Art Basel

13th Art Basel Miami Beach a testament to the spread of culture

Ghada Dergham looks at the art work of the Zebra Love exhibit by Blake Emory, a concept work in 'Optic Modernism, at the Spectrum art fair, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Midtown Miami.
Ghada Dergham looks at the art work of the Zebra Love exhibit by Blake Emory, a concept work in 'Optic Modernism, at the Spectrum art fair, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Midtown Miami. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

If “more” equals better, the 13th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach and the surrounding art week events may go down as the best ever. More new art fairs and just-to-see shows. More record-breaking sales at Art Basel Miami Beach. More CEOs — from watchmakers Hublot and Omega, luggage brand Rimowa, hotel companies Starwood and Marriott — opening luxury properties. And if not more — who can keep track? — then certainly plenty of celebrities, including actors Leonardo DiCaprio, James Marden and Owen Wilson; musicians Usher, Miley Cyrus, Russell Simmons and Joe Jonas; supermodel Heidi Klum and the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt.

There was another kind of “more” as well — more spillovers, touch points and art for all manner of South Floridians, from entrepreneurs to pre-teen fashion designers, stretching from Pinecrest to Coconut Grove, Overtown to Fort Lauderdale.

If the aim is “to make art general,” as Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen told attendees Monday at the foundation’s annual announcement of Knight Art Challenge awards, this year’s art week put South Florida well on its way. Proclaimed National Endowment for the Arts chairman Jane Chu on a whiplash art tour to downtown, Miami Beach and Opa-locka, “Art is entwined in Miami’s DNA.”

Even as the Pérez Art Museum Miami celebrated its first year anniversary, a new permanent museum building for the Institute for Contemporary Art Miami was announced for the Design District.

Overtown hosted its first Art Africa fair of works created by artists from the African Diaspora. Joining it on the list of first-year events are an impressive exhibition of monumental works in the vast Mana-Miami Wynwood space on NW 23rd Street and Pinta, a fair focusing on Latin American art that moved from New York to Midtown.

The festivities reach far, far beyond the traditional art crowd. On the Mana campus, the Savannah College of Art and Design is presenting “i feel ya,” an exhibition that includes jumpsuits designed by André 3000 for Outkast’s reunion tour. The nearby ArtHaus tent is surrounded by food trucks and a sound program where Beethoven is definitely not on the playlist.

This year, more than a half-dozen student exhibits are on the art agenda. At FusionMIA, student photographs hang near works by masters Rashid Johnson and Al Loving; all were curated by Miami’s N’Namdi Contemporary gallery. A few blocks north, at Wynwood’s House of Art, a dozen students ages 5 to 15 from the DesignLab program showed off their creations at a Friday night “vernissage.”

Among them was 13-year-old Yael Bloom, wearing a flounced party dress she made from shrink wrap. No matter that the first-time event was a little-known spinoff. “Art Basel is pretty hard for adults to get into,” Bloom said. “For kids to get into it is very cool.”

As in years past, free events abound, from performances by Chinese artist Shen Wei at Miami-Dade College and artist Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest demonstrations on the sand to official Art Basel events, including films on the New World Center Wallcast and the Art Public sculptures in Collins Park. New is free Art Week shuttle service between Midtown and Miami Beach — a government cooperative effort — that dovetails with trolley service to art venues on both sides of Biscayne Bay.

In institutional quarters, Art Basel Miami Beach global sponsor UBS announced the creation of a $5 million loan fund for existing Florida small business owners. Sponsor BMW USA announced it would fund an “art journey” open to emerging artists exhibiting at Art Basel Miami Beach. And the City of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County put out a call to artists, encouraging them to propose projects for the $4.33 million public art program associated with the Miami Beach Convention Center renovation. South Floridians are eligible to apply for all three initiatives.

Clearly, art week isn’t just about aesthetics, personal enrichment and community building. It is also about enterprise — which explains all those luxury CEOs, the ground-breaking of the Zaha Hadid-designed One Thousand Museum, and the announcement at Miami Ironside that designer Ron Arad will create the interiors for the revamped Watergate Hotel in Washington. (And no, there’s no real connection to Miami.)

Said Michael Spring, Miami-Dade’s cultural affairs director, “There’s a certain deepening, a realization not just that the Art Basel event but arts in general have a phenomenal effect on the image and economy of our entire region. We’ve talked about it before, but there seems to be more focus this year. It’s not an interesting footnote anymore; it’s the theme.”

That, says Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, was the thinking behind the city’s $50,000 grant supporting the Art Africa fair. “We need to encourage people to come now to Overtown. The cultural aspect helps them realize they can safely come here now. And then maybe they’ll come back later and spend money in the community, in our restaurants and stores,” he said.

In Miami, with commerce inevitably comes glamor, which is proving as glossy as ever. Hennessey V.S.O.P., Dom Perignon, Paper Magazine, Interview and B.E.T. have staged events all around town, at private “locations,” hotels, restaurants, the 1111 Lincoln Road garage and the ICA temporary space in the Moore Building. Developer Alan Faena threw a breezy beachside asado. Jeffrey Deitch, Tommy Hilfiger and V Magazine hosted a glitzy bash at the Raleigh featuring a performance by Miley Cyrus.

