I was invited to the opening – well, one of the openings – of Art Miami Basel – along with about 8 million others.
I lasted 15 minutes. Lots of pretty girls complaining about their very expensive foot wear. And you couldn't see the art. Luckily there were many (many) parties to attend, so my expensive shoes and I went to one or two. And there is nothing like a mojito in Miami to put you in the art fair mood.
And after 2 mojitos…well, let’s just say I’m lucky I didn’t buy more than I did…. So back I went on Thursday, to actually take a look around the Miami Beach Convention Center. Well, you know you're in a serious art fair when nobody in line blanches in paying $42 (why $42, why not $41 or $45?) for a 1 day pass- without catalogue. Well, that, and the fact that the first thing you see at the entrance is a huge, jaw-dropping stabile by Calder from 1970 at Helly Nahmed ($6.5 million, still available).
Conveniently located near a small, staggeringly beautiful exhibition of Calders from Fondation Beyeler. Most galleries clearly feel it gauche to put up red dots, yet picture after picture I asked about had already been sold – including, sadly, my favorite, Barbara Kruger, pictured above at L & M (now based in Los Angeles), for $185,000. Other wonderful things – Roni Horn poured glass sculptures in luminous shades of violet pictured below at Hauser & Wirth – 1 sold, 2 still available at the end of Thursday, for $850,000 each.
Galerie Thomas had a Cher Bibi by Max Ernst (I’ve always wanted one) and were pouring champagne at 11 am to people with happy smiles. Thursday was a serious close-the-deal day. And who came to the fair? Good question. I spoke to gallery people visiting from Santa Fe and Tucson, Canadians with secondary residences at South Beach, curators from Paris, garment industry folks from New York. A nice man with a private museum in Belgium. Collectors of contemporary design from Switzerland, who had come to Miami for the first time. Many, many visitors spoke Spanish or Portuguese - but there was plenty of French and German ( and Russian) to be heard strolling around.
Several gallery dealers told me that many of their clients were from Central and South America, but had, as they put it “substantial residences” in Florida. Not so many Chinese, and even fewer from Japan. But there were plenty of stop-in-your-tracks moments, as there are at any air fair. I overheard at least 3 cell-phone conversations (one on a gallery shuttle) about selling buildings in Brooklyn. How could I hear them? It was easy – they were all shouting –loudly-into their cell phones, oblivious to anybody else who happened to be, say, having a conversation about art. One of my favorite walking-down-the-aisle moments was the man, patiently being led around the fair by his excitable wife. “honey, come here, here’s a picture with an airplane.
You like airplanes” (honest). And the award for gallery locations must go to Galeria Continua, located in San Gimignano, Beijing and Boissy-le-chatel. Really. Art Basel is the queen of tie-ins and sponsorships. They had 2 publications dedicated to the fair – one from the Miami Herald – both stuffed with advertising for very, very expensive real estate and jewelry. They had an art fair champagne (Ruinart), served both at the fair and in the botanical garden across the street. And a seemingly endless list of sponsors. It is much busier than the original Art Basel, more satellite fairs (some 2 dozen and counting) and much, well, buzzier.
But I’m sure that’s exactly how the fair folks want it to be.