A section of Art Basel Miami Beach was transformed into a crime scene after a fight escalated to a stabbing at the show’s main event inside the Miami Beach Convention Center on Friday night, police said.
A woman pulled an X-Acto knife and stabbed another woman in the arms and neck, said Miami Beach police spokeswoman Det. Kathleen Prieto.
“The injuries are non life-threatening,” Prieto said. The victim was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital; the assailant, whom police did not identify, was arrested at the scene.
Both women were patrons of the art show, not exhibitors. Some patrons thought the stabbing was a performance art presentation. Others believed the police tape cordoning off an area of the convention center was part of an art installation.
The stabbing occurred in a corridor near an art installation entitled “The Swamp of Sagittarius,” created by Miami artist Naomi Fisher and partner Agatha Wara.
Fisher said she was at her exhibit when she heard a scuffle and later saw a woman being wheeled away by paramedics at about 5:30 p.m.
“A guy walked up to me and said, ‘I thought I saw a performance, and I thought it was fake blood, but it was real blood.’”
She said an artist named Rudy Perez showed her a photo that he snapped on his cellphone, showing a woman dressed in white with blood stains on her clothes.
Fisher said the stabbing took place in front of booth N29, where Freedman Fitzpatrick Gallery from Los Angeles was exhibiting.
Police cordoned an area near the Washington Avenue entrance to the convention center. It was in a section of the show called NOVA designed to promote young artists.
“It's horrible ... I'm so freaked out,” Fisher said. “I feel nauseous.”
Art gallery representatives who witnessed the incident declined to give their names but said they saw a woman with what appeared to be a pen in her neck. One gallerist said she heard a scream and ran over and saw a young woman lying on the floor bleeding from her neck.
Sara Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for Art Basel, issued a written statement that read, in part, “The attack was an isolated incident that was immediately secured. The suspect was apprehended by police who were at the scene within seconds of the incident. ... Our thoughts are with the victim.”
Police and Art Basel officials announced this week that, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, they had beefed up security in and around the convention center, and at other events during the four-day fair that closes Sunday.
Inside the convention center, security guards and event organizers worked quickly to clean up the scene, and to keep public attention focused on the art and not the stabbing. One bystander said he asked a guard what happened, and was told that a very expensive statue had fallen on someone.
Once patrons learned what had occurred, though, their reactions ranged from shocked to bewildered.
Two Coconut Grove women sipping champagne walked up to the police tape. When told by a reporter about the stabbing, they expressed shock.
“It's a very strange place for something like this to happen,” said Amanda DeSeta.
“It makes me very nervous,” said Sune Smith.
Both women said their purses were searched at the entrance to the convention center show, but not thoroughly.
Gregg Hill, a sculptor visiting from New York, said he saw the victim being wheeled out on a gurney but never suspected she was the victim of a violent act.
“I thought a piece of art fell on her,” he said. “I never would have thought there would be a stabbing at Art Basel. … People didn't really know what had happened. It was calm and everyone was milling around and talking.”
Miami Herald staff writers Jane Wooldridge, Andres Viglucci and Ricardo Mor contributed to this report.