Brokers Get Creative To Market Properties To Art Basel Crowd

, Daily Business Review

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Ronald Shuffield
Ronald Shuffield

Inside the brightly lighted tents that set the stage for one of the world's most important art fairs, a dizzying lineup of artists, dealers and gallery owners tantalized affluent art lovers this week with the chance to purchase one-of-a-kind aesthetic experiences.

Under the southernmost tent, a gallery representative offered a man the opportunity to drop a cool $55,000 on the performance art prints of a Chinese contemporary artist, whose work involves painting over his clothes and seemingly disappearing into various urban backgrounds.

A few turns from the main entrance, a man with a thick French accent discussed the possibility of buying a psychedelic collage resembling Edvard Munch's famous "Scream" painting which, upon closer inspection, was made up of a hundred tiny "Mona Lisa" replicas.

Near the back of the show, an Argentinean couple marveled at a sculpture of a whimsical library that played a powerful visual illusion on the observer, wondering if it would be too intense a parlor trick for dinner guests back home.

From his booth just off the entrance, Ron Shuffield offered art lovers his version of a unique aesthetic experience, namely the opportunity to wake up daily inside their very own moated castle.

Shuffield is not an art world entrepreneur but the chief executive of Coral Gables-based EWM Realty International, a real estate broker whose clients hail almost exclusively from the global top half-percent. But that's not stopping him from making his best impression of a fine arts dealer as he courts multimillionaires in the market for a Lichtenstein or a Banksy to consider scooping up that castle in Homestead, a ski home in Aspen or an expansive retreat on the Mediterranean coast.

"These luxury properties in a way can be compared to collectibles like art or jewelry that have been collected throughout the ages," said Shuffield, whose company is affiliated with art house Christie's. "They're so unique. If you have one, no one else can have it."

Past meetings arranged with Art Basel visitors have resulted in transactions for homes in St. Barthélemy, according to Shuffield. Meanwhile, Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, a broker for her eponymous firm in Miami, recalls a time a client who scooped up both a painting and real estate while attending an exhibit at Bal Harbour's St. Regis condo-hotel.

"A gentleman who attended bought not just a painting but an apartment to hang it inside," she said.

Global Portfolio

Shuffield is not alone in his pitch. As they have done every year since 1979 when a group of Miami gallery owners began a small fair that has since grown into a weeklong juggernaut of art fairs, parties and shopping colloquially known as Art Basel, real estate brokers to the rich have used the influx of affluence to cut deals and seal relationships.

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