In the mountains of Colorado lies a haven for art collectors like no other in the United States. Aspen is home to a who’s who list of art world mega-collectors, and with the Aspen Art Museum breaking ground on a new $30 million museum, the annual ArtCrush benefit has taken on heightened fundraising importance. The name “ArtCrush” is apt, as the museum pushes its patrons to crush hard on an artist, bidding (and overbidding) on their favorite works. This year the crush was to the tune of $1.8 million raised in a single evening, and the crush theatrics in the live auction were very real: the piece by last year’s honoree, Roni Horn, went for a record $420,000, while the piece from this year’s honoree, Tom Sachs, went for $155,000.
The biggest fireworks this year came courtesy of John Phelan, the manager of Michael Dell’s wealth, who went head-to-head with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong to purchase a Rob Pruitt piece for $150,000 (twice its listed value). While the money raised will make the headlines, the impact of the benefit is not just limited to that night. In the past few years, it seems that artists have emerged from this auction with the momentum of having had the attention of a room full of the art world’s most powerful. At last year’s benefit, a piece by Rashid Johnson sold for more than two times its value, cementing him as an art world darling. This year perhaps it will be Angel Otero, whose piece also sold for for two times its value.