With a smile and a wink, i-D online attends America’s swankiest art inferno. Welcome to Art Basel, Miami 2012—Part I!
IT IS the world’s glammest, gutsiest contemporary art bazaar featuring works from established masters, semi-famous rogues, unheard of up-starts and everything ruckus under the rainbow. Art Basel, Miami, kicked-off last week with more whirl-winding creative gusto than ever before. With the sun beaming bright overhead and magic all around, the fair’s opening crackled with countless cool events, colorful attendees and fantastical orphic oddness.
Backed by Swiss-giant UBS and already in its eleventh year, the four-day extravaganza vibrates with ridiculous retinal-blasting pizzazz, drawing over 300 galleries from 31 countries, showing works by more than 2,600 artists and subjecting South Beach to what Kazimir Malevich would call the ‘collision of the world of meat and the world of iron.’
At the main ‘Art Galleries’ venue on Convention Center Drive (the fair’s nucleus that nestles together hundreds of prominent exhibitors) things got cray as attendees and press piled in to feast their eyes on some of Pop art’s larger than life personalities and coveted original works – Warhol, Koons, de Kooning, Haring, Pollack, Rothko, Ensor, Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Kline, Lichtenstein, Kiefer etc. — all meticulously festooned within the exhibit hall like a glitzy carnivalesque ballroom. It was a visually discombobulating Gesamtkunstwerks mega-explosion!
Front and center were the usual suspects and their respective reps: mesmeric sculptor Anish Kapoor (Gladstone Gallery), polka-dot doyennes Yayoi Kusama (Gagosian), China’s most bumptious pariah Ai Wei Wei (艾未未-Mary Boone), esoteric cosmonaut Richard Prince (Gladstone), English shock-jock Damien Hirst (White Cube), montage-master Masamitsu Katsu (Fellini Gallery), pomo chameleon Cindy Sherman (Metro Pictures), gnarly-Künstler Sterling Ruby (Pace), underground misfit Ron English (Wynwood Walls), graphic guru Makoto Saito (Paul Kasmin) and chaos-maker Maurizio Cattelan (Anna Kustera Gallery), to mention but a hefty handful. Regal VIPS included Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Jay Jopling, Lady Victoria Hervey, Paris Hilton, Annette Schönholzer, Kathy Grayson (i-D Art Editor), Marc Spiegler, Tracey Emin, Ryan McGinley, Jeffrey Deitch, Charles Saatchi, Barbara Gladstone, Larry Gagosian, and well, the list goes on…
The entirety of Miami Beach swelled with smaller but equally jarring satellite shows (NADA, Aqua, UNTITLED, Scope, PULSE, Frieze, Fountain, etc.) and merry-makers and madhatters blasted-off with a torrent of slick villa parties, vernissages and pop-up launches that drew heavy-rollers and esteemed taste-makers Frank Gehry, Naomi Campbell, Roma Cohen, Gildas Loaëc, Rachel Judlowe and Alber Elbaz, all of whom made the rounds for the opening ceremonies, and garnered some slick big-cap works along the way.
Recession, um, where!? Confirmations swirled that blue-chippers ranging from Damien Hirst, Zhang Xiaogang (张晓刚) and Takashi Murakami (many of whom could be seen partaking in the festivities) to break out artists like Matthew Stone, Julia Randall, Holton Rower and Latoya Ruby Frasier sold-out like hot potatoes in the first few hours —a welcome sign that biz is getting brisker and at least a few artists and their proxies are raking-in some dosh and getting a decent dollop of press.
Opening highlights included performances by Perry Farrell, Reboot and A$AP; cocktails at the Beyeler Museum hosted by Vogue; dinner at Chez Donati with LVMH, nightcaps at the W Hotel with Opera; a fashion collab between Kitsuné and Miami’s it-est retailer ALCHEMIST; live happenings and ‘relational aesthetics’ involving Dita Von Teese and Ingrid Lee; pulsing pool-side soirees at the Delano hosted by Silencio; loitering critics, chain-smoking beatniks and pupil-dilated hipsters (with invincible asymmetrical haircuts) at the Deauville; surprise VIP previews at ‘un-disclosed’ locations courtesy of The Hole/Playboy and White Cube (you’d think MI6 was handling security at a few places); and off-the-cuff sets by more than a few mind-splicing MCs or shock-auteurs (Texan day-glow rascal Riff Raff, Kendrick Lamar and renegade thespians My Barbarian whipped the crowds into a fun frenzy).
Everyone is vying for some action at Miami, Basel and attendees of all strides and pedigrees giddily plant themselves in the aesthetic-economic wormhole that is without rival in terms of sheer scale, influence and fun in the south Florida sun.
Text and Photography: Cody Ross
Images from top: Zhang XiaoGang; Yue Min Jun; Liu Bo Lin; Atmosphere DUBSTEP