| MIAMI BEACH, Fla.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. Dec 5 As art aficionados and collectors
descend on Miami Beach this week for one of the world's top contemporary art
fairs, galleries are counting on the rising affluence of Latin American buyers.
Latin America's millionaires and billionaires, many newly minted thanks to
booming commodity prices and investments from Asia, are making a splash in the
global art market, spending record amounts on works by artists from their region
and buying pricier works by Impressionists and Old Masters.
"In the art business, Mexico has grown exponentially in the last three to
four years," said Axel Stein, head of the Latin American Art Department for
Sotheby's in New York. "Our business in Brazil has grown incredibly and that
reflects growth in the economies of those countries. Mexico, Brazil and Chile
are going to be making headlines in the next few years."
That new clout will be on full display at Art Basel Miami Beach, which was
launched in 2002 as a satellite of Art Basel Switzerland and has since become
the largest, most important contemporary art fair in the western hemisphere.
It's also a must-attend for Latin American collectors looking to expand their
"Miami is in their own backyard," said Michael Plummer, principal of ArtVest
Partners LLC, a New York investment advisory firm for art collectors. "I have a
good friend who lives in Rio (de Janeiro) who makes a point of coming to the
fair in Miami, but he would never go to the one in Switzerland, it's a different
This year's fair, which takes place Dec. 6 to 9, comes on the heels of
record sales of Latin American art in New York auction houses. Colombian artist
Fernando Botero's "Horse" sculpture was the highlight of a mid-November
Christie's auction, selling for a record $938,500.
Globally Latin American art is perceived as undervalued, creating
high-demand for works as long-term investments.
"A Latin American buy is not going to be flipped for $1 million or $2
million more, it's a safe bet, prices are still undervalued," said Heather
Russell, senior specialist in contemporary Latin American art for ArtNet, a New
York City-based online auction house.
Despite works from Latin American artists selling for far less than an Andy
Warhol or British sculptor Henry Moore, whose works can fetch up to $30 million,
the value of Latin American art continues to climb.
"In 10 years we have more than doubled our numbers in sales," said Stein.
For a 250-lot auction, split into two session, total sales used to be between
$10 million and $13 million "and now they're bringing in $20 ... $25 million,"
Russell said Brazilian artist Vik Muniz was the second-most searched artist
on ArtNet's website in October, between Warhol, who ranked number one, and Pablo
Picasso, who ranked number three.
A Nov. 19 auction at Sotheby's in New York earned close to the high estimate
of about $20 million, according to ArtVest Partners.
The high regard for Latin American contemporary art has made it "as much
sought after as any other category of artists from any other geography," said
Francisco Arevalo, director of Miami-based Arevalo Gallery, which specializes in
works by Latin American artists.
Although the number of Latin American galleries at Art Basel Miami Beach is
relatively small, making up barely 10 percent of the show, each year new
galleries from the region are being added, said fair director, Marc Spiegler.
"The Latin American market has evolved and is becoming much more
internationalized," he said. "A Latin America collector 15 years ago would have
been much more likely to collect from their region, yet younger collectors are
now buying German artists, Los Angeles artists, Middle Eastern artists."
(Editing by David Adams and Patricia Reaney)