Art Basel Miami Beach transcended all expletives and suppositions. As an artist, it’s the single most important career move I’ve made. In one swoop, I have a workable idea of my work in context to the world market and it’s explosive state. Yes, the costs are expensive, but worth every penny. I’m looking for gallery representation in America and around the world. Far, far and away, this is the fastest, most concentrated networking opportunity and education I’ve experienced. New York has become a satellite.
My first break took place on the flight down and as a consequence, I was graciously invited into the un-crowded, VIP Basil pre-preview…and the wild side of the ultra rich. I found myself being quizzically sized up by glittering European piranha, until we connected with Olga Viso’s entourage. Thenceforth, it was akin to following a really gorgeous Moses through the parting of the Red Sea. Before the evening preview, millions had changed banks. The Convention Center is roughly comparable to our own, but the layout was dazzling, spacious, and yet dense with excellent works in every medium, material and process. Surprises were everywhere. (Kapoor is exploring precision geometry just shy of Eliasson) At the same time, works of wildly ranging quality were equally overflowing- no matter your kinky predilections…
Basil was one of 24 fairs, many of similar size, which spread from Miami Beach across greater Miami. It is near impossible to see just half of it, even with a car, which I did with the swift determination of a spy in enemy territory, from waiting at the opening gates to closing. Too many events overlapped. The process is a visceral immersion of such complexity as to overwhelm the most organized, determined mind. I had a royal blast, even with five days of bloody stumps for feet. Art aside, the buzz was equally about fantastic parties at night, hob-knobbing with top collectors, curators and stunningly constructed strangers swimming naked in crowded pools, and walking that glorious Miami beach at sunrise.
Baltimore’s Cara Ober and Solidad Soleme were represented in good satellite fairs, both of which would have set Baltimore on fire. In Scope, I ran into Baltimore’s wandering wild man-Logan Hicks, who is now in New York, a new daddy, and is selling work like crazy in London and Brussels. He says London is the place to sell. An emerging friend of his had just sold 4 mil in work. Even unrepresented, I sold several works and stacked a list of gallery contacts.
There are also the must-see collections- the Rubell, Margulies, Cisneros, etc, which generally open earlier than the fairs. They proved to be the high lights, including the stunning Cardiff show at the Miami Art Museum. Those moments served wonderfully to clear the visual clutter and focus upon what art does best- provoke a noteworthy encounter. Another highlight was the Designer of the Year- Tokujin. His installation of 3 million clear straws swathed in waves around five brilliantly designed chairs set against a white on white, wrap-around balcony flooded with brilliant afternoon light was worth the trip alone.
Considering the economic thin edge America currently wallows on, Art Basel only goes to highlight the absurd greed, hype and fashions of much of the current market. The absurd height of prices has engineered a tsunami of far lesser works. Greed trumps vision or craft. Anyone can claim to be an artist, and if they are beautiful and charming, someone will take them home, no matter what their work looks like. Several lesser fairs, such as the Extended Painting Show, were pure rehashed crap. Hawkers, driving around in cars, accosted me several times, waving paintings as if I were a starving addict in dire need of a cheap fix. Dave Hickey is right- our culture has become an enormous over-extended boil about to burst.
That aside, there are several possible venues in which an unrepresented artist can show. Start online. The time to start planning is now. It ultimately becomes a question of your determination, research and resourcefulness. The Geisai Miami curates unrepresented artists. There are endless spaces for rent, although my impression was most were not getting the crowds.
I hope there is another comparable fair next year. Even with the lewd cynicism and pig slop piled here and there, I will go, better prepared. Much is to be gained in the rough and tumble. While walking through one of the collections, I had an epiphany for a major new work. Best of all were the moments when new works stopped me spellbound in my tracks, such as a Viola video of shimmering twin waterfalls, slowing merging with washing hands. Yes.