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Is Art Basel Over? Maybe Not if You Are French or Naked…

December 7, 2009

PARANOID ABOUT ART BASEL MIAMI? An eye by artist Airan Kang, from Pulse Fair c/o Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts Gallery, Miami

(**All text and video by Susan M. Kirschbaum)

Art Basel Miami. It began as an end of year, kick off holidays satellite show to the major Art Basel Fair held each June in Basel, Switzerland. First, seven years ago there were intimate parties with world class collectors  like the Rubell family — brother  and sister in law of late Studio 54 co-owner, Steven Rubell– opening  homes to other purveyors and artists who wanted to see their stash of pieces of increased value and groundbreaking discoveries.  Now, with the onset of perhaps a seven year itch, naysayers mulling around Collins Avenue predicted, THE END IS NEAR.

Gavin Brown– who discovered painter Elizabeth Peyton and represents Rob Pruitt, who dares to use actual cocaine in his installations– didn’t participate this year, neither Brown nor his gallery.  James Lindon, Director of Pace Wildenstein Gallery said. “It was a protest statement.” Perhaps the fair has morphed into some kind of excessive trendy branding. The biz end centers around the Convention Center and a couple thousand artists’ works on display (plus more experimental shows like NADA, PULSE, and SCOPE). But these days, instead of  an exclusive art buying and schmoozing retreat, a NARS cosmetics party; and Gucci launched a fragrance, not to be confused with the executive from Pucci who hosted a dinner. Couturiers Viktor and Rolf did a fashion boutique party at the Webster Hotel. And supposedly, the Sex Pistols played some bar, but not one journalist or artist friend could figure out who was left to give us  sex, pistolwise, since Johnny Rotten seemed unlikely and Sid’s dead. Without Sid, well… no one bloody cares.

Vito Schnabel  — 22 year old son of artist director Julian — presided over a dinner on Wednesday although he’s still an ingenue as a curator. Not only that, but the next night he threw a raucous dance fete inside something called “the Wall” a club in the garden of the W Hotel, where Naomi Campbell, photographer Steven Klein, Calvin Klein (the original); and Brandon “Greasy Bear” Davis boogied down with some meatheads who got in. That mix felt pretty fabulous and old school NYC. So perhaps that’s how Vito will excel, as some young Warholesque curator, setting the right stew between his father’s generation and his own.

Lindon of Pace Wildenstein told me sales were brisk, that at least seventy percent of it sold but this round, “mostly to Americans from the Midwest. Some from New York, California,” rather than Europeans, who in the past filled in a nice chunk of the five day expo. The French seemed in full force though, with a makeshift “Le Baron” pop up club in  the Delano Hotel, with Le Baron’s Parisian owner Andre’ (also part owner of now defunct Beatrice Inn) doing the rounds every night. (Andre’s now getting his recuperation in Costa Rica, lucy bastard! xx)

Tanya Selvaratnam, who produced events this week displaying almost five decades of  the Rubell collection, also told me after talking to many folks,  the buying mood seemed brisk. When I mentioned that I did not see many A-list artists around town, she corrected me. “Well, how about Chuck Close. Francesco Clemente. Murakami. Zhanyang Li?” The first two she witnessed upfront. The last, Li, from China, she escorted to the Interview Magazine dinner at the Mondrian Hotel and served as his Chinese interpreter as well. (She’s a talented lass.)

It might be taking it too far to say that Art Basel Miami has outworn its welcome with the intellectual art set. Yes, there’s a bit of ridiculous flavor since an actual makeshift hipster outpost — Max Fish– opened a branch of its LES dive bar just for this Art Basel. Plus, Miami on regular days often  prefers its girls in wet tees and guys buff and caliente. But maybe that’s the draw. It’s a bit cheesy and New Yorkers can feel great and mighty and bold. The formula has set in. Mixing high, low, just like fashion, or the beautiful and the weird, just like Warhol.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 7, 2009 3:37 am

    Let’s just see some really good art work, i’m so tired of lazy trendy artists! It’s bad for our kids,
    Here’s to great creation!!!!

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