Arts & Culture

Blogging Basel: Art Excess During Depression 2.0

Tomorrow, I’m getting up at 3:30 AM and flying down to Miami for Art Basel, the biggest gathering of art fairs on the American continent.  This is my second year. I’m an artist.  And for December, South Beach is the … Read More

By / December 3, 2008

Tomorrow, I’m getting up at 3:30 AM and flying down to Miami for Art Basel, the biggest gathering of art fairs on the American continent.  This is my second year.

I’m an artist.  And for December, South Beach is the Mecca of my people, Basel the hajj.  For four days, the world’s best curators, collectors, and art dealers (not to mention cokeheads, social climbers, and the entire population of hipster Manhattan) erect a temporary city to sell their best work and cement their connections.   Centering on Art Basel proper at Miami’s convention center (an affair so chichi that you have to shell out fifty bucks just to window shop), Basel sprawls out into dozens of fairs, anti-fairs, and installations.  The deco hotels on Collins Ave (South Beach’s main drag) have galleries squatting in every room. Curators hang their best work on the walls and bed, and catch naps in the bathtubs.

Across the bridge, in sun-baked Wynwood (which is desolate in the way that "up-and-coming neighborhoods" are right before the real estate vultures pounce), the hoity-toity Collins fairs do their edgy spin-offs.  You can find galleries from China and Chelsea, street artists tracing shadows.  

But, as with so much of life, the official beat is less important than the parties.  With no bookstores, but a diet named after it, South Beach is a place of aggressive hawt.  Think steroidy men and honey skinned, slim-thighed girls.  When I sat at the beach in ’07, I realized how pasty and plump New Yorkers are by comparison. At the parties last year, I wore sequins till dawn and ran into schoolmates while stumbling stoned down 3AM Collins.  Given the local fauna, I might as well have been in Olympus.

Of course, that was ’07.  In ’08, the economy’s wrecked, and the art world is wondering whether rich folk will still buy into our scene’s sustaining insanity- that fancy wall coverings are worth high sums.

For the next four days, I’ll be your guide to Basel’s depraved and somewhat Byzantine art scene.  Will the collectors shell out?  Will the parties be worth crashing?  Will all this excess actually lead to some of us artists making a more middle class living in the next year?  Will any galleries burn down?

Let’s see what happens.