The Art World’s Gordon Gekko

Kelly Crow profiles a former corporate raider who is shaking up the market with brash tactics and big plans, in the Wall Street Journal:

Just before the country’s most prestigious art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, openEdelman Artsed in December, an energetic 70-year-old man named Asher Edelman marched through the local convention center to the booth of a Zurich gallery. He was accompanied by a dozen U.S. marshals. As onlookers whispered, the marshals seized four paintings by Yves Klein, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró and a racetrack scene by Edgar Degas worth around $15 million.

Mr. Edelman goes to great lengths to protect his art interests. He had gotten a federal court order to confiscate the Zurich gallery’s inventory as potential compensation for a $750,000 Robert Ryman painting that the gallery, called Gmurzynska, had borrowed from him and, he says, accidentally damaged months earlier.

Within 48 hours, Mr. Edelman got his money and the gallery got back its art. Peter R. Stern, a lawyer for Gmurzynska, says that the gallery’s insurer had been in the process of disputing the claim for the damage and the gallery didn’t know that a court order had been issued for the work in the meantime. “Asher uses unusual tactics, but he gets it done,” Barrett White, director of New York gallery Haunch of Venison, says of the incident.

Mr. Edelman, the former corporate raider who helped inspire the character of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film “Wall Street,” has taken up a new position: art financier. After navigating the art world for decades as a collector, museum director and gallery owner, Mr. Edelman recently set up his own firm, Art Assured Ltd., to arrange art investments.

The field of art backing is a financial Wild West these days…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]

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