Art Basel Miami: 2008 Jen Pappas with photographer Steven Yennie chronicle their four-day shenanigans through Miami’ during Art Basel 2008:
If the idiotic-grin, not sure what the rest of my body is doing, am I talking too loud kinda tipsy, then Art Basel Miami is it. Four days, 33 countries, 250 galleries, over 2,000 artists and a veritable overload of the senses is only part of the story.
Private collectors, curators, buyers and art freaks flood the city, choosing carefully from a huge variety of parties, openings, galas and art talks. Art Basel is a visual treasure trove of talent both raw and renowned, and when you arrive you don’t just sidle up, you dive in.
Friday night, Scion hosted Installation 5: Self Portraits in the penthouse suite of the Raleigh Hotel in South Beach. The national art tour featured a wish-list of established and emerging artists such as Yoskay Yamamoto, Edwin Ushiro, Jeff Soto, Kelsey Brookes, Blek le Rat and Ron English.
Blek le Rat
Composer, Mark Mothersbaugh, of DEVO and Wes Anderson-film fame made his contribution with a nerdy, lime rug portrait of himself
while nearby, the 3-D monster magic of AJ Fosik could be found, ready to devour anyone who got too close.
J. Shea’s Spirits was another highlight, strangely reminiscent of that America song, A Horse with No Name except without as many esoteric drug references.
The Gen Art Vanguard party also took place on Friday night, crowding the Wynwood Arts District with eccentric youngsters fighting for the attention of other eccentric youngsters. By the time we arrived, shortly after 9 p.m., the party was in full, hectic swing. Nearly 3,000 guests, including Venus Williams and Todd Oldham were treated to an outdoor performance by Graffiti Research Lab, live-action painting, leggy synchronized swimmers in the indoor pool and oh yeah, a huge hall full of art.
Separated by gallery, the array of work from some of today’s most recognizable names was almost overwhelming. Audrey Kawasaki, Stella Im Hultberg, Brian Viveros, Ray Caesar, Mark Ryden, Kathie Olivas, Jon Todd and Yosuke Ueno were all there in vivid color.
The next day, we walked through Lummus Park to check out Thomas Houseago’s sculpture, “Untitled” before braving the convention center for the main event. Suffice it to say that the labyrinth of art, sculpture, digital media, foreign languages and furry gorilla-looking creatures without any faces was so absurd, we felt completely at home.
Jen Pappas with furry faceless creature
Chiho Aoshima’s cute Japanese chicken girls, John Bankston, General Idea and Aida Ruilova’s fascinating pop-out portraits were definite standouts. As was mistakenly meeting Orlan, the French icon (“Do you know who I am?”) simply because we liked her outrageous style. But after 3 hours of meandering, note-taking and photo-framing, it was time to breathe fresh air again.
We headed for the Aqua Hotel, a cool South Beach boutique hotel with two floors of rooms surrounding a verdant courtyard and small spa. Each room had been converted into individual gallery-microcosms, with art lining the walls and propped on beds. In room 108, I fell in love with the work of Tami Demaree, a lovelorn artist with a penchant for acrylics on vintage thrift-store prints and nature photos.
Billy Shire Fine Arts had wonderful pieces by both Nathan Ota (“Big Fish”) and Mark Todd, (“New Gods”). Downstairs in the Cerasoli:LeBasse room, we ran into artist Tessar Lo. He graciously let us snap a shot of him next to his new painting before sneaking out again.
Meanwhile, owner, Freddi Cerasoli took the time to turn us on to fresh pieces by Jennifer Davis, Michele Carlson and newcomer, Melissa Haslam from Sydney.
We arrived too late for the computer music concert, but plenty of people were still milling around the Art Center of South Florida for the Kaiju Monster Invasion show later that night. We quickly found Attaboy’s “The Intrusion” and snapped a bunch of photos before moving on to Mark Nagata, Mars-1 and Glenn Barr. Multiple dioramas and the small boy standing transfixed in front of a video of an old Godzilla flick definitely did it for me there.
Mark Nagata’s collection of Kaiju
When we exited the Art Center that night, it finally felt safe to put my notebook away, put the cap back on the camera and sit down. Dizzy, drunk and slightly delirious with art, we looked at one another with one genuine thought passing between us. Can’t wait to come back next year.