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    Steve Wynn, Art Dealer
by Andrew Decker
 
     
 
Robert Rauschenberg
Small Red Painting
1954
 
Franz Kline
August Day
1957
 
Roy Lichtenstein
Torpedo...Los!
1963
 
Willem de Kooning
Police Gazette
1955
 
Jackson Pollock
Frieze
1953-55
 
No one except Wynn himself might have imagined it, but in the past two years, the Las Vegas resort mogul has become one of the world's most successful art dealers/warehousers. Looking at the fruit of one large purchase Wynn made in March 1998 (just one of many acquisitions he or his company has made), he appears to be looking at a potential 40 percent to 50 percent appreciation on an investment of $50 million.

Beginning in November 1996, Mirage Resorts President and CEO Steve Wynn began collecting art for the opening of Bellagio, an upscale resort in Las Vegas. Yet even before Bellagio and the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art opened in October 1998, Wynn had become an art dealer, trading the works he acquired.

While Wynn picked out art for his company to purchase, he also bought for himself. Most notable is a group of seven contemporary paintings for $50 million from New York dealer William Acquavella on March 9, 1998. The math (admittedly, somewhat speculative), shows that Wynn has sold three of the paintings for around $37 million and two others worth about $4 million for undisclosed prices. And he still owns two that are worth over a total of $20 million, easily. Here's a list of the paintings in question and, where possible, information on what has become of them.

Robert Rauschenberg, Small Red Painting, 1954
Combine painting, ca. 28 x 21 x 5 in.
Wynn '98 valuation: $3.4 million
Sold after Bellagio opened
Buyer and sale price are unknown

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1961
Acrylic, colored crayons and graphite on canvas, 40 x 58 in.
Wynn '98 valuation: $847,458
Sold before Bellagio opened
Buyer and price are unknown

Franz Kline, August Day, 1957
Oil on canvas, 92 x 78 in.
Wynn '98 valuation: $2.5 million
Sold to PaceWildenstein, where it was for sale at $4 million
Presumed net to Wynn: around $3.2 million

Roy Lichtenstein, Torpedo...Los!, 1963
Oil on canvas, 68 x 80 in.
Wynn '98 valuation: $12.7 million
Sold spring '98 for around $14 million
    to Microsoft architect guru Charles Simonyi

Jasper Johns, Highway, 1959
Encaustic and collage on canvas, ca. 34 x 27 in.
Wynn '98 valuation: $9.3 million
Sold summer '99 for around $20 million

Willem de Kooning, Police Gazette, 1955
Mixed media on canvas, ca. 43 x 40 in.
Wynn '98 valuation: $11.9 million
Remains in Wynn's collection

Jackson Pollock, Frieze, 1953-55
Oil, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas, ca. 26 x 86 in.
Wynn '98 valuation: $9.3 million
Remains in Wynn's collection

Wynn's profits aside, he continues to tinker with his art enterprise. No longer focusing on contemporary art, he has shifted the gallery's slant to Old Master, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. And in August, less than two years after the opening of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts, he is opening an additional gallery of 1,700 square feet, and the company is publishing an update of the ever-changing catalogue of its collections. Bellagio charges $12 admission to the gallery and gets a tax break on sales of art.


ANDREW DECKER writes on art and the art market.

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