NEW YORK • A car crushed by a seven-tonne boulder and US$100 million (S$141 million) of works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse in one gallery's booth are among the art drawing wealthy collectors to Art Basel Miami Beach this week.
With 267 galleries and 4,000 artists on display at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the fair - the largest in the United States - has in previous years attracted hedge-fund manager Dan Loeb, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Instagram chief executive officer Kevin Systrom.
Collectors have been pickier this year, showing a willingness to pay for rare works by artists such as Amadeo Modigliani, but shying away from emerging art and lesser works by blue-chip artists.
The Miami show will offer US$3 billion worth of art, says insurer and fair sponsor Axa Art, ranging from US$2,500 for a small collage by Dan Bayles at Francois Ghebaly Gallery to a US$7 million Roy Lichtenstein painting at Van de Weghe Fine Art.
"For things of real quality, it's as strong a moment as we've ever seen," New York dealer Peter Freeman said.
Unlike the evening auctions in New York, Miami is not the place to pick up a US$170-million painting, the record price that a Modigliani painting fetched last month.
Instead, many buyers are comfortable dropping US$250,000 to US$1 million for a single artwork, said New York art adviser Wendy Cromwell, adding that she has more clients than ever heading to Miami.
Mr Noah Horowitz, director of the Americas for Art Basel, who oversees the Miami Beach show, said: "Art Basel is more diverse in terms of material and price points than the evening auctions. As a result, it should be well positioned to ride out fluctuations in the market."
New works by fashionable artists will go fast. Collectors have already reserved two figurative paintings by Jonathan Gardner, each priced at US$18,000, and a canvas by Sanya Kantarovsky, priced at US$30,000, at Casey Kaplan gallery. The two artists are included in the Unrealism exhibition.
Peter Freeman Gallery is bringing a black Dodge Spirit crushed by a seven-tonne boulder.
The 2007 sculpture by American artist and political activist Jimmie Durham, priced at less than US$1 million, is reserved by a US museum, the gallery said.
Hammer Gallery's booth is staging a thematic exhibition focused on Picasso and Matisse.
Organised by Joachim Pissarro, director of the Hunter College Galleries and the Impressionist painter's great grandson, it features artworks estimated at $100 million, according to the gallery.
The overload of activities in Miami is not welcomed by everyone. Belgian collector Alain Servais said he is skipping the fair for the first time in 13 years.
"Two-thirds of the reason of attending an art fair is the networking," he said. "But, in Miami, there are so many scattered events from Monday that it is not possible to meet the main participants at any central point during the whole week, not even in the most exclusive Art Basel events."