An important event in the unstoppable boom market of contemporary art, Art Basel Miami was five days of exhibitions, parties and general festivities.
Expectations were high after record sales in modern and contemporary art a few weeks ago at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York, where Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold for $142.5m and Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) created a new record for the price of a work by a living artists at $58.4m.
This year’s fair featured art from 258 galleries from 31 different countries. The range of art on display was accordingly eclectic with work from the darlings of the commercial art world and upcoming artists also getting recognition.
Arguably the biggest attraction was the new Pérez Art Museum Miami, a $220m building designed by Herzog and de Meuron who also designed the Tate Modern and the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. The museum’s opening show was an exhibition of the work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei including a 38-tonne steel memorial to those that died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Elsewhere Art Basel Miami once again continued to champion Latin American art with particular highlights including the work presented by Mexican gallery Proyectos Monclova. The Young British Artists, now looking decidedly less young, proved themselves to still be popular with buyers and Damien Hirst and Anthony Quinn were personally in attendance. Tracey Emin too exhibited some of her famous neon sculptures and in the ever commercial spirit of the fair the Fontainebleu Hotel made beach towels with ‘kiss me’ stitched on them, as inspired by one of her pieces.
The fair was not just about selling art though. Critics praised Matthu Placek’s ‘A Portrait of Marina Abramović’ ; hailed as a beautiful tribute to the pioneering performance artist and not to be missed.
It’s easy to forget that Art Basel Miami is meant to be about art. The fair has become a hot spot for celebrities and this year was no different with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio and many, many more famous names perusing through the exhibits. Added to this the fair has become famous for its night life with countless parties to celebrate the event.
Its fair to say it isn’t for everyone: the glitz can perhaps be a little overpowering and for many Art Basel Miami represents everything that’s wrong with the contemporary art market. There’s a lot of style, but the substance isn’t always there. The vast sums of money that change hands are often excessive, even gross, and the fawning and schmoozing that go along with it all will certainly have put off the more idealistic, old school art fans.
That said this year it attracted a staggering 75,000 people; a 7% increase on last year’s attendance rate. Art Basel Miami’s success shows no signs of relenting.