Art Basel: Artpocalypse Now

A voyage into the art of darkness in an economy gone mad.

It's a reminder that anyone with a bucket of white paint and a space can open for business during Art Basel, even if his or her logic is termite-infested, local dealers complain.

"Just because you have five gallons of paint from Home Depot for a nice white space and a sign that says you're in the art business doesn't mean serious collectors will buy from you," says Gary Nader, whose eponymous Wynwood gallery is featuring a survey of the works of Roberto Matta, the late Chilean surrealist master. "People that are coming here to buy during Basel are looking for recession-proof blue-chip names and not giving a second glance to unknown commodities."

Nader is a lifer who is dug deep into his 50,000-square-foot concrete bunker, which houses $100 million in modern and contemporary art. The hangar-size space is ringed by a phalanx of butterball Botero bronzes strong enough to stop an armored cavalry assault. His Mattas could fetch prices from the hundreds of thousands of dollars to as much as $2.5 million.

Javier Pinon's The Flight of Icarus at David Castillo Gallery
Javier Pinon's The Flight of Icarus at David Castillo Gallery
A sign by Ezequiel Suárez at Glexis Novoa
A sign by Ezequiel Suárez at Glexis Novoa

"People are tired of getting fleeced and looking to invest with a consultant or dealer that's been in the business 20 years," he adds. "There are a lot of greedy people and Madoff-type operators out there. You have to remember that this is a business that's not regulated."

For collectors looking for a one-stop PX to pack their shopping carts with Tamayos, Mattas, and Kippenbergers, Nader's superoutlet might merit a parachute drop.

Nick Korniloff, director and organizer of Art Miami ($15 general admission, $10 students and children, children under 12 free), South Florida's oldest contemporary art fair, recently poured concrete slabs for his midtown Miami firebase. His state-of-the-art 80,000-square-foot pavilion houses 80 galleries from Europe, Asia, Latin America, India, the Middle East, and the United States.

Marking its 20th anniversary, this year's edition of Art Miami will feature a sweeping range of exhibitions, including a large outdoor sculpture by Tony Cragg, a series of museum-quality video installations curated by Asher Remy Toledo and Julia Draganovic, and select offerings from private and public collections.

London's Olyvia Oriental will display quality modern pieces, including those by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. New York's Edelman Arts will show work by Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, and Alberto Giacometti.

Art Miami will donate part of its opening-night proceeds to Miami's Lotus House Women's Shelter, which serves the needs of local homeless and downtrodden women and their children. "The past two years, we have donated close to $20,000 to the shelter," Korniloff says.

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I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor.

When it comes to guerrilla incursions, it's every man for himself. No one wants to crawl into an evil-smelling, anything-goes dive and risk getting evac'd to a MASH unit. For our money, here are some of the best off-the-radar events this week.

For the sonically challenged, check out "Digi-a-GO-GO!," a multimedia art exhibit in Wynwood hyped as the new-age Digital Salon. The exhibit will showcase experimental and psychedelic artwork by Brinson Renda, Preston Poe, and M. River of MTAA; Ricardo Agudelo; Kristen Anchor; Craig Coleman; Gerald Habarth; David Gladden; Scott Vollmar; and many, many others.

It will also feature "YouTunes," a special performance project that will create custom songs for 99 cents. All participants will receive instant recordings of their personally crafted songs on-site. International DJ Special K and South Florida band Murderous Rampage will provide live music, with visuals by acclaimed VJ Dark Intersection. Fuck, yeah! We love the smell of napalm in the morning.

At the fringe HQ that is O.H.W.O.W. (which stands for Our House West of Wynwood), the crackerjack commandos running the joint have enlisted remix artist Danger Mouse and alt-rock band Sparklehorse, who will create sounds to accompany "Dark Night of the Soul," an exhibit of 50 original photographs by iconoclastic filmmaker David Lynch. Seven limited-edition prints of each photograph will be available for purchase. Fuck, dudes! Save us some purple haze.

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You're in the asshole of the world, Captain!

Young Miami galleries and upstart curatorial projects thumbing their noses at Basel include Anthony Spinello's Littlest Sister 09, a microfair housing 50 artists, many of whose works prick the hype balloon surrounding the major fairs.

Spinello is exhibiting a work by Pachi Giustinian titled Valve, which consists of a nozzle used to inflate beach balls installed directly into a wall. It reminds spectators that boatloads of Basel events are hyper-inflated and likely to attract as many boozy revelers as art connoisseurs.

The gallery is also showing a video by Kristofer Paetau in which the artist ingested two bottles of water laced with a pound of salt each and, in a scene straight out of The Exorcist, puked inside the stall of an unsuspecting dealer at the 2005 Art Forum Fair in Berlin. Paetau's bowel-cramping intervention is a strident commentary on the consumptive habits of rabid collectors flocking to the art-fair circuit.

"It almost becomes self-defeating worrying about sales in this atmosphere," Spinello observes. "I decided to focus on promoting my artists rather than getting all angsty and sweating over the economy like everyone else. It's counterproductive."

Likewise, a provocative exhibit titled "Art Baselita: Mama's little girl" piggybacks on ABMB's trademark pink and gray colors and deploys guerrilla marketing tactics to generate buzz.

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