At Basel—lots of great art—some shitty art too

Posted on December 7, 2012

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Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 VIP Preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 5, 2012 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 VIP Preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 5, 2012 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

By Eric Raddatz

Imagine the most favorite art museum you’ve ever been to. Now multiply that by like two hundred. Add a thousand. This is Art Basel. No question. It is amazing. Stars, artists, celebrities—everyone comes out for Basel. En masse.

But much like your favorite museum, you will find some shitty art here too. Sorry.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 VIP Preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 5, 2012 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

This original Picasso is being offered at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 for $11 million. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

Of course, like all subjective art, it is up for you to decide which you enjoy and which you don’t.

There is plenty to impress, I promise you.

For example at the very entryway D of Art Basel’s Convention Center I must have walked by no less than a dozen original Picassos. Ranging from a small crayon on paper piece with an asking price of $450,000 to the larger pieces available for $10-$20 million. You simply can not help yourself but to stop to stare … float a little, even drool some in amazement. The masterpieces came out and were in play all over the floor. But unfortunately, they were mixed in with some real duds. Many of them priced high for reasons that are obvious—that some rich sucker may buy them.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 VIP Preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 5, 2012 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

Art by Richard Tuttle going for $85,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

A piece demanding $85,000 by Richard Tuttle’s stood out as the biggest piece of garbage I think I’ve seen this year. Made of three pieces of thin wood with a piece of paper attached and spray painted green it was about impressive as junk in a construction site dumpster. I had to inquire what the artist was tying to accomplish of one of the museum’s reps, who spends thousands of thousands to show there this week, but there were mostly just an awful lot of ‘uhs’ and ‘uhms.’ It is the standard reaction an intelligent person offers while explaining the ridiculous and gimmicky section of the art world. The absurd. The stupid. No I’m not gonna buy it. I’m going to rip on it.

There were some other real gems including a 14-foot wooden ladder that appeared to be left out under a spilling pail of gold paint. The asking price for that was $14,000. Barf.

There were a more than usual amount of text-as-art pieces that absolutely sent me retching too. Sure I get Barbara Kruger this, Barbara Kruger that. And I like some of it. I can not lie. The power of type as art is profound as we, without imagery, can procure and evoke thoughts, passions and visuals. But I also cannot think how $225,000 for a piece that reads GREEDY SCHMUCK is anything but dumb.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 VIP Preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 5, 2012 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

“Greedy Schmuck” by Barbara Kruger reportedly fetched $225,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

Little sayings pasted, painted, written, smeared, woven, glowing and otherwise were, in fact, eyesores all over the convention center. These sayings were mediocre in most settings—embarrassing at the best art convention in the States.

“Can money buy you love,” “Are there animals in heaven,” “Do I have to give up me to be loved by you?,” “We’re a happy famil,” “We shall be strong in our weakness,” “I want one million dollars and a divorce,” “No one really loves you,” and “You belong here,” were made by ‘artists’ surely trying to  make a statement. But in today’s electronic age would any of these be more than a lonely, unliked Facebook post? I don’t think so.

How about this. I think I would rather go to a gallery with Krugeresque art from Text From Last Night’s web site.So your bra was hanging in the Christmas tree last night at some point I think,” “I thought I was smashed last night but the girl trying to pee in the fridge had me beat. True story,” “I’m watching my cat lick a used condom wrapper on my nightstand and I’m too hungover to move and do anything about it. Tequila Tuesdays can not be a thing.” I swear these are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better and they are just the first three on the site right now. For more go to www.textsfromlastnight.com. (*I swear I’m going to do a quiz called ‘Barbara Kruger Art or Texts From Last Night—You Make the Call!’)

I mean the difference between these pieces, some priced at over hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the value of a one such aforementioned drunk text, single tweet or, say, a t-shirt someone wears, is totally debatable.  Who buys this shit? Who puts it in their rooms? Please somebody tell me.  At least Twitter posts can be ignored. As for t-shirts, at least they are accompanied by a person— a human being in the flesh with a face—who is trying to make the statement. Sometimes THAT juxtaposition can be highly amusing.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 VIP Preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 5, 2012 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 VIP Preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center on December 5, 2012 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photo by Eric Raddatz / Florida Weekly

One slightly overweight gentleman at the show wore a shirt saying “Running Sucks.” See, that is funny. Because he was overweight.If Barbara Kruger put that saying in bold sans-serif black and white type she would lose that, I think. It just wouldn’t be as impressive to me, anyway. Still I’m sure that funny man won’t see a quarter of a million for his efforts. And I’d be surprised if he paid more than $30 for the shirt. Other fun shirt-saying t-shirts I saw patrons flaunted included “Weird” and my favorite “I am the future” in a fun Back to the Future font.

