Guest diary • AF: Lee Fryd
Art Basel goes down on Miami Beach, convert roads into parking lots and native housed. Still, the fair gives the city a patina of culture. That patina is pentimento for those of us born here. Many remember Art Basel’s expanded Convention Center from Jackie Gleason Show; the hotels that house associated fairs, from Frank Sinatra, Goldfinger, Miami Vice. Certain homes by the water that hold exclusive parties? They were midnight ports for drug-runner boats and command centers for refugees hoping to take back their land. And it was right on our block!
Now people are talking about our museums.
“There is no doubt that Art Basel gave our city the opportunity to see the best version of itself,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the press before the opening. To keep the crowds sparse, there were many VIP hours to follow. Day one was so hard to get into that many mocked, “we are going to skip the crowds later.” Even the VIP lounge was limited. Too bad there was some kicking Casa Dragones tequila there. Upstairs, a pop-up Joe’s Stone Crab filled the void.
This was the first major art fair since COVID. There were lots and lots of security protocols, “despite,” as Gelber put it, “the inexplicable statements from the state capital. Yes, I said that.” Florida: your wild and crazy state!
Art Basel has spawned so many associated art fairs, galleries and events that the unit is now called Miami Art Week. There were about 250 galleries in Basel, more than 20 other shows around the city and an influx of about 80,000 art lovers and party animals. I was happy just to browse Blue Chip Basel and Design Miami across the street. Sorry Art Miami, the 90-minute Uber that was supposed to go a few miles, felt overwhelming.
Many who hit the ground at 11 o’clock still did not get the goods. “Everything I wanted to buy is already sold out,” Nicole Salma indignant. “There must have been a lot of pre-purchases.”
She commissed with Liliana Cavendish, also to find her choice taken. A huge chrome space man sold for more than a million the first minutes of the show. “Where do you put it?” Nicole wondered.
Either way, everyone felt happy. “Looking at art raises your serotonin levels,” Nicole told me. It can also increase brain function.
Basel is Norman Bramans devised. “Art is a blessing,” is the way he puts it. His love affair with what love relationships should began in the south of France, where he and his wife Irma bought a home in 1975. The Magic Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence (where Joan Miro even placed his sculptures in a maze and Georges Braque created the glass chapel windows) became practically their second home. They have been collecting ever since.
Advice for beginners? “Go and see and learn,” Irma said to me. “Go to museums, to galleries. Go on and your eye will get used to beautiful things. The journey is almost as good as owning the piece. Everyone has different views on what is beautiful and what they want to live with. Just get what you really love. “
In those days, they bought a lot in Art Basel, Switzerland. Norman got to know the director Lorenzo Rudolf, and somehow eventually convinced him to launch a Basel at the beach.
Its opening year 2001 was canceled due to 9/11. Last year due to the pandemic. And much of the art market was run online. Still, it rose. “There is no substitute for discovering art in person,” Art Basel Global Director proclaimed Mark Speigler.
Ironically, it was this week that online images, Non Fungible Tokens or NFTs, were buzzing in Basel. “The concept is, ‘Miami art dealer Kate Shanley explained, “a work of art will be associated with a unique token on the blockchain, and it will be a non-fungible token. You buy the exclusive right to it. The technological people who have moved to Miami since Covid last year created a huge influx of technology associated with art. ” They also held parties, which got even more traffic across Biscayne Bay.
Diversity was also a trend. “We suddenly saw large galleries being opened by colored people who technically would not be allowed to search in the past,” Speigler said, referring to a premise for the gallery’s age. “So we took that obstacle away.”
After the long day, I went home to avoid traffic, like a real native. As the locals do, I closed the week at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum’s private party. The museum is the art deco jewel created to house Founder’s art and design collection Micky Wolfson. Manager Casey Steadman fills the shoes Tim Rodgers, now at MAD. Jacqueline Weld Drake and Kevin Gray | Kevin Gray Designs is on the board. Michael Hughes is development director. It’s a hub for new ideas and “Old Miami.”
This evening had an international perspective. The museum’s Italian curator, Sylvia Barisione, had convinced and nurtured Rotterdam Artist Bas van Beek to take over the main floor. A Dutch-American architect, Winka Dubbeldam, from Archi-Tectonics, gave a slide show lecture on her projects, including one in China, where a main plumbing pipe in the city was miraculously moved.
Van Beek acquires and reinterprets well-known artists. Thus, the show was christened Shameless. “My idea was that I would align and merge my previous exhibitions from the last three years in Holland with the architecture of the Wolfsonian,” he told me.
Also chatting with van Beek was Aric Chen, Design Miami’s first curatorial director, who left the post a few weeks earlier to become director of the Het Hieuew Instute in Rotterdam. Born in the United States to Taiwanese parents before Miami, he was a curator and critic based in Shanghai. His Deputy Commander, Wava carpenter, takes over the Miami Post.
“Design Miami really managed to make a roaring comeback this year,” he told me, “which is a real achievement, because despite apparently we’re still in a pandemic. Wava has been there right from the start, so it’s great to see that kind of continuity.In fact, it says a lot that there is a curator at all.When the fair started 16 years ago, there was no real design market.You had to spend a lot of time explaining what it was all about.This shows a “commitment that design is not only functional, it’s cultural. This is more than just expensive furniture.” “It’s VERY expensive furniture,” I laughed, thinking of the couch I coveted and sold for $ 150,000.
My beach apartment had to do without it. And my hometown: what did Bas think of his first visit? Did he feel, as his mother calls it, “sand in his shoes?” No, he felt Old World meets nouveau. “I feel confronted with being European here,” he replied. “Because there are some limitations from the old continent that you do not have. It was the director’s idea from another museum to name this exhibition Shameless. But I think Miami itself is pretty shameless. “
Ha! His artist eye had looked past the patina.