Kenny Schachter On Why Art Basel in Miami Beach Is the End of Art History

7 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Art Basel Miami Beach, Usually Sun-Soaked, Is Just Soaked This Year.

MIAMI BEACH — The annual Art Basel extravaganza, one of the largest art fairs in the world, ended Sunday after being swamped with almost ceaseless rain for most of its four-day incarnation. Of course, the socialite couldn’t resist baring some skin and flashed her tummy in a black lacy bra-top paired with a black mini-skirt encrusted with sparkly crystals.Indeed, this year there are even A-listers exhibiting: Lenny Kravitz and Mr Sylvester Stallone, whom we actually bumped into at the VIP opening of the fair and he admitted he was ‘daunted’ to be showing his paintings. (We thought they were very impressive Sly.Covering Art Basel Miami Beach since its inception 14 years ago I frankly didn’t think there would be any stories left to tell, yet there’s inevitable change and flux afoot though not entirely for the better.

Outdoor exhibitions were canceled or pulled inside; parties in tents were washed out; and well-heeled art patrons in expensive shoes were forced to wade through flooded streets and sidewalks to get to galleries, exhibitions and parties. The blonde, who was dripping with bling around her neck, looked purrr-fectly lovely in black pussy cat ears, black fingerless gloves and fishnet tights as she hit the decks in what has become a tradition at the event. The victim, 33-year-old Shin Seo Young, said the Friday night altercation at the Miami Beach Convention Center began after she accused her attacker, 24-year-old college student Siyuan Zhao, of following her around the Art Basel gallery and bumping into her numerous times. “I had to kill her and two more,” and “I had to watch her bleed!” Zhao said, according to her arrest report. Adding to the gloom, a woman was stabbed on Friday inside the main Art Basel exhibition hall, an act that some witnesses initially assumed was performance art.

She also confessed to the stabbing during questioning, according to police. “[Zhao] without warning or provocation stabbed the victim in the right side of the neck and left shoulder, causing several lacerations,” the police report said. On Saturday, Paris showed off her legs in a long red lacy frock with a thigh-high split as she and Barron turned up at the Andy Warhol dinner at Mr Chow.

I hate the word post, (its post itself), but on a certain level, the Miami branch of Basel is past the art, you really felt a disassociation from the works themselves and those exhibiting them. There is also a rumour going around that if Mr DiCaprio wants to attend your party (and there are an heck of a lot of parties in this town this week) then not only are you not allowed to know he will be coming, but also you cannot take his picture if he does come or indeed acknowledge his presence. Despite Zhao’s goal to kill Young and “two more,” Young was the only person stabbed at the gallery, and was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. “The attack was an isolated incident that was immediately secured,” Art Basel spokeswoman Sara Fitzmaurice said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the victim.” Others believed the police tape cordoning off an area of the venue was part of an art installation, and continued wandering around and sipping champagne.

Nothing approached Shepard Fairey’s iconic blue and red “Hope” poster from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in the maze of $3 billion worth of paintings, sculptures, and installations being perused by men wearing scarves on a 80-degree day and women in strategically ripped pants. Hoping to capitalize on the deep pockets of a crowd that can afford pieces fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars—or even $13.5 million for Francis Bacon’s “Man in Blue VI”—presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and Martin O’Malley all held fundraisers with at least loose ties to Art Basel. If you can’t afford the art (like us) then you better be good at sipping champagne on the beach or by the pool (like us) – for there are parties going on at almost every hour of the day. (Shoes are a nightmare, wedges a must, as most parties involve sand.) Our favourite so far? Credit Mike Coppola/Getty Images “It was a nightmare,” said Mathias Rastorfer, the co-owner of Galerie Gmurzynska, which operates three galleries in Switzerland. “We had appointments with clients who said, ‘I’m coming,’ but they kept postponing because of the weather.

Some of the fair’s attendees included Sylvester Stallone, Alex Rodriguez, and Kenneth Griffin, the billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican donor who once paid $60.5 million for Paul Cezanne’s “Curtain, Jug and Fruit Bowl.” “Art has always, all over the world and in multiple forms, reflected and had an impact on political reality,” said Kathy Engel, chairwoman of New York University’s Department of Art and Public Policy. “In this case, the relationship is very strategic and very smart, and works both ways. And then the celebrities—and there were loads, from Adele and A$AP Mob (which includes A$AP Rocky—whoever that might be) to Rocky himself, it’s a glut that amounts to a veritable movement.

