Art Basel Miami Beach at 10

A decade of debauchery, deals, and disasters.

My favorite debut also happened in 2007, right down the street from Primary Flight: the inaugural, "guerrilla-style" Fountain Fair.

When I first walked inside, artists Melissa Lockwood and Rachel Hoffman were shimmying in their scanties to a Madonna tune. Lockwood dangled inside a silvery cocoon suspended from the ceiling on heavy chains. In front of her, Hoffman, clad in a red bikini and pointy devil horns jutting from her breasts, swayed hypnotically.

As Hoffman whirled like a dervish, North Carolina artist Sean Pace stared at her from across the room. The stupefied Pace was standing in front of his Super Natural, a Louisville slugger with a sawed-off shotgun affixed to it. "I wish I would have brought my machine-gun sculpture that shoots rubber chickens into walls at 90 miles an hour," he croaked.

Marlene Haring sold hickeys as art.
© Marlene Haring
Marlene Haring sold hickeys as art.
Bernice Steinbaum in her eponymous gallery.
C. Stiles
Bernice Steinbaum in her eponymous gallery.

Suddenly Greg Haberny pulled me over to his booth to show me a rejection letter from New York's Museum of Modern Art, pooh-poohing his proposal for an installation called Blow This Mother Fucker Up.

The letter was authentic, signed by a MOMA trustee who rails against Haberny's plans to piss on a Monet masterpiece and paint a "hairy beaver" between the legs of Lautrec's The Seated Clowness and then declines to accept the artist's offer to pay for booze and hookers for museum janitors. Haberny pointed to the line calling his project "revolting" and beamed.

Worst Exhibits: Norwegian Hand Thieves and Ghetto Cruisers

Amid all the eye-poppingly amazing work on display, there is always an exhibit (or two or three) that makes your eyes bleed instead.

"The weirdest thing I've seen was this taxidermy sculpture of life-size horses having crazy sex," recalls Chris Oh of Primary Projects.

I've seen weirder. Take 2006, when I encountered Norwegian artist Morten Viskum dressed in full Catholic priest regalia at Edge Zones. When I asked him if he was a real priest, Viskum said he had dressed that way to attract people to his show. Then Viskum told me he had become famous in Norway for emptying olive jars and replacing the contents with dead baby rats before returning them to grocery shelves. The pseudo holy man went on to crucify rodents as part of his bizarre oeuvre.

The conceptual kook led me over to a series of sinfully horrid abstract works that looked like preschoolers' messy finger paintings. Viskum sidled up to me and whipped out a picture of a severed hand. "Ten years ago, I found a human hand and started making abstract paintings with it," he whispered.

Creepy? Hell, yeah. But guys like Viskum also annoy the more serious practitioners at Basel. "The hoopla, artists looking for that moment of fame, those artists desperate to find spaces to become part of Art Basel Week... it's sad to see," says Adalberto Delgado, cofounder and curator of the alternative space 6th Street Container in Little Havana.

Another classic catastrophe came in 2007 with a car-wreck-cum-jungle installation by local artist Maitejosune Urrechaga called Mind the Snails. Urrechaga took a 1995 Mazda MX-3, planted ficus, ferns, and palms in the jalopy's trunk, and slathered on copious coats of acid cranberry, cobalt, and lemon-yellow hues. Then she unceremoniously plopped it next to Gallery Diet and across from the much-trumpeted Wynwood debut of Art Miami.

The only people who embraced her project were the homeless who encamped in it overnight, leaving the car full of empty beer bottles and the smell of urine. When Diet's owner, Nina Johnson, found the piece, she begged Urrechaga not to leave the wreck in front of her gallery. "It was out here for a couple of nights, and homeless people were sleeping and doing drugs inside," Johnson protested.

Three squad cars soon arrived and a crowd gathered. Artist Beatriz Monteavaro, who has a studio next to Diet, shook her head. "It's becoming a free-for-all here. This is unacceptable. It's like someone taking a shit in front of your house. You know it's funny, yet sad," Monteavaro said.

The cops were also unimpressed. They ticketed Urrechaga's tagless rattletrap and had it impounded.

Worst Money Woes: College Tuition for Hotel Rooms

If Art Basel had a theme song, the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money" would be a frontrunner.

When a half-billion smackers are up for grabs during the fair every year, artistic ambition often takes a back seat to cutthroat capitalism gone wild.

That financial madness starts at the top; if you've ever wondered why so many satellite fairs have emerged or why dealers jack up prices into the stratosphere inside Basel's main fair, here's the answer: A booth inside the Miami Beach Convention Center commands at least $30,000 for about 540 square feet. That's beyond Tokyo-real-estate pricey.

Side costs, meanwhile, have ratcheted up every year to match, peaking in the years before the real estate bubble popped in 2008. In December 2005, for instance, one night in the Ritz-Carlton's Lanai Room ran $989; a penthouse during Basel weekend, meanwhile, went for a staggering five grand a night — a $2,000 markup from normal weeks; and a bungalow at the Shore Club cost $3,500 per night, with a four-day minimum stay. Yes, that was a $14,000 bill for the mini art break.

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7 comments
Jessica
Jessica

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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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