Art-Crush: “Lips, boobs, shoes.” And Sales.

The word from Aspen this month proves to nobody’s amazement that Aspen remains the Rockies resort town where hedge-fund managers and A-list partygoers and pundits show up in August to ante up for art. The weekend of August 5th found the art fair Art-Aspen in its second year, (as it was last year), held to coincide with Aspen Art Museum’s fundraiser, Art-Crush, that raised a whopping $1.7 million. While exhibitors told me the fair was relatively sparsely attended – by just 2400 (and 30 exhibitors) – one would have to conclude that this public, among whom were those who drove Art-Crush’s kitty to high numbers this year – was the public that mattered. Artist Roni Horn was the honoree; and Amy Phelan the chairperson of the event. Featured image: Inez van Lamsweerde, Roni Horn, Vinoodh Matadin by Billy Farrell Agency.

With VIP tickets to the fair being handed out like confetti at Art-Crush (and auction after-parties held at Syzygy), the live auctions, presided over by Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s worldwide head of contemporary art, were where to see and be seen – although on Sunday morning, August 7th it had to come as very sobering news that patron Charles Wyly was killed in a morning car accident on Highway 82 near the Aspen-Pitkin county airport. (In Aspen, signs of economic health are measured in the roar of private jet landings and takeoffs per day.)

For Art-Crush, there was a preview at Baldwin Gallery followed the next night by a sit-down dinner for 350. Santa Fe dealers in town for Art-Aspen, the fair, included William Siegal of Santa Fe who showed Pre-Columbian material (widely praised, one Aspen dealer told me); Gerald Peters Gallery, who reportedly sold work by Marc Sijon; and Riva Yares. And there was local Aspen headline art news too, in that David Floria devoted his booth solely to work by the sculptor James Surls.

Surls, of Carbondale, Co, who previously also exhibited with Barbara Davis in Houston and Gerald Peters in Santa Fe,has made Floria his exclusive dealer. Floria said that while none of the work in the booth sold at the fair, several private commissions did go under contract.

Deal-making was in evidence, too, as one source told me, “in the order of “‘I’ll take those 15 Louise Nevelsons on approval,’ on Sunday afternoon.” The fair in a press release claimed $6 million in sales achieved.

Don Rubell

It was a place where “lips, boobs and shoes” were very much part of the action, said another of my sources, remarking that she in turn had the impression, of the glamorama crowd, “I feel like I keep seeing the same two faces.”

References to shared plastic surgeons notwithstanding, Aspen remains the arena of the super-chic who do like to go to the same parties, even if they bug the locals by thronging mountain trails (with makeup on in the daytime).

In other words, even given how many locals miss the exploits of Hunter S. Thompson who famously did some art guerrilla actions, like painting black stripes on offending outdoor sculptures at night, this year the news of Wyly’s sudden death seemed as strange after champagne as the stock market’s gyrations did on the Monday morning after the party time. Wyly’s death was viewed as possibly an economic blow to Anderson Ranch where the Wylys patronship was specially centered in Aspen; the ranch’s annual auction was held August 13th.

Things at that event appeared a little quiet, one of my sources told me, reiterating a refrain heard around town about the success of Art-Crush. “I don’t how Heidi (Zuckerman-Jacobson, the chief curator at AAM) does it.” But she evidently has, and does.

Amy Phelan


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  1. AspenSpin says:

    fake boobs and real a$$holes…or maybe the other way around. How long until ski season?