I have always looked forward to Art Basel Miami - but this year was more work than the usual play of parties, paintings and pampering then this artist likes to enjoy. In fact, many things had changed from previous years. South Beach; which in the past had been packed with tourists regardless of the event at hand - was unusually quiet as the young and hip scoped up Wynwood and partied on the other side of the bridge. Moreover, the addition of new art fairs forced openings to be stacked over the same evening - as no one really can schedule to open outside Dec 2nd through 4th. This influx of events, also left fewer people attending each art space and with less time to dedicate to the appreciation of the work that artists spent so much time and energy to create. Those who were smart (and organized) did their homework and selected the places most inline with their taste - while the rest of us (and yours truly) attempted to savor a piece of it all. Even the Art Basel vernissage, typically brimming with collector and sociality alike, opened the show at a much slower pace and left me to wonder if the buying of art at this prestigious event has shifted to leave Art Basel as the social celebration of the art world.
I must admit, this would be ok with me. I enjoy a good celebration, and extending that invitation outside of those affiliated with galleries, museums and publications, signals to me the expansion of the art appreciation market and makes me happy. Sure, the new attendees may not be quite as ready or willing to invest in the blue-chip-gallery pieces, but from an artist's perspective, I am glad that they are exposed to the artwork that we (collectively) create.
I myself had my first Art Basel VIP reception and solo show, proudly brought to fruition by the new venue Sriciach house in South Beach. Organizing this task alone, left me stretched to attend the fairs or chatter with art enthusiasts about Trask's use of bone or Abramovics' appearance. But the evening was lovely, and causal in comparison to the hotel parties, with Pan-Asian snacks passed around and buckets of beers placed generously for attendees to enjoy meaning no one was left waiting at the bar. And to top it off, I did something that I have never done before.
A few days prior to the event, I took a moment to sit on the beach and drew a couple of sketches in the moment of peace between the madness, to give away to guests attending the reception. I didn't care about the value of the work nor the effect on my collection, I simply wanted to give something back to those who may not have the chance to own an original piece of art. And the response I received, in the excitement from the crowd waiting for the winner to be announced was one of the best feelings that I have achieved as an artists today. And actually, I hope to be able to continue to share in an art market infrastructure that is about giving, because true art is created with the intention to give and express and pass on, and not to be held hidden or captive.
And as I left Miami heading back to New York, that is something that reminded me of the real essence of this specific art fair that is Art Basel. Sure it may have become about the parties, but as long as the parties are in celebration of the art and are meant to honor the artists and their work, keep the champagne coming and the Rolexes turning and please, pass me the caviar sans pancake.