During the first week of December, more than 75,000 art lovers converge on Miami Beach to enjoy modern and contemporary art at Art Basel, the world’s premier art show, and its satellite fairs, art museums, gallery openings, and, of course, parties. This eclectic gathering of wealthy art collectors chauffeured in their Bentleys and art enthusiasts living between paychecks viewed the amazing artwork and price tags at Art Basel. Upon selling a $1 million Wifredo Lam painting, the gallery director casually said, “After someone has bought the mansion and the yacht and everything else, they might turn to art.” The galleries of Art Basel displayed more than $3 billion worth of artwork for sale at the right price.
But what is the right price? Or should we ask, “What is art?” Take, for example, Matt Johnson’s “Party Cup Pyramid,” a colorful red sculpture of ten Dixie cups turned upside down stacked in pyramid form. Is the price right at $35,000? The artist was probably inspired by his repressive homeland, let’s say Russia, with empty shelves at the supermarket, or some other fictional story to justify the price.
If you need a glass of water to quench your artsy thirst, how about “Glasses with Magnetized Water” by a Colombian artist who performed a “ritual” in 1974 to magnetize the water, now selling for $12,000.
Sterling Ruby’s “SCALE,” a mixed media of hanging trash balancing from a pipe, has a price tag of $200,000. Rudolf Stingel’s “Untitled,” an amazing piece of Celotex insulation, of course professionally framed, is priced at $265,000 reserve (meaning the artist will not sell it for less than $265,000 and higher bids are welcomed).
In order for a gallery to exhibit artwork at Art Basel, the cost is about $40,000 for a 20 x 20 foot floor space. For an artist without high-end gallery representation, it is impossible to exhibit artwork at Art Basel unless your name is Takeshi Spider, a creative Japanese sculptor. For the $45 admission fee, he strolled throughout the Art Basel convention center wearing his 5-foot tall artwork, “Passionate Lover,” strapped to his back. Art patrons gathered around him wondering what was happening, some asked questions, and others took pictures. When asked, “What are you doing?” the mild-mannered artist said, “My name is Takeshi Spider, a Japanese artist. My artwork is the ‘Passionate Lover.’” Turning around to display his work, he added, “If she loves me, she will take me to paradise. However, if she hates me, she will kill and eat me. That’s the way it is, because she is a scorpion.”
The artwork sold for $1,000. As more people gathered, Spider continued, “My art is known as temporary art. At one time, art was passionate, powerful, and soulful. Then art became apathetic, powerless, and empty, known today as contemporary art. The time of contemporary art is over. I am the beginning of temporary art.” The free-speaking artist received more attention from visitors and journalists than many of the high-end gallerists.
Another lesser-known artist, Jennifer Healy, sporting a shaved head topped with a feathery arrangement, loves life, people, and animals. When exhibiting her artwork, a framed video about “how men don’t really listen to women,” she drew extra attention with a 5-foot python wrapped around her neck. Obviously, it’s all about marketing when selling art, and we’re already looking forward to next year.
After a long day of viewing artwork with astronomical prices and meeting innovative artists with a flair for presentation, nothing is better than a private beachside party with hyper rap, urban hipsters, and libations. Cliché’s Terry Check joined music sensation Usher, together with A-listers such as Daniel Ashram, Tim Goosens, Rashaad Newsome, Mike D of the Beastie Boys, Vic Mensa, Vivian Van Dijk, and Emin Kadi for the vernissage of ArtHaus sponsored by Mercedes-AMG, in conjunction with Lufthansa First Class. What was intended to be a high-brow, art patron’s vernissage morphed into eclectic mix of urban hipsters and a few suits partying non-stop with music by recording artist Vic Mensa.
Read more articles by Terry Check on ClicheMag.com
Art Basel Recap: Photographed by Terry Check