Logistics is always an issue — getting cabs, waiting out in the rain — but when you get this weather on top of it, it’s even worse.” On Thursday, when flooding overtook parts of Collins Avenue, a main thoroughfare here, officials grew concerned about a possible economic hit to exhibitors, dealers and others who had invested heavily in bringing art and other entertainments to Miami. Both sides are trying to gain visibility and make more money.” The presence of politicians on the periphery flattered many of the fair-goers, who were surrounded by a week of competing exhibition openings, poolside parties, and exclusive dinners.

But the consensus on Sunday seemed to be that, while some local businesses lost money, the larger exhibitions did well over all in terms of attendance. No sooner had we walked through the front door of the tent, Grey Goose cocktail in hand, than Tracey Emin (who had kicked off her shoes) resplendent in Vivienne Westwood grabbed our hand and introduced us to all the movers and shakers in the industry. Later we caught up with how to dress in the tropical heat with Roksanda Illinic (it’s seriously humid out here) and chatted disco hits with the Felder and Felder sisters.

In After the End of Art, Arthur Danto stated the floodgates opened by the sea of silkscreens emanating from Warhol’s factory signaled the end of art history; boy, if he had been to Basel Miami this iteration, he’d see an altogether more vapid kind of death that would have turned even Warhol. Mazzoleni, a gallery in Turin and London, reported the sale of three works by Alberto Burri from the 1960s, including a “Plastica” which sold for $2 million.

Because fashion has got a heavy presence at Art Basel too and we also swung by the Jonathan Saunders dinner last night, hosted by our great pals at Spotify (Jonathan had curated a Spotify playlist) and bumped into Paris Hilton, ravishing in red sequins but, like us, looking a little sweaty. The likes of Miley Cyrus who’s been compared to Mike Kelley (sorry Mike), James Franco who paints like an East Village expressionist escapee from an Art in America article on the early 80s scene, Lenny Kravitz’s trite photography, and Sly Stallone, who may be an Oscar contender for Rocky XXII, but there’s no prize in sight for his painting miscarriages at Galerie Gmurzynska. Katie Holmes was spotted at the Edition hotel, where we went to a Dazed and Confused party last night only to discover that the Basement VIP area had not only a bowling alley, but an ice rink with the amazing neon art instillation, ‘I think I had too much to dream last night.’ The rain is now pouring down in this tropical city, so the streets are gridlock, only one thing for it – to call UberBoat. Adrien Brody unintentionally summed it up most succinctly with his show entitled: Hot Dogs, Hamburgers and Handguns, said in the self-serving press to have been focused on violence and the desire for instant gratification.

At another fair nearby, known as Untitled, Art, officials made a sudden investment in several hundred umbrellas, so that visitors going to and from shuttle buses would remain dry. Leo, his posse and the sundry others of his stripe that made appearances (for the cameras, if not the art) are an indicator of their own: of the frothy, frivolous, pseudo interest that continues to mushroom at a higher rate than ever, rising in lock step with the financial stature and breadth of the market. In an event entitled “Pop Art, Politics and Jeb,” the former Florida governor raised $325,000 during a reception Friday evening at the home of Raúl Henríquez, founder of Hencorp Becstone LC, a Miami-based financial services company.

On Satuday, after donor meetings at the Biltmore Hotel, about 120 donors joined Bush and his family at the studio of local pop artist Romero Britto for a painting unveiling in the city’s Wynwood art district, which is hosting several Art Basel events. Britto, who participated in a 2005 episode of The Apprentice, the reality show hosted by Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, has had a long relationship with the Bush family. But this time around Adrian and Kai, my nineteen and eighteen year-old children who are studying fashion and art (at Parsons in New York) showed up and did just that, not necessarily to desirable effect.

The plane to Miami was like being in a hermetically sealed, zero gravity art chamber where gossip reverberated non-linearly through space (and seat rows). I was sandwiched between a YBA and his girlfriend, a famed music producer/collector, gallerists and across the aisle, London’s most successful private contemporary dealer and his 80’s supermodel girlfriend; a sensational start—not so much for solace on the long haul flight but for forage for this piece. Before takeoff I got a call from the dealer I bumped into earlier who tried to sell something in the lounge, asking me to reoffer a particular painting he’d previously tried to push on the producer he spied sitting next to me while boarding. He spoke of his repeatedly bad dealings with a well-known, well-dressed, lanky female adviser who makes a practice of having an assistant planted in the salesroom bidding against her, hiking prices and thereby commissions in the process.

