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December 12th, 2007 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Welcome to Miami: Art Basel Miami Beach

Richard Speer reports (and cavorts) at Miami’s biggest art weekend.

     
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Justin Oswald with a “Voluptuous Ho” at Miami’s Raleigh Hotel.
IMAGE: richard speer

You may as well have called Miami, Fla.,“Portland South” last week, as dozens upon dozens of Stumptown artists, gallery owners, curators, collectors and other sundry denizens descended on South Beach for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach art fair. Here are a few excepts from my diary. Enjoy.

WEDNESDAY: We enjoyed a preview of the mega-fair, followed by a blowout performance by Iggy Pop on the beach and after-party behind the Raleigh Hotel. Justin Oswald (former Gallery 500 director) and curator Marjorie Myers cavorted with the nearly nude and blue-painted members of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. Lead singer Kembra Pfahler rocked the house on a stage appointed with 5-foot-wide candy-colored volcanos spewing a fog of dry ice.

THURSDAY: As always, the fair is an embarrassment of aesthetic riches. Highlights included a take-no-prisoners 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat at New York City’s Acquavella Gallery and a ginormous Helen Frankenthaler for $1.5 million at Knoedler (NYC). A Keith Haring showed typically gonzo imagery: a six-breasted woman with a computer screen for a head, riding a penis-shaped airplane.

Among the satellite art fairs, one called Red Dot attracted the most Portland galleries. Butters, Pulliam, and Deffenbaugh all reported strong sales, although word on the street indicated that overall sales seemed down from last year.

At the Casa Casuarina (formerly the Versace mansion), a gaggle of Portland folk attended an opening for New York painter Allegra Spaulding, where Cosmos set you back $32 apiece and Lisa de Kooning (daughter of late Abstract Expressionist Willem) held court. “Damien loves Allegra’s work,” de Kooning said with offhand familiarity—“Damien” being Damien Hirst, arguably the world’s most famous living artist.

The see-and-be-scene atmosphere of Art Basel is both its allure and Achilles’ heel. How many velvet ropes can you jockey for position behind before your feet begin to hurt and your brain to melt?

FRIDAY: Some fair participants were bemoaning the glut of auxiliary fairs, claiming they were diluting the collector pool. But Stumptown art spaces voiced no such complaints, buoyed by more strong sales and positive word of mouth for Northwest artists. At the Flow fair, Jane Beebe, owner of PDX Gallery, sold Nancy Lorenz’s silver-leaf panels, with their delicate, raindroplike patterns of congealed resin. Quality Pictures had a room at the Aqua fair where TJ Norris sold one of his and Scott Wayne Indiana’s collaborations, a neon sculpture that played on the words “MAUSOLEUM” and “MUSEUM.”

Stuart Horodner, founder of PDX’s own Affair @ the Jupiter Hotel (which spawned the Aqua fair), strolled around Aqua’s open courtyard, chatting up various movers and shakers, while PAM Northwest art curator Jennifer Gately chatted with gallery owner Billy Howard, who represents Cat Clifford, one of the five artists Gately recently tapped for the PAM’s Northwest Contemporary Art Awards.

SATURDAY : Attending Basel proper with its constellation of modernist, pop and minimalist stars and then slumming at the smaller fairs reinforces the sad truth that 85 percent of the art being made by generations X and Y cannot compare to the work of our mid-century and 1960s predecessors. But this is a broader topic, better suited for rainy-day salons in the Pied Cow than balmy South Beach nights. In this part of the world, deconstruction takes a back seat to glittera(r)ti sightings, which brings us, finally, to the best random quote overheard at the Art Basel lunch-and-cocktail lounge:

“I heard Lenny Kravitz and Lance Armstrong were here yesterday!” “Yeah, Ricky Martin, too! He’s a big collector, you know.” “No, no! Not Ricky Martin! It was Steve Martin who was here!”

[Bewildered look] “What’s the difference?”

“Talent.”


MORE: Read Speer’s entire Miami diary and check out tons of photos here.
 
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