Anyway, Art Basel Miami Beach, in its 11th year, was just an idea in the head of Norman Braman and a few others who had enjoyed Art Basel in Switzerland at one time back in the day. Many questioned if it was even a good idea. Now widely considered as the premiere and foremost art fair in the U.S. it is easy to see how 20/20 is hindsight.

DSCN1206With an estimated attended record of nearly 50,000 last year, according to director Marc Spiegler, the event is just a few thousand of it’s mother festival in Switzerland and expected to deliver the numbers again this year.  Both Spiegler and Braman welcomed a very VIP crowd during Vernissage at the Botanical Garden sponsored by BMW, with three decorated vehicles including a 1986 BMW 635 CSi Art Car by Southwest Florida’s legendary artist Robert Rauschenberg.

There were other powerhouses running around the fair. I saw including Alex Rodriguez, who stared me down and eventually needed security to keep the paparazzi off him, Lenny Kravitz and  P. Diddy who bought from artist Steven Duermeur at Scope. Also spotted around town were Will Ferrell, Nina Agdal, Kenneth Cole, Kate Mara, Kanye West, Owen Wilson, Demi Moore, Tommy Hilfiger, and Russell Simmons. Pretty exciting if you love celebrity-spotting.

The event has become an anchor to a much greater citywide celebration of the finest, most sought-after, cutting edge and brightest artists in the world, with satellite fairs at Art Miami, Red Dot Art Fair, Scope Art Show, ArtExpo/SOLO Miami, Art Asia and more. Parties, public art, art video, art connoisseurs, billionaires, sports & music legends, students, models and artists explode over the beach & Wynwood portions of an exquisitely tropical and beautiful Miami for a week that may be incomparable to any other in the world.

While the Convention Center had a nice mix of expensive masterpieces and treasures, albeit mixed with somewhat annoying gimmicky overpriced shit, there was much more energy and excitement in some of the surrounding fairs. (Don’t even bring up the parties and afterparties—it’s nuts, ok.)

Among some of my favorites (halfway through the week) are:

20121207154431ARTIST: Mila
PIECE: Face of Geisha & Marilyn Festival
ABOUT: Mixed-media on aluminum pieces, fun, detailed, awesome
AT: Red Dot Fair, www.reddotfair.com
PRICING: $10-15,000
INFO: www.soussanart.com, info@soussanart.com

Nirvana-IIARTIST: Zorikto
PIECE: Nirvanna II
ABOUT: Acrylic, foil, patin on canvas
AT: Red Dot Fair, www.reddotfair.com
PRICING: Inquire
INFO: www.khankhalaev.com

ARTIST: Vincent George
PIECE: Pyrography on board
ABOUT: All done with blowtorching on wood
AT: ArtExpo Solo Miami, www.artexpomiami.com/
PRICING: $24,000
INFO: Deljouartgroup.com, glorida@deljouartgroup.com

ARTIST: Steven Duermeur
ABOUT: P-Diddy bought his pieces this week
AT: Scope, www.scope-art.com/
PRICING: $10-15,000
INFO: www.0gms.com

2017398ARTIST: Daniel Linehan
PIECE: Invictus
ABOUT: New to Basel, previously unseen, detailed work, surreal architecture
AT: ArtExpo Solo Miami, www.artexpomiami.com/
PRICING: $2-5,000
INFO: www.daniellinehanink.com

20121207161433ARTIST: Nicolas Uribe
PIECE: Tim Burton
ABOUT: Columbian artist, features shifting between vision and emptiness
AT: Scope, www.scope-art.com/
PRICING: Inquire
INFO: www.christopherpaschall.com

—Eric Raddatz is an impresario, intellectual revolutionary, filmmaker, designer, art director, musician, presentation editor for Florida Weekly, curator at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center & founder of Fort Myers & Naples Film Festivals. He frequently enjoys the arts & entertainment in Naples, Fort Myers & Miami. For more go to: http://www.ericraddatz.com

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