So Art Basel/Miami Art Week has come and gone. If you missed out, well, you missed out. About the same time every year, the most wonderful time of the year, the Magic City comes alive with its yearly art festival. Artists, art dealers, art enthusiasts and celebrities from all over flood the city for Art Basel and satellite fairs in Miami Beach and Wynwood. I love Basel but unlike last year where I attended a different event every night for a week straight, this year I played it slightly low-key but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. Here's the round up of how my Art Week went.
Conception Art Fair
Wednesday was the press preview for the Conception Art Fair. Conception was billed as the only art fair founded, owned and run exclusively by women. I thought this would be a great fair to cover for my audience because I know we are all about girl power. With the event scheduled to begin at 6 o'clock, my colleague and I arrived with five minutes to spare. Unfortunately, when we arrived full-fledged construction was still underway on the venue (picture giant ladders, power tools and hammers). There was no one up front to check in with the visitors and the place was essentially a holy mess. However, once you got past the fear of a large object potentially crashing down on your head, there were some really great pieces to take note of.
Each year this is the one party I vow to not miss. You may not know Gil Green by name but if you're a fan of hip-hop music, you definitely know his work. The mega-successful filmmaker/video director has worked with many hip hop legends and today's brightest stars including Nicki Minaj, Usher, P. Diddy and more. Each year Green and friends host the unconventional art party at the ToeJam Backlot in Wynwood. This ain’t your artsy-fartsy art party with wine and assorted cheeses. Food trucks however, those were aplenty.
I've seen the event change and grow from its first year where it was much smaller with a very eclectic crowd of hip-hop lovers (young and older), appreciators and newbies to the scene, to a massive crowd of attendees who pretty much all look the same. Vibes 305 used to be more of a hidden gem. Like your favorite little bakery before they became super popular and started lining up customers down the block and skimping on the cupcake icing. Don't get me wrong Vibes is still a good ol’ time, but for me it's just not what it used to be and for some that's great. I however, look fondly back on being able to casually run into one of my absolute favorite Miami Heat players, and seeing local celebrities hanging out among the crowd sans security vs. this year watching rappers race by with a 6-person security detail/entourage. Oh, and let's not talk about the chaos at the door, hour-plus long, line to get in, and the non ticketed line that was three times faster than the ticketed line (side bar: Thanks to the young lady who eventually helped with my guest list fiasco).
It also seemed like the art used to be much more prominent. This year seemed to lack a little in newness, showing several pieces that were on display last year. I had one guy come up to me and ask me where the art was? He was being facetious of course and obviously not of the culture so it was hard for him to get it but it speaks to the sense of lacking. I think part of the problem is we were all packed in there like sardines. If you really take a step back to look at the venue, the ToeJam Backlot in and of itself is a work of art. Every square inch of the actual building is covered in some eccentric "thing" for lack of a better word. You have to think beyond seeing something hanging on a wall. I mean there's an actual cockpit and hallowed out school bus in the backlot for Christ sake but that may be hard to appreciate when your vision is obstructed by a thousand people. Maybe.
Bottom line: Cool event. Cool venue. Great music. But... gone to the masses.
No Commission Art Fair X The Dean Collection
So you've probably heard of mega producer Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean but what you may not know is that the musical superstar is also a passionate art lover and collector. Last year he was asked to curate a collection for the Scope Art Fair, which he branded The Dean Collection. This year he branched out and expanded, partnering with Bacardi to launch his own art fair and concert series entitled No Commission.
The interesting thing about Art Basel is some events are free, some are pricey, some are open to the public, some are super exclusive, some are of the highest quality and some are a damn joke. How Swizz managed to create an experience that was, of the highest quality, free, open to the public while also being exclusive says a lot about how much effort was put into this project.
The No Commission fair afforded the participating artists the opportunity to show and sell their work at one if the worlds biggest art events without the burden of having to pay a gallery a hefty commission, hence the fair's title. Swizz curated the collection himself, handpicking the artists for the showing but giving them the opportunity to pick the pieces they wanted to show and set their own sale prices. Up and comers showed alongside more established artists like Sandra Chevrier for a collection Swizz describes as "by the artist for the artist”.
I for one ate it all up. I loved the concept, loved the execution, loved the pieces selected, loved being able to chat with all the artists, and loved how gracious a host Swizz Beats was. This clearly wasn't something he just slapped his name on and took credit for. It was quite evident how passionate he was about making his vision come to fruition. Hat's off to you Mr. Dean.
So I ventured to some other galleries after the Dean Collection and found some really great pieces. The Simply Gallery hosted by Simply Jess, Alessandra Gold & MJA, mixed art with fashion, showing off paintings sculptures and a couple of boutique-like setups with unique articles of clothing and footwear. One of my favorites included one from artist Aaron Maybin who I discovered at Basel two years ago and a crazy bullet-themed piece from Charles Soto aka Soto Ink.
Near by was an absolutely amazing gallery exhibition by Cuban-American Artist Alexander Mijares. The exhibit entitled, Freedom was centered on history, exile and redemption and featured a large-scale installation of a Cuban refugee boat that recently brought 16 exiles to American soil. Displayed with the original contents still left inside, the boats sail was painted in customary Mijares fashion.
Gallery 212 & Wynwood Walls
I also managed to stop by local spot, Gallery 212 and Wynwood staple, Wynwood Walls. If you’re unfamiliar, Wynwood Walls was born in 2009 when a section of warehouse building walls were turned into giant canvases for graffiti and street art. It brings in all kinds of artists from around the world. For this year’s Art Basel, 14 new large-scale murals and installations were included. As usual, Wynwood Walls was a sight to behold.
Another great year of Baseling as I like to call it, has come to an end and I’m going to miss it. I already can’t wait until next year. See you there!
Check out more photos below: