can be hard to find places to put your cash. Art and real estate have lasting value, and the art can hang in your home.”
“My personal experience is that foreigners are definitely coming here to purchase,” said Troy Simmons, an artist affiliated with the JanKossen Gallery whose works will be on display during Art Basel. Based in Switzerland, the gallery has outposts in Miami and New York City. He put the number of foreign buyers at about 40%.
The gallery has dealt with art buyers from Russia and other Eastern countries, as well as Latin America and the US Northeast. It also occasionally shows in West Palm Beach, where the buyers tend to be domestic.
At Art Basel “there are parties, of course, as you would have when any group of like-minded people get together” Mr. Simmons said. “But these people are here to do business. The galleries wouldn’t spend this much money to keep coming back if they weren’t.”
“Miami, and Art Basel, are like an open mall,” said Luiz Silva, president of Saccaro USA, a high-end furniture manufacturer. “Everybody likes to come here and spend.”
Many of the sales the store makes during Art Basel will be to Latin Americans, and some of the furniture will be shipped back to their homes there or will remain here in the owner’s second or third home in Miami, he said. There are occasional sales to people who live in the Northeast US, he added.
“There is no question Miami is the darling of Latin America,” Mr. Silva said. “There’s even a saying in Venezuela: ‘We’ve run out of toothpaste; let’s go to Miami to buy more.’”