Then there was the work she bought for him before cancelling the transaction due to condition issues when in fact she better sold it at a steeper margin. Staying at a raucous hotel like Aby Rosen’s W in the past does not suit my histrionic phone behavior, often forgetting I am in the midst of a building with an 85% familiarity-of-the-occupants rate, never a clever move.

Hitting the ground, I visited the offsite group show entitled Unrealism organized by Larry Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch, meant to be an argument for the vitality of figurative art and admit to being dissatisfied by the unimaginative, cheek by jowl overhanging that amounted to below-grade grad school stuff. Jetlagged and exhausted (and admittedly after a few), I soldiered on and made a brief appearance at the Unrealism after party and before crashing to awake to a fistful of business cards and only a foggy recollection of whom they belonged to, managed to sell one of Kai’s paintings to original Warhol superstar and mogul Jane Holzer. Deep Pockets, my reliable resource and art circuit cohort, made it to an alternative bash at a new Hirst infested as yet unopened hotel where he overhead the dearth of art world heavy hitters was due to the fact their egos couldn’t tolerate the glare of glamour from being surrounded by stars more famous than them. There was (of course) and our friend Adrian Brody’s elucidating explication of art (finally) to X-Men director Brett Ratner, “amazing stuff being an artist, it’s amazing stuff, man, amazing stuff, yeah man, amazing.” Glad to have finally cleared that up.

The hierarchical layout of the booths has an intensifying vibe as you enter the circle of power, galleries Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner, Acquavella, Dominque Levy and above all, the incomparable wattage of Larry G—every time. There were dueling Maos from 1972 both 26 x 22 inches, one for $4.7 million at Gagosian and another, from the same year and the same size, at $5.5 million at Acquavella, but there was a noticeable difference in the color saturation and vibrancy. An early knit piece by Rosemary Trockel in the back room of Sprueth Magers caught my eye—I barge in uninvited to these mini, impromptu viewing rooms when I can—a unique black and white grid that also seemed a value at €1.5 million for this signature and escalating body of work. Naumann the brilliant surrealist dealer and intellectual (he belongs in a vitrine himself), who poops out books on Marcel Duchamp and the period at a possibly quicker frequency than Hans Ulrich Obrist, noted with glee that his piece of $500,000 Manzoni shit (Merda d’artista (1961), tin can, printed paper and excrement, edition of 90) was a far better value than most of the shit in the rest of fair.

UK gallery Annely Juda has been dragging David Hockney’s frequently flying, heavily damaged, apparently unsellable painting Big Stone (1962) to no less than five fairs I’ve seen alone. Surreally, I found myself contrasting the qualities of a Joe Bradley Schmagoo painting and one of his modular robot works to Alex Rodriguez (aka A-Rod); funny coming from someone who couldn’t hit a baseball off of a stationary tee. Michael Werner Gallery lost out on the Sigmar Polke estate to David Zwirner, a better fit in my estimation, but have hung on to a few good bits and bobs, including the two-sided painting on resin for $2.8m.

Richard Gray Gallery from Chicago and New York had another Polke painting, an early 60s Ben Day dot painting entitled Three Astronauts priced at $3m ($1m per space traveler). The gallery told me if I photographed the work the largely abstract (indecipherable) images and text from the painted clipping would miraculously become apparent. I nevertheless bought Richard Gray’s 1991 miniature Christopher Wool text painting on aluminum (said to be one of two made tiny) entitled FOOL, fitting after I erroneously questioned the longevity of his career in a 1997 article entitled Pulling the Wool. NADA opened the day following the big draw at the convention center in new digs at the Disneyesque Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel that was cleaner, airier and easier to navigate than the previous version but a trade-off for a more corporate, institutionalized feel.

