August 22, 2014

Art Basel Miami Beach

Impressions of Art Basel

Fine art, beautiful people and celebrity make the art fair memorable.

Joyce Edmondson | 12/5/2011
If you are the type of museum-goer who's sensitive to being over-stimulated, who prefers to view one, two or five pieces in-depth then call it a day, Art Basel is not for you. If you are up for an exhilarating over-the-top art experience that will stay with you for a long time, then make plans now for next year.

Jaume Plensa
Tall, thin marble head by artist Jaume Plensa. [Photos: Joyce Edmondson]

Art Basel Miami Beach, which just concluded Sunday, Dec. 4, is a contemporary, international art fair with works from the 20th and 21st century. 2,000 artists were represented along with galleries from North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The artist's names and styles are of course too many to mention but photos on the next page will give a representative sample.

Being a first-timer at Art Basel Miami Beach, what I took in was an experience of incredible scope and dimension. I saw works clearly designed to repulse, even scare. On the flip side, there were tender works, ephemeral even. Passion was in abundance. Nostalgia and romanticism were scarce. "Overwhelming," is what I overheard several patrons say. Illuminating seems a more appropriate word to me. Every corner I turned, every gallery brought another "Whoa." After ten galleries, emotions and gut started carrying me along with the river of beautiful people. Random thoughts ranged from:

"My gosh, this artist really, truly cared about his subject."

"To produce this, one would have to live on the very edge of reason."

Rob Pruitt
Kinetic piece by artist Rob Pruitt.

"Is this fraud? Am I supposed to take this seriously, or not?"

"Oh wait, the work makes me mad, therefore it's having the intended effect."

Now, I know that browsing and sideways-glancing at art is like judging an entire book by only reading page 23. I was feeling ill-equipped to be there (in spite of my degree in fine art) when the realization hit me — there's no way to take it all in, even if you slept there all four days. It's best just to relax and glean what you can.

The scene was not serene. Busy people were there to buy. Commerce was in the air, though not overtly. Certainly there were no prices on pieces; that would be gauche. Occasionally I could hear gallery representatives murmuring about how sales were going. A frazzled woman was heard blurting out "We are not buying that!" Then the couple paused, looked again and she said, "Although, you know, we could..."

Pretty, international people abounded and seemed almost part of the show. The most beautiful and best dressed were gallery reps, always ready with a dazzling smile and catalogs. Celebrities could be seen too, such as actor Adrien Brody, whom I bumped into coming around a corner. "Oh!" I said, and clumsily blurted out "Hello - Mr. Brody - may I take your picture?"

Rob Pruitt
Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody at Art Basel.
"Sure, sure," he replied, then found a good spot and sort of posed. I snapped, then he said, "Uh, you didn't take the picture; you turned your camera off. Want to try again?"

One of my favorite pieces was a small portrait of a man done in a single piece of wire. After admiring it for a bit, I was peering to see who did it when a gentleman spoke over my shoulder:

"You do know that's a Calder, don't you?"

"Uhh...," I stammered. He kept on:

"This is how he started, with portraiture, the mobiles came after. Exquisite, no? It's extremely rare to see one, much less be able to purchase it. I haven't seen one like this in many years. Gorgeous. And a steal too."

"Oh? How much is it?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "But whatever it costs, it's a bargain."

» Next page: Wandering through the galleries of Art Basel (in photos.)

Tags: Dining & Travel, Miami-Dade

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