Business

Saks Fifth Avenue pitching a $25M diamond-crusted statue

Saks Fifth Avenue’s wealthiest clients will be getting calls from their personal shoppers in the coming weeks — not about the latest Gucci or Balenciaga arrivals, but about an odd-looking statue of an astronaut that’s priced at $25 million.

The 4-foot tall, 80-pound sculpture, titled “Frozen with Desire,” is scrawled with phrases like “dreams” and “love” and “want.” It’s also encrusted with 6,200 diamonds, which mainly comprise the spaceman’s sparkling visor. Since Nov. 4, it has been on display in the lower-level “Vault” of fine jewelry at the retailer’s flagship in Midtown Manhattan.

“We are really trying to pivot away from being a store to buy goods,” CEO Marc Metrick told The Post, insisting that Saks aims to sell the statue before it’s taken off display on Jan. 7. “We want to be at the crossroads of art and fashion.” 

Terms of the deal between the artists and Saks weren’t disclosed, but Saks will get a commission if it sells the piece. And the store’s personal shoppers — called style advisers — have a built-in audience for high-end art: “They know their clients so well,” Metrick said. “People who collect art shop at Saks.”

At least, that’s what the artists, Brendan Murphy and Jonathan Schultz, are counting on. Murphy’s “spacemen” series also includes a 22-foot, 3,000-pound sculpture that was commissioned by a hotel in Antigua; Schultz is a South African artist who works in precious metals and diamonds and made a 23-karat-gold skateboard this year.

Saks Fifth Ave diamond spaceman
Spaceman for sale: Saks Fifth Avenue is using its army of personal shoppers to pitch this $25 million statue to its high-end clients. It’s on display at the retailer’s Midtown Manhattan location through early January.
Tiffany Rose for “Frozen with Desire’ by Brendan Murphy and Johnathan Schultz

Potential buyers flew to New York from across the country for the unveiling on Nov. 4 and some members of royal families from the Middle East are interested, Murphy said, declining to identify the potential buyers. “Until the money hits the account, it’s not done.”

The individual diamonds in the spaceman — essentially the size of small engagement rings — were sourced in New York and Las Vegas, where Schultz is based. Schultz said the diamonds account for the vast majority of the price of the statue, but declined to be more specific, citing a non-disclosure agreement. The entity that provided them will be paid when the sculpture is sold. 

The artists weren’t initially sure how they’d find a buyer for the statue, but after meetings this summer in Southampton with Metrick and Saks Executive Chairman Richard Baker, they hammered out a deal. It could potentially be the most expensive single item a US department store has ever sold. (Harrods of London topped all department stores when it sold a luxury yacht — Project Mars — for $165 million in 2011.)

Saks Fifth Ave diamond spaceman
The statue’s visor has more than 6,200 diamonds — around the size of an engagement ring for each stone.
Tiffany Rose for “Frozen with Desire’ by Brendan Murphy and Johnathan Schultz

“I chose to do this with Saks because it’s a left turn from the typical art world,” Murphy told The Post. “It’s not Soethby’s or Christie’s.” Jettisoning the top auction houses was a purposeful move, a spokeswoman for the artist said.

“There’s a level of rigor and structure that’s part of the business of art that often artists don’t enjoy,” the spokeswoman said. “Ultimately, the choice to show with Saks was intentional and intended to be disruptive to what has always been a linear path for artists with galleries and auction houses.”

Saks hired a separate guard to keep watch of the cordoned-off statue.

“They already have $150 million of jewelry in that space, so if you are going to show a piece like this, Saks checks off all the boxes,” Murphy said, musing that the worst thing that could happen is that “someone might jump the stanchions and take a selfie with the spaceman.”

Saks Fifth Ave diamond spaceman
The statue is on display at Saks’ “Vault” at its flagship Midtown Manhattan store. It has its own guard, and is surrounded by $150 million worth of fine jewelry and watches.
Tiffany Rose for “Frozen with Desire’ by Brendan Murphy and Johnathan Schultz


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