Phil Grauer, proprietor of Canada Gallery, who was recently profiled in W magazine, strong-armed me into making the purchase (the works are actually great), he who boasted about getting into the NADA fair ages ago by bullying (i.e. physically threatening) cofounder John Connelly. I also went for a David Adamo deflated balloon sculpture in pink at Ibid Projects (2015, painted aluminum)—which is how I feel writing this now at my computer after the onslaught of noise, both visual and audial. One fair-goer was accompanied by a dog clad in a coat designating it as an Emotional Support Animal, an accessory I could relate to—a few days into the fair I already about had it. Including poor Adam Weinberg, the visionary director of the Whitney Museum being barraged by Peter Freeman like a sitting duck who came down harder than the boulder crashed onto roof of the crushed car by Jimmie Durham (sold to another museum for just under $1 million) for not snapping up the seven-ton work. Even more entertaining was Dimitri Mavrommatis, the big, brash and boisterous collector (spec-u-lector) bargaining with dealer Christophe Van de Weghe—closer to fighting—for the purchase of a late 1960s Picasso canvas and a 60s Twombly Roman Notes painting on paper, but the $13 million offer, I couldn’t miss it—he wrote it in huge numbers on a piece of paper and shoved in front of Christophe—wasn’t enough to cinch the deal.

In the brief window that I practiced law (before I found myself), 1987-1990, I once phoned infamous lawyer Aaron Richard Golub (before I knew better) for some professional courtesy information on a case he had previously handled. We fell out years ago, a fate that befalls many of his relationships, when I asked for an introducer fee from a dealer I work with who I put in touch with Golub, and who told the short tempered tyrant I did so. His reasoning for the long-running feud was that he introduced me to Simon Lee, who I’ve done a lot with since, and never asked for anything in return.

Speaking of Simon Lee, I was in his booth when I encountered Golub who proceeded to scream at me at the top of his lungs calling me a fucking asshole again—at least he’s consistent. The streets in Miami are thick with humidity and art mavens on a mission to go out in various levels of undress—many (men and women) so negligibly attired I wondered why they bothered to put on any clothes altogether. Just prior to being seated, private dealer John Sayegh-Belchatowski who bought the large Wool Fool on a guarantee of $14 million at Christie’s last year (and was said to have sold half at a discount to cover the trade) offered to buy half my baby Fool, maybe I’m onto something. My kids coerced me to go to the Wall, also in the W Hotel, a fashionable party at the trendy club, and told one of my professional acquaintances who inquired after my state of mind that they were baby sitting me (remind me not to take them next time).

My last memory was scary art dealers dancing scarily (and precariously) on tabletops while Lenny Kravitz spun Lenny Kravitz tunes in his capacity as DJ, or should I say post DJ, cf. I thought it might be a retro cool, defiant, contrarian gesture to amass a collection of Lucien Smith, Israel Lund, Christian Rosa and the countless others who’ve recently tanked—they could have been contenders and might. When a disparate group of 150 super-engaged alumni of George Washington University show up on the ground (for breakfast on a Saturday, no less), enthusiastic and chock-full of questions, art has truly gone mass.

A few words on the rash of private museums all but launched in Miami (and presently subject to a Congressional investigation into tax breaks): they are freezing! Despite the heady total of $2.4 billion, both auction houses suffered immense losses in the November sales to the tune of a whopping $50-100 million each according to reliable sources, that’s one hell of a lousy auction house estimate (the actual numbers are assuredly closer to the top). Christie’s aggressive guarantees and Sotheby’s massive $515 million Alfred Taubman pledge came up short, more than a tad too little to amount to an auspicious first move for CEO Tad Smith.

A young hedge fund client who pumped $3-5 million into contemporary art shorted Sotheby’s shares to cover any interruption in the art market and did so well that he mirrored the trade for his fund. RM Sotheby’s December 10th New York auction, “Driven by Disruption” (naming sales is all the rage), filled with wildly aggressively estimated multimillion dollar classic cars—one car alone carries a valuation of $28,000,000-$32,000,000, a 1956 Ferrari (the Picasso of the petrol world). Let’s see if the greed of guarantees and inordinately high expectations dampens enthusiasm in this sector as much as it contributed to the slowdown in contemporary. In an ongoing global economic constriction, art seems the last to go, but we are entering a sobering, more cautious time, other than for fresh to the market, marquee works by marquee names. Oh the party in Miami that it even slogs on is a testament to the perseverance of the flock, a disjointed, dissonant group inexorably stuck together by art.

There’s even a word for it, a medical term for people who have an uncontrollable and compulsive desire to shop, oniomania, which comes from the Greek onios, which means for sale, and mania, which means insanity ( This is a warning I hope will be heeded—it’s time for full-on security at art fairs, museums and auction houses—let’s throw notorious art world tetchiness to the wind; like it or not, we live in a dangerous new world order.

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