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Local Art Dealer Scores Big At Art Basel

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MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) – No question, there’s money to be made in art.

Just ask Ramon Cernuda of Coral Gables. Cernuda, a first-time participant at the spectacular Art Basel exhibition on Miami Beach, said he made a spectacular sale on the first day, selling a Wilfredo Lam work for $3 million.

“The buyer is a prominent Cuban-American in the community who wishes to remain anonymous,” Cernuda told CBS4 News. Cernuda says he was not surprised by the pricey sale.

“Art is proving to be a very good investment,” said Cernuda, who owns the gallery, Cernuda Arte, with his wife Nercys.

But profits arising from the Art Basel event extend beyond the well heeled buying high priced art.

At the Loews Miami Beach hotel Marketing Director Craig Schoninger beamed Friday.

“The hotel, we are pleased to say, has been sold out,” Schoninger told CBS4 News. “Art Basel has been really exciting for us this year.”

Tourism officials say hotel occupancy is running at about 92 percent for the Art Basel week, but that business in general is up overall this year some ten percent.

“We’ve definitely seen a major uptick as we’ve moved through 2010,” said Loews’ Schoninger. He said the hotel has been hiring as the industry tries to recover from what has been a brutal recession.

“I’m a new hire,” said Alex Soriano, a bellhop who started at Loews about seven months ago. “Business is great,” he said, and tips particularly good with the Basel crowd in town.

Art Basel, with attendance up about ten percent this year, provides a powerful economic spike.

Jody Levinson, an art lover in town for the exhibit from Philadelphia said she had not bought any artwork as yet, but was spending lots of money.

“We’re here for five days, and we’ll spend at least $1,000 a day between hotel and restaurants,” Levinson said.

On Collins Avenue, limousine driver Nelson Sirgo waited for his passenger and said Art Basel has been a boon for him.

“Every year it picks up, and it’s good for the economy, definitely.” Sirgo said, adding that it will make Christmas better for his family.

Art Basel exhibition itself puts local people to work.

Cristina Midosi-Helmholz, a wife, mother and real estate agent, was working a temp job at the exhibition hall, processing credentials for media covering the show.

“It’s a little extra money. I can buy a computer for daughter,” she said, smiling.

Robert Goodman, with Art Basel Florida, said the event puts several hundred local people to work, some for several weeks, earning temporary but valuable extra income.

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