Unlike last year, when a scrum of well-heeled VIPs virtually shoved their way in at the 11 a.m. opening, possibly inspiring the now-notorious comparison to “squirming maggots” in Tom Wolfe’s new Miami novel, this time fair organizers staggered entry in orderly lines. The more-sedate atmosphere gave buyers time and space to focus and shop around, gallery owners said.
“It’s not as frantic,” said Burkhard Riemschneider, of Berlin’s Galerie Neugerriemschneider. “People are more concentrated — it’s a very well-informed crowd of collectors.”
And though the aisles were relatively uncrowded, the avidity for art had not flagged.
At the booth of New York-based dealer Larry Gagosian, works had sold before the fair even opened — with collectors making decisions from digital images. Among the works sold were a Gerhard Richter with a $4 million price tag. New York-based Pace Gallery had 15 sales in the first three hours of the show at prices ranging from about $80,000 to about $650,000, said gallery executive vice president Peter Boris.
Evident, too, was the staggering diversity of nationalities among the fairgoers, to judge from the babble of languages and accents.
Air kisses and even hugs were common as members of what is a relatively tight, exclusive club greeted one another as if it were old art-world home week at Basel, which in a sense it was. For them, the Miami Beach fair has become a must-do pilgrimage.
“There’s very strong attendance by the right people,” said Mathias Rastorfer, co-owner and director of Switzerland’s blue-chip Galerie Gmurzynska, with a coveted position next to the fair’s entrance. “In spite of the global economic problems, there are more international buyers than ever. The Far East, Russia, Europe, the U.S. is coming back, South America has especially increased.”
Visitors at Gmurzynska were fascinated by Scott Campbell’s Reliquary, a sculpted figure in a large case made of thousands of layers of laser cut dollar bills — a kind of “money mummy.” It has been reserved for $100,000.
The Galerie Neugerriemschneider generated buzz with an untitled piece by famed Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, composed of two prison interrogation chairs facing each other and connected by wood temple carvings — equal parts ancient art and commentary on modern Chinese society.
Video art, a hot commodity in recent fairs, was not so much in evidence this year. Neither was explicitly sexual or profane work.
But it wasn’t entirely absent, either.
A small army of cigarette butt sculptures stood ready to picket at Miami’s Snitzer Gallery, holding signs, including ones saying “My husband is a p---y,” and “Just explode this life for a change.” The 2012 installation by Jon Pylypchuk is called, “I won’t give up on you,” and attracted snickers and cellphone photos — and praise — from people passing by.
Miami Herald staff writer Jane Wooldridge contributed to this report.