Art Basel Miami Beach at 10

A decade of debauchery, deals, and disasters.

Ten years ago, organizer Samuel Keller persuaded Miami Beach to welcome a crowd of Swiss art freaks to town, transforming overnight a city derided as a cultural desert into the contemporary art world's version of Vegas.

It's hard to believe Art Basel has already been landing in the Big Mango every December for a decade. The tenth-anniversary edition, which runs Thursday through Sunday, is bigger than anything at MGM Grand or the Bellagio, with 250 of the world's top galleries packing the Miami Beach Convention Center and more than a dozen satellite fairs across town — from Wynwood to the Design District to South Beach and points in between — luring hundreds of others.

As the Magic City's only full-time art critic, I've survived every edition of Basel except the inaugural event. The fair's anniversary is the perfect hook to revisit a decade of my fondest Basel memories — and most lingering art fair nightmares — and to hear the recollections of Miami's top artists, dealers, and curators who have lived through the past eye-opening, debauched, frantic years of high-art madness.

FriendsWithYou's "Skywalker Parade" wowed crowds in 2006.'
Ivylise Simones
FriendsWithYou's "Skywalker Parade" wowed crowds in 2006.'
Only hobos loved this 2007 car-wreck art piece called Mind the Snails.
Ivylise Simones
Only hobos loved this 2007 car-wreck art piece called Mind the Snails.

While we look back at the best and worst of Basel, don't forget to check out the guide to this year's best events on page 10 or online at bit.ly/baselevents.

Best Basel Bargains: Vodou Steals and Shepard Fairey

Last year the art world was stunned when a California man learned that two boxes he had purchased for $45 at a garage sale were worth $200 million. Rick Norsigian, a commercial house painter, had accidentally bought 65 glass plates of Ansel Adams's photographic negatives — the wet dream of any Antiques Roadshow addict.

Steals like that might seem as realistic as unicorn sightings amid the million-dollar sales at Basel, but believe me, they do happen. Six years ago, I hit the jackpot for less than the $35 cost of a Basel ticket.

I was slumming in Wynwood when I stopped outside Grubstake Good Works, a nonprofit thrift shop, to grab a bite from a hotdog cart. In the window, I spied what appeared to be the work of local artist Edouard Duval-Carrié, whose works are in the permanent collections of the Miami Art Museum, the Bass, and the Frost.

The asking price was $30, but short on funds, I yakked owner Heather Klinker down to $20. Later I took the piece down the road to the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery. "It's one of Edouard's sculptures of the vodou god of the sea," Steinbaum said, adding it was worth at least $500. "Boy, you did great!"

Afterward I asked Duval-Carrié how he felt about his work being sold at a thrift shop. "I was wondering where that thing went. One of them was missing from my studio and I thought maybe a delivery person or one of the creepy characters around here might have walked off with it," he cracked.

Klinker later told me the sculpture came from the estate of an elderly woman in North Miami Beach.

I'm not alone in finding good fortune amid the craven overspending. Local dealer Anthony Spinello nabbed a nifty Shepard Fairey piece at the Blueprint for Space show at ArtCenter/South Florida in 2009.

"I bought one of his amazing silkscreen-on-wood pieces called Defiant Youth, with a picture of Martha Cooper," he says. "It was one of an edition of two, and the image had been displayed outside Deitch's last exhibit in New York. I paid $1,500 for it."

Spinello doesn't know what it's worth today, but the image has become one of Fairey's best-known works after being plastered on T-shirts. The dealer's copy is one of only two original images.

Price aside, sometimes Basel's mind-blowing array of works yields the right gift for Miami collectors. Take Grela Orihuela, co-originator of Miami's Wet Heat Project, who found just what she needed to hearten partner Bill Bilowit one year when he was too ill to attend Basel.

"I saw a drawing by Miami's Beatriz Monteavaro with a little guy and a lizard creature and knew it would cheer him up," she says. "I paid several hundred dollars for the drawing, and Bill fell in love with it."

Best Satellite Fair Debuts: Blow This Mother Fucker Up

With renegade street projects mushrooming from every nook and cranny during Basel week, the highlights often aren't actually inside the Miami Beach Convention Center but at the dozens of satellites. Some of those fair's debuts have laser-engraved themselves in our memory.

Take 2007. Wynwood was bursting at the seams. Art Miami had thrown in the towel, abandoning its traditional January date to join the Basel fray.

And Primary Flight, a curated mural project by more than 20 local and visiting artists, had its breakout edition. The idea of graffiti artists taking over Wynwood has in many ways shaped the district to this day, says Primary Flight's founder, BooksIIII Bischof. "It was like five guys showing up with their parents' car and a ladder, and now fast-forward five years later and every bomber and tagger wants to paint here."

Spinello, the local dealer, meanwhile, raised eyebrows the same year with his freshly minted Littlest Sister 07, a microfair version of Basel replete with booths created by the same folks who outfit the Miami Beach mega-edition. The dealer also hijacked Basel's colors and branding and featured tons of small-scale works by local talent that quickly flew off the shelves. "It was a pain in the ass to organize but turned out very successful," he says.

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7 comments
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ChrisTan1
ChrisTan1

Art Basel Miami Beach at 10...@readers:disqus My step-sister Mhaye got $43/hour just working on the computer. She have been unemployed for 5 months but last month her check was $7921 just working on the internet for few hours.Read about it Here (=====http://bit.ly/pVhh1F ====)

ChrisTan1
ChrisTan1

My step-sister Mhaye got $43/hour just working on the computer. She have been unemployed for 5 months but last month her check was $7921 just working on the internet for few hours.Read about it Here (=====http://bit.ly/pVhh1F ====)

ChrisTan1
ChrisTan1

My step-sister Mhaye got $43/hour just working on the computer. She have been unemployed for 5 months but last month her check was $7921 just working on the internet for few hours.Read about it Here (=====http://bit.ly/pVhh1F ====)

 
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