Art Basel Miami Beach at 10

A decade of debauchery, deals, and disasters.

(The recession hasn't killed the madness. A standard ocean-view room at the Ritz runs $1,300, with a four-day minimum this year. A Sky Terrace Suite at the Mondrian costs $5,100 per night. Hotels on the Beach are already sold out.)

Beginning in 2006, those prices ignited a mad dash to the cheaper rents of Wynwood, where a rapid gentrification left its own casualties behind. I saw it firsthand that year.

I lived in an apartment on NW 23rd Street, around the corner from the Fredric Snitzer Gallery and down the block from Locust Projects. Two months before Basel, my landlords told me that someone was purchasing their building to convert one of the apartments into a gallery.

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.

For weeks, workers hammered and drilled around the clock to ready the space, called Lemon Sky Projects. The new owner was a budding artist who bought the building for more than $500,000 — twice the amount the previous owners had paid a few years earlier.

It turned out Lemon Sky's one and only exhibit next door to my pad was a decent show called "Toffee Armistice." I even enjoyed seeing a work by Banksy outside my window for a while.

But the art reverie was shattered the week before Basel when my landlady told me a French dealer was desperate to rent my place. Apparently she had been offered enough cash to ask if I would stay at a hotel during Basel and have my belongings placed in storage. She added she would give me two months of free rent if I agreed.

I refused.

The problem of rising rents and the onset of gentrification have also affected dealers such as Spinello, who has undergone several relocations. Instead of letting the local art scene evolve organically, the explosion of Basel wealth has let one-and-done carpetbaggers jack up rates, buy up neighborhoods, and then abandon the scene.

"They ended up cutting the strings too soon," Spinello observes. "You had these people unaware of the local landscape thinking they would make money because of Basel's presence here."

Best Local Artists to Emerge: FriendsWithYou

Is it possible for a local artist to rise above the sheer cacophony of Basel? Look no further than 2006's "Skywalker Parade," when the Magic City's biggest Basel breakout stars, FriendsWithYou, burst onto the national scene.

They weren't the first to smash the Basel ceiling. Locals such as Hernan Bas had rocketed to international stardom at earlier fairs. And they haven't been the last. Just last year, street artist Typoe drilled eye sockets with his sculpture of a skull vomiting confetti, which earned him a spot alongside artists such as Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat in a new book titled Skull Style.

But it was FriendsWithYou's conceptual tag team — Sam Borkson and Arturo "Tury" Sandoval III — that made my favorite Basel ascent with their procession of 18 hot-air balloons, some as large as 60 feet long, along the shoreline on South Beach. Their "Skywalkers" included a towering volcano, a fanged 20-foot rabbit, and a constellation of cosmic shapes that looked like wacky black beans.

Borne aloft by art collaborators, family, friends, and tourists who jumped in at the last moment, the duo's parade was led by the Hialeah Senior High School marching band blaring a tune composed by Tury's father, jazz saxophonist Arturo Sandoval.

"I love seeing Miami heads getting shine, especially in these supersaturated art happenings," local street artist Ahol Sniffs Glue says. "FriendsWithYou represent pretty hard every year for this town."

Borkson and Sandoval's parade nearly didn't come off, though. The pair was left scrambling to fill their balloons with gas after one of the few helium outlets in the nation folded that year. "It was a crazy mission," Borkson recalls. "We found out that the helium supply is mostly reserved for hospital use, and what was available had almost been used up for the Macy's parade." At the last moment, they found a company willing to sell 20,000 cubic feet of the gas.

Borkson and Sandoval started Friends-WithYou in 2002 when they made a line of plush toys with names like Bubble Gump, Malfi, and Albino Squid that they created as "amulets to bring people luck."

But since moving into the realm of interactive installations, they've taken off. "They are inventive and playful and continue to intrigue me with their interventions into everyday life," says the Museum of Contemporary Art's executive director, Bonnie Clearwater, who gave them their first museum show.

Their trajectory shows that the Magic City's homegrown talent can use Basel to grow their audience, Spinello says. "When you have put at least 10,000 hours of work into doing what you love to become successful, part of it can be credited by Basel's presence here, but we work hard year-round in Miami."

Best Celebrity Sightings: Porn Midgets and Keanu

Although the 305 can be as snooty as invading Eurotrash when it comes to the tide of poseurs lapping up on our shores every December, Miami is a starfucker at heart. Deep down, seeing the likes of Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, the Beastie Boys, and Adrien Brody buying art gets the most cynical paint-slinger's blood pumping. Exhibits, artists, and owners every year swap sightings of celebs — from Sly Stallone and Jennifer Flavin to Pharrell Williams and Brad Pitt.

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7 comments
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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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