Art Basel Takeaway: It Was Art Over Glitter

Dec 9, 2012

We're taking a look this morning at the parting shots of the world's journalists as Art Basel reaches its opulent and glittery conclusion in Miami.

It was great, most of them say: Bigger and more lucrative than ever and ultimately a testament to the supremacy of art over glitter.

BASELING IN WYNWOOD: Gritty Miami neighborhood was transformed by art and Tony Goldman.
Credit Aubrey Swanson on Twitter

Not that glitter didn't go down fighting. Here's how Lydia Martin led off in the Miami Herald today:

Basel week hasn’t forgotten its reason for being, no matter how many brands piggy-back on the largest contemporary art fair in the world to market their fizzy water, champagne, shoes, watches, cars, condos, private jet companies, down coats and just about every luxury item imaginable to captive, deep-pocket crowds.

And pointing to the end of the Great Recession, for many in the wealthiest classes, anyway, dealers at the main show have been reporting mega sales...

Dealers told the Herald deep-pocket collectors were shopping in a "frenzy."

Still, "the blown-out party scene," as the Herald described it,  was a downer -- and not just for the regular-Joe art lovers.

Scads of the smugarati got shut down outside pop-up nightclubs such as Chez André at the Shelbourne’s downstairs karaoke joint, by Paris’ Le Baron nightclub and hotelier André Balazs; and Silencio, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive-inspired Parisian cabaret, doing a Basel residency at the Delano. And there was the beachside blowout at the Soho House, hosted by Chanel, where Demi Moore danced it out but mortals packed like sardines could barely reach the bars to beg for beverages. That’s if you got in at all, even after you were invited, even after you RSVPed.

Art Basel's presence in Wynwood drew the attention of the New York Times in a piece about how art can transform and redeem a tough neighborhood with the help of visionary developers such as the late Tony Goldman.

“It’s unbelievable, the transition from desolate streets to completely filled energy where everybody is happy,” said (New York graffiti artist) Ski, who an Art Basel veteran.

A hiccup of time ago, trekking to Wynwood, a working-class Puerto Rican neighborhood, was a test in urban fortitude. Drugs, crime and a general sense of foreboding clung to the empty streets and warehouses...

“There were a lot of body shops and dogs behind fences,” said David Lombardi, the founder of Lombardi Properties, who bought his first parcel here in the early 2000s. “Every window that had been a window had been locked up. Every fence that was here had barbed wire...”

Then Art Basel came to town in 2002, and the art slowly spilled over to lesser-traveled neighborhoods across the bay from Miami Beach.

In The Guardian,  reporter David Batty said early fears that Art Basel would be taken over by scenesters with no interest in art have now evaporated and that serious collectors have turned it, arguably, into the world's most important show.

The value of the work offered for sale by the more than 260 participating galleries at ABMB is estimated to be £1.5bn. Notable early sales included Hirst's Capaneus, a kaleidoscopic assemblage of moths, butterflies, spiders and beetles that sold for £600,000, and Jeff Koons's almost life-size sculpture of silent film star Buster Keaton, with an asking price of between £3m and £3.5m.

For last-day-of-Basel visitors, the Herald offers a roundup it calls the "don't-miss collection."