Art Basel is finally over. The behemoth art fair that sweeps into our fair city every year has packed its bags and blown us a very European kiss goodbye. And in its wake, it's inevitably left both the victorious and the conquered.
We here at the Miami New Times have rounded up our winners and losers from Art Basel 2014. Come and relive the best and brightest, the worst and Miley Cyrus, the fights, the tears, and the victory dances.
YoungArts shined this Basel proving at nearly every event both their local and national relevance. Between a politically-charged and fearless exhibition, a performance piece choreographed by the omnipresent Marina Abramović, and the III Points concerts by FKA Twigs and the sublime James Blake, YoungArts worked the high and low of Basel near effortlessly. YoungArts was able to strike a balance that seemed to elude most of Miami's institutions (see: PAMM). Here's hoping that next Basel, Miami's museums take their cue from YoungArts.
Art. Experimental performances. Fashion. Though these sound like the markers of a typical Art Basel Miami Beach fair, all this excitement was found in Little Haiti this Art Week.
Courtesy of #IHAITIBASEL, Little Haiti became the unique setting for days of cool programs, launching December 3 at the Little Haiti Thrift and Gift Store. The well-stocked shop and other areas like the Little Haiti Cultural Center played host to a series of memorable events, from the Jean-Michel Basquiat Shrine Dedication and Zones Art Fair, to the MSG crew's Locals Only show and MGKATWALK, a night of vogue, thrifting, and fun that brought out local artists, Hello Kitty-clad baby ravers, and Eric Wareheim. DJ sets and an interesting musical line-up -- Hercules and Love Affair, Mykki Blanco, and Zebra Katz, to name a few -- added to the overall allure of the hopefully returning happenings.
"It's time that Little Haiti is also recognized as being part of this immense art scene that we have in Miami," Yeelen Gallery owner Karla Ferguson told the New York Times. "We want our voices to be heard."
Miami seems ready to listen.
Women in the Arts
Women (and their vaginas) where everywhere during Art Basel. While women are still sorely underrepresented in museums and galleries, a few of them decided they weren't going to stand for it anymore.
The most talked about show was easily "Auto Body," which featured 33 women who through visual works and performances got everyone talking about what it means to be a woman in the arts.
Some standouts included Micol Hebron taking cues from Carolee Schneemann's Interior Scroll, and reading out the percentage of women represented at galleries from a paper scroll which slowly pulled out of her vagina. Her performance, Roll Call, was shocking, not because of what she was doing, but because the numbers reinforced what we unfortunately already know: women's contribution to the arts are overlooked. There was also Cheryl Pope's Up Against, in which she popped over 400 balloons with just her head. It was an endurance exercise that in its simplest interpretation proved women aren't fragile things. (More complex discussions could be had, but we're limited in space!)
But we'd also be remised for not giving kudos to Anthony Spinello (a man, yes), who despite the Art Basel snub still managed to take command the spotlight with "Auto Body" and his Kris Knight solo exhibit "Smell the Magic."
Only the savviest of art scenesters could have made more 2014 Basel appearances than AholSniffsGlue. The street artist responsible for all those sleepy eyes has had an incredible, and busy, season. He unveiled a new mural at the Standard Miami Beach, where a new jewelry line of his designs is also being sold. He contributed to the continually-updating painting project at Wynwood's Jose de Diego Middle School, where local and international artists have transformed the walls to raise money for an arts department. His claw machine, an arcade-style game that lets participants play to win an Ahol-created plush toy, was on display at Pérez Art Museum Miami and his Miami-inspired characters made the cover of our Art Basel issue. On top of all that success, Ahol had a major weight lifted last week when a settlement was reached in his ongoing copyright suit with American Eagle Outfitters, who used images of Ahol's murals in ad campaigns, on in-store décor, and at promotional events without asking permission or providing compensation.
Ahol was the guest of honor at the ultimate celebratory bash at Miami Beach's sexed-up lounge, Mokai, an unlikely scene for the Hialeah-grown artist.
"I really wanted it to be a Miami takeover of something that normally wouldn't happen in a place like Mokai," he told New Times. The backyard BBQ and party featured Ahol's handpicked hometeam: Otto Von Schirach, DJ Poshgod, Juleisy y Karla, the Suarez, Master Feathers, and Killaka5. Indeed, it was as #miamifulltime as the artist himself.
The whole idea of a protest is to disrupt the everyday. Otherwise, you aren't protesting. You are just holding signs on a street corner.
And with Art Basel going on, it seems everyone was watching Miami for all the wrong reasons: celebrities and excess. But what better time to create a little chaos than Basel? With the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and, locally, Israel Hernandez, at the hands of police, the nation has been at a boiling point -- well, everywhere except Miami.
