The Real Art Basel. What is that?
Perhaps, this social media satirical statement summed it up best:
“I had three anxiety attacks, I questioned my life and goals twice and threatened to leave no less than 8 times, all while attending 47 parties, 8 dinners, 2.3 million text messages, 9.5 hours of ubers, 11 different soho house wristbands, sleep deprivation, greased 7 door guys, yelled I’m on the list 23 times and attended one art exhibit.”
Basel/Art Week in Miami
The first week of December in the greater Miami area (Miami Beach, Miami, Wynwood, Design District, North Miami) has evolved into what we now call “Art Week”. But in reality, it is more like Art Week, Fashion Week, Design Week, Crypto Week, and Academy Awards Week, all wrapped up into one action-packed week of events. Everyone and every industry seem to have jumped on the Art Basel bandwagon.
Besides the many main art fairs and satellite fairs and art installations almost everywhere you turn, there are now store grand openings, fashion runway shows, car & yacht debuts, liquor sponsors, real estate parties, yacht parties, waterfront home parties, hotel parties, VIP tents, concerts, meditations, group yoga, financial seminars, crypto conventions, NFT drops, plus celebrity sightings, endless shenanigans, and wall-to-wall traffic from beach to bay and across causeways.
Does it sound like fun? Well, it must be, as the fear of ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out) attacks all who enter the ‘Baselmania’ zone. And with 2020 being a Basel-free year due to the global pandemic, 2021 had folks worldwide chomping at the bit to get out and about, excited to see and be seen and experience the more “normal” life that exists in sunny Miami, Florida.
The NFT Explosion
What started out in 1970 in the town of Basel, Switzerland as a gathering of galleries, has now exploded into a Miami mega-event. This year, the new kids on the block were the NFT’s. For those not in the know, NFT’s are non-fungible tokens that are verified as unique or limited-edition artwork with blockchain authentication.
They are digital assets that can represent ownership in almost anything from digital art to virtual real estate to actual real estate. They went from about $200 million in sales in 2020 to over $12 billion traded by August 2021. Today, industries from Hollywood to music to fashion and sports are all developing NFT projects. It really gained notoriety and respect when an artist named Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million at a Christie’s auction in March 2021.
And there is no turning back. The Metaverse entered the Basel universe this December 2021 during Basel/Art Week in Miami. There was NFT BZL, Bit Basel, DIY NFT, NFT talks, parties, and drops (meaning a launch). Even at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, those flying in on their private jets were greeted by NFT’s on all screens inside the hangar. Locally renowned Miami-based artist, Carlos Betancourt had his first NFT of indigenous Miami animals displayed on the digital wall of the Intercontinental Hotel which can be seen for miles around Miami.
The most absurd NFT may just be the one created by Armenian artist Narine Arakelian, who was selling her eggs along with her artwork titled “Live”. Arakelian considers all of her artworks her babies, so she figured why not offer an egg to her NFT buyer and create a real live baby with it.
Art Basel, The Main Event
The 2021 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach was a landmark year. It reinforced its position as the top cultural event in the Americas, attracting major collectors and institutions from 72 countries across the United States, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and beyond. There were over 170 museums and cultural organizations visiting the fair. Art Basel had an overall attendance of 60,000 at the Miami Beach Convention Center which is ground zero for the actual Art Basel fair.
There were 253 leading international galleries from 36 countries and territories presenting the highest quality of artworks across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography and digital works. People were keen to once again see, buy and sell art in person. Sales were ignited during the VIP Preview when the pop-music star, Adam Levine and his supermodel wife, Behati Prinsloo bought a large James Turrell light installation for an asking price of just under $1 million at the Pace Gallery booth.
Art Basel Live amplified in-person viewings in Miami Beach, with a digital program comprising Online Viewing Rooms, virtual walk-throughs, live-streamed conversations, and social media broadcasts sharing the excitement from the show floor to a global audience. Meridians section of the fair moved to the main floor and included lots of unique untraditional installations and artworks including live performance artists.
