Art Basel was a bit more subdued this year. Unlike previous editions, there were no art dealers in Mexican wrestling masks laying chokeholds on unsuspecting collectors, or Brooklyn biker gangs showering stuffy Euro tourists with streams of wet oatmeal from a five-foot-long rubber dong called "The Squizzer."
Still, there was plenty of debauchery, weirdness, and memorable moments. New York City artist Gregory de la Haba, for example, spent five years creating a life-size sculpture of a horse with a two-foot-long schlong, about to mount a mare with a motherin' vagina. When he chartered a truck to tote a picture of the sculpture around Wynwood last Tuesday, Miami Police officers threatened him with arrest — owing to pornographic concerns.
"They wanted us to cover it with red tape," de la Haba says.
Art Basel Miami Beach 2008
The sculpture was one of the most impressive works at the Bridge Art Fair Saturday. What struck Riptide, though, was not the city's censorship, but de la Haba's ease at working with the sculpture in front of his two children, ages six and three. "They come into the gallery, look at the sculpture, ask what those [sex organs] are, and then just start painting on the floor of the studio," he says.
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Local dealer Anthony Spinello says this year's Basel was noticeably quieter but that some of the guerrilla-style performances and wacky shenanigans still occurred if one searched hard enough.
"These events were more dispersed and off-the-radar," Spinello observes. "One of my artists, Agustina Woodgate, performed this hopscotch piece in which she began in front of the gallery and wound her way through Wynwood, painting nearly 700 boxes on the sidewalks for people to jump on."
He adds that at one point, cops intervened to see if the paint Woodgate was using was removable and whether she had a permit.
"She had a conga line of people skipping with her," Spinello laughs. "There were hookers, children, everyone."