Perhaps over the weekend you noticed HappeningsCLT uploaded lots of photos from the Miami Beach edition of Art Basel. One of our team members attended the event. Here’s the report.
I saw A LOT of art including works by more emerging artists or younger galleries as well as works from top tier/blue chip artists represented by the best known commercial galleries. I ran myself ragged, attending the main Art Basel Miami Beach fair at the Convention Center, Design Miami, several satellite fairs including Aqua, Scope, Untitled, NADA, etc. I also saw murals in the Wynwood district, visited a private collection, and experienced Theo Jansen’s interactive works right on the beach.
But what did I really see? For one, the art market at work. While lots of artists, art enthusiasts, and museum/gallery staff like me attend Art Basel just for a look, it’s a fair. Selling art and connecting with collectors are the main goals. Negotiations often begin before the fair, but deals are sealed on site. V-VIP and VIP events take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the shows opening to the public on Thursday. Galleries with storage replace sold works, meaning that what you might see as the week drags on looks very different from what collectors see earlier in the week. Some galleries just stick with the red dot method and I couldn’t help but notice when a gallery didn’t have any sales noted. From what I understand, the booth prices this year ranged from around $6000 to around $50,000, depending on the fair and the size of the space. With a 50% commission split (the norm for most galleries/artists), a smaller gallery showing at the Aqua Art Fair, for example, needs to sell more than $12,000 worth of art just to break even on their booth. That doesn’t include their other expenses, including travel, accommodations, food, and shipping. The international galleries are in deep from the onset.
So…is it worth attending if you are not interested/able to make a major purchase? There are some works with reasonable price tags, but I wasn’t attending with my credit card in hand. I attend for inspiration and to see what’s out there. With lots of artists and curators descending upon Miami for a few days, it’s also a great time to set up meetings and network. It’s fun to unexpectedly run into curators or artists at an art fair – it makes the art world feel smaller than it is in a way. While I love standing before a giant Mark Bradford piece (below), or seeing works by Felix Gonzales-Torres, Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Lorna Simpson, etc., for me, it’s really more about discovery and inspiration, and in part, that includes looking at works I don’t always get to see at the institutions I frequent. Looking back through my iPhone pics, I snapped far more images of works by lesser known artists than blue chip artists.
I always feel like I have to see as much as I can and that can be really exhausting. By trying to see so much there is a danger in really not seeing anything at all. Art fatigue can set in pretty quickly. My solution was to juice up at Juice and Java (one of their waiters is so rude though, ugh) and keep going. I spent more days in Miami this year in hopes of spreading things out, but honestly, I just jammed more in.
So, here’s my abbreviated list of some faves from Art Basel Miami 2014:
-I don’t know how many people walked by these works in horror, but I was personally delighted to see several suites of performance documentation from Günter Brus, co-founder of Viennese Actionism with Otto Meuhl, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. Sure, the works aren’t easy on the eyes or mind, but I wish I could add these to our collection. They are good examples of 60s/early 70s body art; works that denounced object-based or commodified art. Ironic images to be shown/sold at an art fair, eh? These photographic suites are not flashy, glittery, or shiny like many of the other works at ABMB, so bravo to Galerie Krinzinger for taking up several walls of their booth with works by both Brus and Schwarzkogler.
-If you plan to attend Art Basel in 2015, I highly recommend hitting the Wynwood district to see the murals. Go early or just deal with the traffic.The predominantly Latino/Hispanic neighborhood is being gentrified into a hipster oasis, as more and more empty warehouses are turned into restaurants, bars, and arts-related venues. It’s a known fact that when artists move into inexpensive neighborhoods, they rebuild/rejuvenate these areas only to eventually get priced out. I do worry about the long-time residents of the neighborhood of course as well, as they too will be subjected to increasing rents. The Wynwood Walls project – a permanent site with works by more than 30 street artists – is a site to see, but I was more interested in seeing the street art popping up around the community. If you head to Wynwood, do patronize Panther Coffee. It’s worth the wait in line.-I enjoyed checking out Theo Jansen‘s Strandbeests. Twice a day during Art Basel, Jansen let the wind “walk” his creatures on the beach, just a few blocks from the Miami Beach Convention Center. It was worth checking out, even if most of us couldn’t resist seeing it through the lens of our iPhones.
–The Public Art Fair, a collaboration with the Bass Museum of Art, once again took place at Collins Park. Curated by Nicholas Baume from the Public Art Fund in NY for a second year in a row, there were some interesting works to look at, but I wish more were interactive. Jose Carlos Martinat (below) created one of two interactive works, along with In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth) by Hank Willis Thomas, Ryan Alexiev and Jim Ricks). This year’s Public Art Fair in particular was an impressive showing of female sculptors including Nancy Rubins, Jessica Stockholder, Lynda Benglis, Sarah Braman, and Ana Luiza Dias Batista, among others.
-I spent some time at Untitled and Scope – two fairs that I thought were better this year than last year. There was a good mix of emerging and more established artists. Also, who doesn’t love two giant tents on the beach filled with art? Just sayin’.
So what about disappointments? A few: I never made it to any of the Conversations or Salons with artists/curators. I also didn’t attend any of the evening short film programs. That’s when I was finding dinner after a long day of fair jumping. Last year I attended a party at the Vizcaya. I bailed this year – the artist who invited me was sick and I was tired and hungry. Even though they weren’t all amazing, I wanted to support the local artists performing there. Plus, Antonia Wright‘s piece from 2013, Suddenly We Jumped (Breaking the Glass Ceiling), stuck with me (try to ignore the guy whispering “oh god” on the video link). Lastly…uhhh, no celebrity sightings (actually, by the end, I had such art fatigue I may have walked right past Kim Kardashian). Most celebs come early in the week for the V-VIP events. We heard rumors of Leonardo DiCaprio, Usher, Donald Sutherland, Chloe Sevigny, Kate Hudson, Owen Wilson, and Marina Abramovic to name a few. But anyone who knows me knows I only really wanted to see James Franco. (Next year, Franco? Were you at the Edition? Oddly, no one offered me an invite.)
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