Art Basel Miami Beach at 10

A decade of debauchery, deals, and disasters.

Miami artist, curator, and critic Gean Moreno hit the nail on the head in 2004 when he described the "Kafkaesque machinations" of dealers and artists desperate to catch on with Basel's deep-pocketed cognoscenti. Blood pressure levels rise across the 305 during the fair, leaving many a palm sweaty over fears of missing out on the $500 million swapped each year.

Take 2004, when local dealer Gary Nader was miffed about Basel handing him yet another rejection letter for a display space. "Art Basel is great for the city," Nader said at the time. "My problem is... the whole process is arrogant and unfair. They can't just come to our city and insult us like the Mafia."

Then Nader went rabid on competitors such as Fredric Snitzer, a member of the Basel selection committee, snarling that "people go to war for oil and they go to war for art."

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.

Snitzer objected that "the only criterion is the quality of work," but the fair threw gas on the fire the next year by dropping Bernice Steinbaum — one of the few locals awarded a spot in the convention center during Basel's early years and famous for wearing bedroom slippers while greeting collectors visiting her booth.

Nader thumbed his nose at Basel by opening his own massive, 50,000-square-foot bunker in a former brick factory in Wynwood to house a collection he claims is worth $100 million. Steinbaum, meanwhile, had her revenge by handing out slippers stamped with her gallery name to fairgoers.

More sniping broke out that year, when Edge Zones' Charo Oquet accused gallerist Marina Kessler of sabotaging her operation by purposely misprinting her phone number on the Wynwood Arts District map for a second year in a row. "This has become like an art war, and we are under an enormous invasion from outsiders opening spaces and outside artists coming here to compete," Oquet fumed.

Kessler, meanwhile, called Oquet a "deadbeat who bounced a check on us for the listings. She is just upset over not having any sales."

By 2008, the feuding spilled onto the pavement when street artists such as Shepard Fairey arrived to paint murals for Primary Flight. As Basel week came to a close, a crew of New York graffiti rats vandalized Fairey's mural and filmed their act in a desperate stab at street cred.

"They destroyed it that Sunday before leaving," Bischof, Primary Flight's organizer, says. "Shepard's people asked us if the paint they covered it with was still fresh and said that he had put a protective coat over his work. We ended up working all night to remove the paint and restore his mural."

The dolts put their film on the Internet and ended up looking like idiots instead. "When these people have beef, it's hard to contain the culture of the street," Bischof says.

Local Artists' Favorite Memories: Cat's Balls and Neon Chairs

Who better to remember a decade of Basel than the artists who have lived it? In their own words:

Clifton Childree, an artist known for his carnival-esque installations: "I was helping a friend hang work at his gallery booth at NADA one year, and a gnarly street cat with huge nuts came into the fair and wandered around. No one confronted him because of how mean he looked, so people followed him around hoping he wouldn't spray any of the artwork that was still on the floor. Later, at the same booth, when my friend left the area, I hung a horrible painting I found in a thrift store early that morning and then watched people looking at it. [The friend] came back and was beside himself and couldn't do anything until all the people left."

FriendsWithYou's Sam Borkson: "We performed with Ben Jones from Paper Rad [a Rhode Island collective]... one year. We made crazy fake instruments and we all went crazy, drunk off of joy and hysteria. There were a few major injuries, but definitely it was a seriously funny highlight."

Adalberto Delgado, owner and curator of Little Havana's 6th Street Container: "My funniest memory was when I put together the dumpster project. Five dumpsters were placed strategically around Wynwood, having been worked on by five Miami artists. Cat Dove and Kyle Chapman dressed up theirs to look like a general. Their dumpster was covered with tassels and wearing a purple robe. To everyone's surprise, all the fabric adorning the dumpster was first tagged with graffiti and then stolen by the second day."

Chris Oh, one of three partners at Primary Projects: "I met [graffiti artist] Mr. Brainwash and told him he sucked in 2008, the year he did the Obama Superman poster. The look of disappointment on his face was priceless."

Kevin Arrow, Miami experimental artist: "When MOCA was exhibiting work at the Goldman Warehouse, there was an exhibition called 'Artificial Light' which had two beautiful purple neon chairs by Chilean artist Iván Navarro. These were very dangerous-looking, buzzing, and crackling chairs fashioned out of neon gas and glass. One of the visitors to the exhibition climbed up on the platform on which they were displayed and attempted to sit on one of the chairs, thereby crushing it and falling down hard on her ass! It was both hilarious and infuriating."

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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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