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Baz Luhrmann Dazzles at Basel, While Local Gallery Snubs Us

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Every year there's always the ridiculous cry that Art Basel's Miami Beach incarnation (and Miami's entire art scene) is all fluff and no substance, and that the art world is ready to pack up and leave. (For example: see Brett Sokol's hilarious piece for the New York Times.)

Fact is, the art world relishes all things celebrity and if they can use it for their advantage, god dammit, they're going to. And Miami Beach -- more so than its Swiss counterpart -- provides plenty of those opportunities.

You're a whore, art world. Own up to it.

That's not to say the seedy mix of art and celebrities is a bad thing. In fact, great things can come from such pairings (beyond just getting tons of press).

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Swiss-based Galerie Gmurzynska and director Baz Luhrmann came together to present an exhibition titled "A Kid Could Do That!" It's the refrain you often hear around all the art fairs when uncouth visitors encounter something perplexingly bad or too minimalist. (Luhrmann, in case you're wondering, is the director behind films like Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, and The Great Gatsby.)

The exhibit is a collaboration between Luhrmann and his wife, two-time Oscar winning costume designer Catherine Martin, and music producer Nellee Hooper (who, incidentally, scored Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet).

"We were friends instantly and our friendship has outlasted all the work," says Luhrmann about his relationship with Hooper. "And we've said, 'Let's make something together.' In a way, he's been my curator through the art. It's still one of the few things that I have a naive child-like fandom. I'm a fan rather than a practitioner."

At the center of this exhibition is a short film Luhrmann and Martin put together that highlights the work of surrealist painter Joan Miró and the work he did with the Diaghilev Ballet. (Funny enough, Miró worked with Max Ernst on the costumes and set designs for Diaghilev's Roméo et Juliette.)

"Joan has been the biggest influence on me as a person," says Luhrmann. "If I could only have that life. Forget the ballet or the music or the effect on popular culture. He was my idol."

It's seriously worth checking out at Gmurzynska's booth, B2, near right at the Hall D entrance. In all, if you like Luhrmann's tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top nature, you'll smile while watching the short film and seeing how much Miró's work plays an influence.

If you're looking for a bit of Miami at Art Basel, as always, it's pretty scarce. Fredric Snitzer and Michael Jon were the only two local galleries chosen from this year's fair. (Never mind that a few galleries like David Castillo, Spinello Projects, Primary Projects, Gallery Diet, Guccivuitton, and Emerson-Dorsch are just as good, if not better.)

We tried to get some sound bites from gallerist Michael Jon Radziewicz, who quickly rebuffed us saying, "I rather not speak to New Times since I've been misquoted before." Funny, in order to be misquoted you actually have to be quoted by us in the first place. Our archives don't show any signs that Radziewicz has ever been quoted by our paper despite numerous attempts to reach out to him before.

Update: Radziewicz clarifies he was displeased with this story from last year where we quoted one the gallery's owners and operators Alan Gutierrez.

A more welcoming slice of the Magic City can be found in Naomi Fisher's oasis within Basel. Dubbed "Dancarhy Refuge," the space has both a full bar and full ballet bars. When we popped in a dancer in full leotard was warming up. Also, the coconuts are back! It really did feel pretty tranquil in there amid the whole hubbub of Basel.

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