Prices Steep at New York Fair

New York -- A $2 million painting by Ellsworth Kelly and five light holograms by James Turrell, priced at $100,000 apiece, were among the first artworks snapped up by collectors at the opening of the Art Show in Manhattan.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are visiting New York now to attend multiple art shows.

The 26th annual Art Show opened yesterday at the Park Avenue Armory to VIPs including Henry Kravis, co-chairman of the buyout firm KKR & Co. and Daniel Loeb, whose hedge fund Third Point LLC has criticized Sotheby’s for its sliding competitive position against Christie’s International Plc.

Philanthropists Agnes Gund and Eli Broad strolled the aisles jammed with patrons wearing furs and diamonds and eating manchego-slathered lamb meatballs, sushi and mini pulled-pork sliders.

Wealthy buyers are flocking to art after prices surged in the past decade, beating asset classes such as U.S. stocks, gold and fine wine.

AllianceBernstein Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter Kraus looked at a picnic spread of tiny ceramic eggs, pastries and other delicacies, a $250,000 artwork by Charles LeDray, at the booth of Sperone Westwater gallery.

Across the aisle, Galerie Lelong priced Petah Coyne’s installation, featuring a taxidermy peacock and snow geese, at $1.2 million.

The event, organized by the Art Dealers Association of America, kicked off Armory Arts Week in New York, an annual bazaar of competing events, with at least 10 fairs presenting hundreds of international galleries and thousands of artists.

Anchored by the Armory Show on the Hudson River piers 92 and 94, the week also coincides with the Whitney Biennial, an influential survey of contemporary art organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Whitney show’s opening last night resulted in an early outflow of dealers and collectors.

The Art Show is known for high quality and historic material, a place where it’s not uncommon to spot works by Pablo Picasso or Jackson Pollock. Its opening night doubles as a fundraiser for the nonprofit social-services agency Henry Street Settlement, with tickets ranging from $175 to $2,000.

Art insurance company, AXA Art Americas Corp., is the fair’s lead sponsor for the third consecutive year, the role once played by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Out of 72 exhibitors, 38 dealers mounted solo artist shows, up from 24, or 58 percent, from five years ago, ranging from black monochromes of Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) to oddly shaped Reinhardt-inspired canvases by emerging artist Jacob Kassay.

Black Paintings

Sean Kelly’s booth resembled a chapel of kitsch, with burgundy walls and eight glittering paintings shaped as Russian and Greek Orthodox icons by Kehinde Wiley.

Each piece depicted a chiseled black man, sometimes sporting tattoos, as a medieval saint or royal on 22-carat gold leaf surfaces. Priced at $75,000 each, more than half of the booth sold in the first two hours, Kelly said.

Following the large Reinhardt exhibition in Chelsea last year, David Zwirner gallery procured a rare group of six “black” oil-on-paper works by the postwar artist.

Exhibited in the U.S. for the first time, the group sold for $3 million to a European collection, the gallery said. The 1960 works explored the six possible color arrangements for what became known as Reinhardt’s “ultimate” black paintings.

Matthew Marks, whose gallery returned to the fair for the first time since 2009, brought works on paper by Jasper Johns, Brice Marden and Lucian Freud. Marks' major offering, "Black Relief VI" (2010) by Ellsworth Kelly, pictured above, sold for $2 million.

Nearby, Pace gallery sold the Turrell holograms.

First-time exhibitor Stefania Bortolami said the opening night resulted in sales of three new $50,000 abstract paintings by Richard Aldrich and one $300,000 striped canvas from 1973 by Daniel Buren.