In the Design District, developer Craig Robins hosted a dinner honoring architect Peter Marino at a single, 142-yard candlelit table for 380 guests on a closed-off street amid the district’s luxury brand storefronts. Sculptor Jaume Plensa was the guest of honor at another long candlelit table — this one for 60 — in the Coconut Grove sales offices of Park Grove, which recently installed a series of his works along South Bayshore Drive.

Alas, once again, manners were not de rigueur among the glossy set. At some parties, guests of guests turned up with entirely uninvited guests. For other tony soirees, publicists emailed out “disinvitations” to previously invited guests, obliquely sending the message that someone more glamorous would be taking those seats.

Decorous or not, during art week, the energy all emanates from the week’s namesake fair, said Dennis Scholl, VP/Arts at the Knight Foundation. “The most important thing to remember is why this week exists, and that’s Art Basel in the Convention Center. If that wasn’t the core of what’s going on — if it weren’t a world-class event — nobody else would be interested in being involved. It continues to be the raison d'être of this week.”

In the Convention Center, at what Scholl called “the core of the nuclear reactor,” many gallerists were quite happy, thank you very much.

Veteran Art Basel Miami Beach gallerist Sean Kelly said Wednesday was his best first day ever at the fair. Newcomer Michael Jon Gallery also sold almost all of its available work — by rising stars like Sayre Gomez and JPW3 — on the first day.

For most dealers, sales remained lively, day after day. At Galerie Gmurzynska, co-CEO Mathias Rastorfer proclaimed it “successful indeed ... . In terms of reception, it was an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from collectors and colleagues alike. In terms of sales, we did several over $1 million sales and many within the $100,000 to $500,000 range, with a Picasso’s Venus and Love selling at near the asking price of $1.2 million.

Said Art Basel Director Marc Spiegler on Saturday, “I’ve gotten nothing but positive response from galleries,” not only because of strong sales, but also because new hours for VIPs gave gallerists more time to meet new collectors. “A lot of people were here and buying for the first time. Many galleries said they had their best fair ever.”

But like this week’s weather, the upbeat atmosphere suffered from uncharacteristic clouds. In Wynwood, a police car hit and critically injured a street artist. An $87,000 silver plate crafted by Pablo Picasso was reported stolen from the Art Miami satellite fair in Midtown. A partygoer at PAMM’s first anniversary fête on Thursday accidentally damaged an artwork installed on the floor. And Friday night, would-be art goers were stymied by traffic shutdowns into art-centric areas of Wynwood, Midtown and Miami Beach by protests against nationwide police-involved killings.

Though unfortunate and sometimes tragic, Spring said, the unrelated events were “a product of the incredible level of activity.” At Saturday’s annual brunch at the art-rich Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach, the theft and damaged artwork uniformly were brushed off as inconsequential. Said one art insider, “s--t happens.”

Miami Art Week’s merry-go-round nature is surely born from Miami’s appreciation of a good time. And increasingly, perhaps from something deeper.

Said Miami gallerist Jumaane N’Namdi, “Art Basel has put art on everyone’s mind. Everyone wants to be involved somehow.”

And that’s not just about the parties, said N’Namdi, who had galleries in Chicago, New York and Detroit before opening in Miami. “I don’t think you could find a city that enjoys really looking at the art the way this city does. I came through the airport, and even the TSA guys were talking about it, asking each other if they got their Art Basel posters. Every level of art you want is here.”

Outsiders agree. “Miami is very special for its link between art and the community,” said Axelle de Buffévent, style director at champagne house Martell Mumm Perrier-Jouët. “It goes both ways. The community rallies around art creating a unique energy. And art dynamises the community, in a very unique way.”

Miami Herald writer Ricardo Mor contributed to this report.


Most art fairs are open Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

For updates and a full list while mobile, check our events calendar


Art Miami/CONTEXT: The Art Miami Pavilion, 3101 NE First Ave., Midtown. $35; $75 multi-day pass also includes CONTEXT and Aqua art fairs.

Design Miami: Meridian Avenue and 19th Street, adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention Center. $25;

Art Basel Miami Beach: Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr. Invitation-only vernissage noon-3p.m., Dec. 4. Open to public starting at 3p.m. Dec. 4. $45 adults, $30 students and seniors; run of show $100; combo ticket for Art Basel and Design Miami $55.


FrostArt Museum at FIU presents breakfast and an information lecture by Daniel Arsham in the Sculpture Park. 9:30a.m.-noon, free. At 10975 SW 17th St., Miami, 305-348-2890;

Art Basel Conversation: 10a.m. “Artistic Practice | The Artist as Curator,” with artist Liu Ding, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Joseph Kosuth, Martha Rosler and Martha Wilson; moderator: Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director, Serpentine Gallery. Free. Miami Beach Convention Center.

Art Basel Salon: 1p.m. “Discussion | The Caribbean Artspace — maintaining curatorial integrity under socio-economic pressure,” with Amanda Coulson, director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and Veerle Poupeye, executive director of the National Gallery of Jamaica; moderator: Rachael Barrett, founder director Three Sixty Degrees. Art Basel Miami Beach tickets required. Miami Beach Convention Center.

FusionMIA: Caribbean and African Bazaar hosted by Carol Anne Taylor, plus fashion show, 2-6p.m. Free. Mana Village, Northwest Second Avenue at 23rd Street, Wynwood.

MDC Museum of Art + Design presents “Shen Wei — in Black, White and Gray,” exhibition and performance. Free. 1p.m. at 600 Biscayne Blvd., downtown. 305-237-7710,

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