But for a couple of hours on Friday and Sunday, over 400 people in Miami brushed their apathy aside to shut down 195 and the streets around Wynwood to tell the world #BlackLivesMatter. And for a moment, that was all anyone was talking about. Screw the art. There are more important things worth highlighting.
Let's hope this surge in activism continues to grow in Miami and isn't just another Basel fad.
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
This hasn't been PAMM's year. In February a confused Maximo Caminero garnered the museum national headlines when he smashed part of an Ai Weiwei installation. And during Basel, the most interesting thing that happened at the museum was that a drunk patron broke a piece by art: concrete spheres sitting on the floor by Gean Moreno and Ernesto Oroza. PAMM managed to break a lot of art this year, it makes you wonder about what's going on over there.
Jeffrey, Jeffrey, Jeffrey. Look, we were totally cool with you asking Miley Cyrus to perform at your annual Basel shindig. We understand that there's a lot of noise during the week of Basel and to cut through it you need to make a statement. And let's face it, everyone was talking about the Miley appearance. So win for you, sir!
But then you had to fuck it up and try to sell everyone on the fact that Miley is a "visual artist." Look, Miley a lot of things -- former Disney moneymaker, black culture appropriator, bad at twerking -- but she's not a visual artist by any stretch of the imagination even if you say so. You told artnet that Miley's awful visual work falls under "southern outsider art" and then had the fucking balls to compare her to Mike Kelley.
We get it, Jeffrey. You have to actually convince people that Miley's shit is worth buying. But this is just a transparent money grab, when you know full well the chances that Miley's work will appreciate in value over time are slim.
It's no wonder MOCA L.A. didn't want you anymore.
Art Basel Miami Beach has become a vast, booze-soaked behemoth, one that brings every type of personality to our shores, from celebs to intellectuals to genuine crazies. So it's not all that surprising if there's an occasional surge in vandalism, crime, and general dumb behavior. While Basel patrons may not be protected from all the madness, surely the art is -- right?
Not if it's a piece of art featured at Art Miami, at least. A 16.5-inch silver plate crafted by Pablo Picasso in 1956, worth around $85,000, was swiped from the Leslie Smith Gallery booth at the midtown fair. The Miami Police Department is investigating, and the piece will be reported stolen to an international art database. Art Miami says they have all the names and information of everyone who was allowed into the fair after hours.
"I've been doing art shows all my life. Even when I was a kid, I went with my parents," gallery owner David Smith told the Miami Herald. "I've never, ever had anything stolen."
Dare we apply the tired phrase, "only in Miami"? Or perhaps other participants in large-scale, world-class, economy-driving art happenings are also losing track of their possessions? We certainly hope not.
Basel for Sale
Sponsored by Red Bull. Sponsored by FIAT. Sponsored by Heineken. Sponsored by (insert any goddamn beverage you can think of). With all the parties during Art Basel, from exclusive VIP swag fests to pop-up booths with bass, you could say the real star of Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 was stuff. We're not naive -- showcasing art requires money, and a lot of it. While each year the criticism of Art Basel Miami Beach becomes more dominated by consumerism and commercialism, this year seemed truly deserving of it.
It feels like the height of logo-laden bullshit has reached a boiling point. "Brought to Art Basel by Gatorade! Playtex! Coming to ABMB 2015!" There's probably some corporate go-getter planning an upcoming "installation" for next year: "A gigantic pile of beach pebbles, painted gold! With a neon-lit duck diving in -- that's genius, SO Miami!"
Now, can all this brand-happy activity be fun? Of course, and we've all indulged in the free drinks, the selfies, and the aforementioned swag. But the ratio is off, and ABMB needs a shake up. Maybe the whole thing will implode in paint-splashed, bankrupt glory, forcing Art Basel to rebuild from the ruins and get back to the elusive thing it's actually about: art.
Basel's Tone Deafness
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Maybe it was the brand-centric nature of this year's Basel, but more so than in previous years the art fair seemed deeply out of touch. In the middle of national protests over police killings of unarmed black men, Basel entrenched itself in parties, celebrities, and money. And with the exception of Robert Longo's large scale Untitled (Ferguson Police, August 13, 2014), the unrest was virtually unrepresented in the Convention Center. It's probably too much to ask Art Basel to wear the banner of progressive politics but there's a vast difference between direct action and acknowledging--maybe even engaging with--the discrimination that affects the world in which Basel operates. It affects artists and art making.
This year's Basel seemed that at the crossroad it chose to take the path of partying, of brands, of Leo DiCaprio's womanizing. Here's hoping that next year Art Basel chooses the other path.
-- Written by Shelly Davidov, Jose D. Duran, and Stassa Edwards