Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Art Basel/Art Miami survive economy to make splashy showing

by Dwight Casimere

The nation's single largest explosion of art took place in Miami for one incredible week in early December. The entire city of Miami became one big urban art gallery with the simultaneous staging of Art Miami and Art Basel as well as a raft of ancillary shows like
InkWorks, Aqua Art, Vernisage and something called ‘Camper
Art”, and you have the makings of the most all-consuming art expression ever seen. Spaces as diverse as convention centers, museums, hotels, restaurants, building lobbies, even entire beachfront parks were transformed into spaces wholly devoted to the display of paintings, sculptures, functional art and laser light displays. The genre was even stretched to include other types of ‘art’, including the design of fountains, furniture, and cars, even the human body.

Opening night of Art Miami saw the rooftop of the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art turned into a Salsa Paradise with traditional Cuban cuisine and progressive Latin jazz and exotic tropical drinks creating a heady atmosphere all bathed in the light of a full moon over downtown Miami.

Art Miami’s stellar 2009 run began on December 1st with a ribbon cutting and a 20th Anniversary Proclamation presentation by Miami City Commissioner Bruno Barreiro. A gala VIP reception, attended by 6,500 people, followed. At what Caldwell Snyder Gallery called “the best opening of any art fair,” museum curators rubbed elbows with artists including James Rosenquist and Frank Stella and with collectors from the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia—Steve Wynn, Marvin Ross Friedman, Marty Margulies, Jorge Perez, Pat and Larry Stewart, Mary and Frank Howard, Joyce Kan, Pearl Lam, Noel and Terry Neelands, John Ferin, Jeff Roth, Matthew Adell, and Naomi Campbell. Opening night proceeds and a percentage of sales from participating galleries benefited The Lotus House Women’s Shelter, netting nearly $9,000 for the program.

Across the causeway in South Beach, a more sedate, upscale opening for Art Basel was unfolding with thousands of well-heeled art investors, primarily from Europe and Latin America, calmly strolled through the aisles of the Miami
Beach Convention Center, carefully eyeing the works of modern artists old and new. I was told repeatedly that this year’s shows were smaller than in year’s previous, but the final tallies prove otherwise. While there was a slightly smaller display area utilized by Art Basel at the convention center, sales and attendance at all of the shows were through the roof, with Art Miami, in particular, reporting 35,000 visitors, a 10 per cent increase in attendance. “It feels like a new beginning,” said Wilhelm Grusdat of Galerie Terminus. “There are a lot more qualified buyers here this year than last. People are here to spend some serious money on some serious art!”

Scott White of Scott White Contemporary Art was more specific, ”Sales were great-from blue chip to gallery artists.”

Among the more interesting sales, a Martin Schoeller image of Clint Eastwood sold for $10,000 at Halsted Hunt Kraeutler. Pieces that sold in the hundreds of thousands moved as well. An Eric Fischl painting sold for $300,000 and two works by John Chamberlain sold at $200,000 and $300,000 respectively at Mark Boirghi Fine Art, Inc. A collection of photographic portfolios featuring images of Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe went for $220,000 per portfolio at
Rudolf Budia Gallery, LLC of London.

All of the ‘big names’ in art were represented. A Chuck Close tapestry netted $120,000 and a “major Miro” brought six figures at Contessa Gallery, New York and two Jean Dubuffet pieces sold in the “hundreds of thousands” at David Klein Gallery.

Commenting on the fair’s vigorous outcome, one organizer commented, “We’re definitely in a recovery.

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