Art Basel

One-stop shopping for art at Miami Art Week

A woman walks past a portrait by artist Gabi Trinkaus at the Claire Oliver gallery space at the opening of Art Miami in Midtown on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.
A woman walks past a portrait by artist Gabi Trinkaus at the Claire Oliver gallery space at the opening of Art Miami in Midtown on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The curtain rose on Year 13 of Miami’s ever more engorged Art Week extravaganza on Tuesday to the customary, merry hurly-burly of mobbed VIP openings, promotional shindigs, celebrity sightings and, lest we forget, more top-shelf art from around the globe than even the greediest collector could ingest in a month, let alone six days.

With the invitation-only debut of the main event, Art Basel Miami Beach, still a day away, the traditional launch of the myriad satellite fairs and installations and performances that every year are drawn to the big bacchanal could have played to the throbbing beat of the disco ditty, More, More, More.

There was more of Art Miami, the Avis of Art Week fairs, which tries harder every year — 10,000 square feet more of it this year than last under its Midtown Miami tent, in fact, and more blue-chip works and more international galleries than ever before.

There was one more museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, which splintered off from North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art this year and made its debut with a temporary exhibit in temporary digs in a historic Design District building.

There were more $$ on the art and — so gallery owners and fair organizers fervently hope — more big sales in the offing, given prices driven to new records, again, at the recent art auctions in New York.

There were more celebrated bearded architects decked out head-to-toe in biker/Village People leather-and-skull-rings regalia... OK, there’s only one of those, the inimitable Peter Marino — uhm, wait, actually there are two of him (see below).

Marino does have two shows up this art week -- the first at Design Miami, the collectible furnishings fair where he was named Design Visionary of the year, and where a leather-wrapped booth he designed has mockups of some of his Manhattan residential towers and a sampling of his wide-ranging collection of chairs. And an uncannily life-like Peter Marino figure in full leathers behind glass.

A few blocks away on the Beach, at the Bass Museum of Art, Marino also inaugurated a full-blown exhibit of works he commissioned specifically for the show, works he has created previously and works he has collected by other artists, including early mentor Andy Warhol, Richard Prince and Robert Mapplethorpe. It's the first time items from his personal collection have been shown outside his own offices, where they are used to inspire creativity in staff.

And there was more rice than you could count in a six-hour sitting.

Famed performance artist Marina Abramovic was on hand for the opening of Design Miami and the latest iteration of her Counting the Rice project, in which volunteers sit at a concrete table by star architect Daniel Libeskind and count grains of rice without a break for up to six hours.

The idea, she said, is to make people acutely aware of time, especially in an era when technological distractions consume so much of it so frivolously.

“Time is essential,” Abramovic told the Miami Herald. “Otherwise we are completely lost in the madness.

“You have to make the decision to count all the rice for six hours. You have to decide that beforehand,” she says, adding that if you do not honor that commitment, if you quit in the middle of it, “You feel like sh--.”

So how d’you like it, how d’you like it, Miami?

Quite a bit, to judge by the snarl of early-evening traffic through Wynwood and Midtown, where several satellite fairs launched under temporary tents. And the line, hundreds strong, of people from all continents waiting decorously to get into the two Art Miami/CONTEXT tents, where fair director and partner Nick Korniloff predicted an opening-night crowd at least matching last year’s 14,000. And the red dots — indicating a sale — appearing early on some blue-chip works, including a Fernand Leger, asking price $1.65 million, at the New York-based Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery.

“It's the second great migration,” quipped Miami collector Marvin Ross Friedman, while coolly surveying the human herd at Art Miami. “The first one is the wildlife in Africa. Now, everybody is streaming in from Africa, Asia and Europe to Miami for the fairs.”

At Art Miami, the larger floor, larger booths and an increase in the participation of international galleries are all “a testament’’ to the growing importance of Miami in early December as an art marketplace, Korniloff said. The larger booths mean a more-expensive commitment by galleries to bring top blue-chippers, he noted.

“It's the most important week for buying art in America at a fair,” he said.

If that doesn’t sound like much to non-art world types, it’s actually quite a feat, says Art Basel Miami Beach fair director Marc Spiegler. Even thriving New York art fairs such as Frieze New York and the Armory show would have a lot of catching up to do to compete, he said in an interview.

At Art Miami there was no disagreement.

“There's such vibrancy,” said Susan Sheehan, owner of her namesake gallery, specializing in prints. Because of the high number of fairs and the strong museum showings, she added, “Miami is one-stop shopping for any serious art connoisseur.”

And for the people who collect furniture and design objects like art, too: Design Miami opened with 36 galleries, including the first ever from Miami.

Gallery Diet has a show consisting entirely of witty furniture pieces, most with a bit of a Florida twist, by Miamian Emmett Moore, including a folding room divider imprinted with blown-up images of vintage postcards and a glass coffee table supported by six packs of beer cans — actually milled aluminum facsimiles — arranged in the shape of jacks.

Meanwhile, nearby — whoa, there go Owen Wilson and Elle Macpherson, looking seven feet tall in high heels — Miami-based Coral Morphologic, one of the fair’s design curios, offered visitors the chance to experience coral reef organisms in an artful setting. Think goggles, headsets, film and photography.

“It's an immersive coral therapy, a 360-degree virtual experience,” said Colin Foord, who along with Jared McKay founded Coral Morphologic.

Back on shore, for the collector who has everything, consider a 9-foot King Kong, still tethered to a skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa instead of the Empire State Building, but refashioned in polished bronze and black crystals. The piece, drawing a steady stream of visitors taking selfies, is inspired by the world's tallest building in Dubai.

“This is for the person who is into big,” said Julien Lombrail, co-founder of Carpenters Workshop Gallery. “It's a power piece for someone who understands art and design.”

Interested? The price is $520,000.

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