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The ten-year-old Art Basel Miami extravaganza opened its doors yesterday with more oomph than a type-1A supernova! 2011 is slicker and grander than ever in terms of talent and raw exhibit space, and levered to the hilt by a dense thicket of peripheral fairs, gallery promos, fashion presentations, book signings, pop-up auctions, charities, and, yes, a naked girl living in a pig pen (a ‘performance’ presented by shock-auteur Miru Kim). The droves of dealers, artists, critics, freaks and hedonists who converged on Miami Beach is potent proof that the art world is still bonkers (thank God!) and pulsating with oodles of enthusiasm and energy, with every square inch of the fair engineered to boggle your mind, explode your perceptions and stimulate brisk business.
The show’s opening kicked-off with a gush of merry-making exhibits, alpha artists, high-rollers, renegade upstarts and fashion glitterati. Julian Schnabel, Matthew Stone, Dr. Dre, Tilda Swinton, Pharrell Williams, etc. all came out to strut their stuff and amp-up the crowds. Throngs of big-wig collectors, critics and curators such as Larry Gagosian, Kathy Grayson, Jerry Saltz, Chris Dercon, Klaus Biesenbach, to name a few, were visibly making the rounds lending gigawatts of prestige to a place known mostly for chintzy beaches, bars and body-builders. Over 260 galleries (including, Opera, Gagosian, Graham, The Hole, White Cube, Team Gallery, etc.) came out in force to taut their talent-pools and add flair to the scene. Many held surprise concerts and exclusive VIP vernissages, organised lunches, brunches and frenzied fetes to stand-out amongst the fierce competition (Harmony Korine and James Franco, for instance, debuted their new tour de force film, CAPUT while goth-pop music trio, Salem, put on a pool-side show at the Delano). Even Jeremy Scott, fashion’s conceptual king of razzmatazz clothes, threw a Miami-style fiesta/pop-up premier at retailer BASE to showcase his artsy/campy wears.
This year, the docket featured some new whirlwind-ing items. The main venue, known as the New World Center and designed by post-modern doyen Frank Gehry, presented ‘Art Video’ on a 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection screen. The outdoor ‘Art Public’ exhibition, organised in cahoots with the Bass Museum, was turned into a pulse-racing multi-media sculpture park, with 20 brilliant Deco monuments occupying the spacious curtilage. To celebrate the fair’s 10th iteration, the organisers (Marc Spiegler and his co-director Annette Schönholzer) put on a glitzy-glam party produced with Performa, which commissioned X-Patsys and the Joshua Light Show, among other artists, that was a visual-optical bonanza.
At the show’s opening, Yankee and European Blue-chip works were ubiquitous, from sinister vintage pieces by Damien Hirst, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg and Barbara Kruger to Ryan McGinley’s colour-saturated, ethereal photos/video montage. The Hole’s Kathy Grayson (i-D Arts Editor) who once curated Deitch and now runs her own downtown gallery in NYC, brought experimental works from occultist superstar Matt Jones and anonymous street artist Neck Face.
Works from China’s most renowned (and anathematised) poet and artist, Ai Wei Wei, were front and center at the Mary Boone Gallery booth. There, Ai Wei Wei presented his ‘oil spills’ and ‘table with two chairs on the wall’ that flabbergasted viewers and blew-out like hot cakes. Liu Bolin, another artist hailing from China, raised eyebrows with his hallucinatory photos of authoritarian figures physically restricting the artist. As usual, the Art Kabinetts tactically curated mini-exhibits within selected booths; were mind-bending and provocative. Drawing on some insane esoteric subgenres, artists such as Rob Pruitt, Pae White and Takashi Murakami explored topics that ranged from religious iconography done in cartoons to suspended popcorn kernels and a hot-pink pornographic elf sculpture.
Ten years to their name, Art Basel Miami fizzles with more creative energy and passion than ever!
Get a close look at our fair highlights here. Art Basel Miami runs until 4th December 2011.
Text: Cody RossPhotography: Brittany Kubat/Madeline Kragh
Credits from top: Ron English; Olaf Breuning; Liu Bowlin