Art Basel was founded in 1970 in Basel, Switzerland and now encompasses three art fairs shows for modern and contemporary art in Basel, Miami Beach, and Hong Kong. UBS has been the lead partner of Art Basel for decades and associate partners include luxury brands like Audemars Piguet, Netjets, BMW, La Prairie, Sanlorenzo, and Ruinart. The Miami Beach edition this year also included partners like Nespresso, Casa Dragones, Chateau d’Esclans, and Perrier.
Design Miami is officially under the Art Basel umbrella and is presented in its own tent next to the Miami Beach Convention Center during Art Week. It features museum-quality 20th and 21st century furniture, lighting, and objets d’art from the world’s top vetted galleries. Over 40 international exhibitors presented at this year’s 17th annual fair, showcasing their best historic and contemporary collectible furniture and decorative arts.
Design Miami debuted the official Design Miami/Mobile App, introduced cryptocurrency payments, and presented NFT’s at the fair for the first time. This year, contemporary ceramics proved popular across the gallery program. First-time exhibitor, Jeffrey Deitch presented Clay Pop, an exhibition of ceramic sculpture by a new generation of artists.
NFT’s were sold via online auction on OpenSea. Partner, Kohler showcased its Rock.01 sink collaboration with artist, Daniel Arsham, titled “Stone Flow”. Luis Vuitton partnered with Design Miami for the first time with a new digital shopping experience. Perrier Jouet returned and Maestro Dobel became the new tequila sponsor of Design Miami. Design Talks were both in-person and digital this year as well as a new series of 15-minute talks on Design & Human-Kind.
Art Miami & Context
Art Miami is America’s foremost contemporary and modern art fair and shares the stage alongside its sister fair, Context. It was Art Miami’s 32nd year. Context offers more affordable art from emerging and mid-career artists. They are positioned in tents adjacent to Biscayne Bay, offering a wonderful opportunity to catch some fresh sea air between shows over a cocktail or lunch with a wonderful water view.
Untitled returned to Miami Beach Art Week for its 10th edition, featuring onsite performances, the Monuments sector located on the sands of South Beach, a series of Special Projects, and the return of the Untitled Art Podcasts. This year Untitled initiated their ‘Nest’ program that provided an opportunity for emerging galleries, collectives, and non-profits to participate at a lower price/fee for their booths.
This was in response to the economic impact of the pandemic on the gallery sector. Nest included 23 participants from over ten countries. Untitled has always been known as a ‘curated fair’ working with some of the world’s most talented curators. This year did not disappoint.
Scope celebrated its 20th year in Miami Beach for Art Week 2021 in their pavilion on the sand. New to Scope this year, was ‘The Contemporary Presents’, an experiential multidisciplinary program located in an expanded Atrium. It presented daily programming including large-scale installations, music performances, and panel discussions.
Scope continued its tradition of offering wellness with morning healing programs and guided meditation, against the backdrop of South Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.
Art Week, not only includes a multitude of art fairs but also local museums that offer special exhibitions for this week as well as their archival works. This included: The Bass Museum, de la Cruz Collection of Contemporary Art Space, Frost Art Museum, The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA Miami), Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA), Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Wolfsonian Museum, Rubell Museum. Worthy of mentions were the virtual NFT exhibition “NFT’s – The Next 500 Years” at Perez Museum and the Snapchat x Alex Israel exhibit at The Bass Museum.
After viewing a variety of art fairs and museums, it’s worth visiting a few private collections. Most notable are the De La Cruz private collection in their Key Biscayne home and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse in Wynwood as well as Espacio 23/Jorge Perez Collection.
Parties, Parties, Parties
While days were filled with an overdose of art, nights exploded with millions of parties full of liquid libations, DJs, and the newest guests in town, NFT’s. From waterfront mansions to penthouses to warehouses and beachfront tents, art and music oozed out into the greater Miami atmosphere nonstop for Art Week. Visitors’ veins returned home oversaturated with art, liquor, and talks of the new Metaverse. From a duct-taped banana in 2019 to non-fungible tokens of art in 2021… what will be on the horizon for 2022 is anyone’s guess.