Here they come again, the Art Basel hordes, ready to turn Miami and Miami Beach into one big Art Funhouse during six sleepless days for the 10th year in a row.
The signs were everywhere on Tuesday, when no fewer than 16 satellite art fairs — the smorgasbord of art and dealers, writers, gawkers and artists both emerging and well-known that spreads from Overtown, Wynwood and Midtown to the Beach and that serves as companion to the impossibly rich main event — opened their doors to the first invited guests.
Here were all the well-heeled people sporting the fashion trend du jour — which this year, judging by the early evidence, is the Furry Vest. Or anything resembling tin foil. The esoteric footwear. The money flowing like designer water.
The traffic — 17th and Alton is already impossible. The celebrities (first sighting: P.Diddy, right arm in a sling, checking out a $150,000 vintage stereo retrofitted with an iPod, at Design Miami).
The familiar white tents, really temporary museums rising from vacant lots in Midtown Miami, which will be not just bustling this week but bursting at the seams.
And, oh, yes, the art.
At Scope Miami’s 100,000-square-foot tent in Midtown, about 100 galleries focused on emerging talent set up shop with works that ran the gamut from idyllic landscapes to blow-up sex dolls to portraits that served as satiric odes to George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Miley Cyrus and Michael Jackson.
"It’s incredible; the scope of this is ridiculous," said awe-struck artist Avery Lawrence, 25, apparently intending no pun at the opening of Scope, where he is showing his work for the first time.
The main event is yet to come. Art Basel Miami Beach, the official fair that launched it all, opens Wednesday with a series of private events before welcoming the general public on Thursday.
But Tuesday night belonged to the satellites. Some like Art Miami are almost as big-time as the main fair. Others are funky like Pulse Miami, held again in Overtown’s The Ice Palace studio. On the Beach, six hotels are hosting fairs.
If Art Miami’s VIP opening is any indication, the galleries will fare well in spite of a lagging economy. By 8 p.m., a sculpture by Lynn Chadwick at the Osbourne Samuels Gallery had sold for $1.6 million. At Rudolf Budja, an Austrian gallery, several works by Andy Warhol and Miami artist Claude Charlier had also sold, the latter for $6,600 each, the Warhols for "a good package price’’ upwards of $100,000.
At the Red Dot fair in Midtown, there was live music and an 8-by-10-inch Warhol “dollar sign’’ silkscreen, yours for $450,000.
But not every artwork had a price tag.
At Pulse, South Korean artist Hong Sean Jung, with Denver’s David Smith Gallery, had spent the whole day constructing Blank Mirage, a towering, ethereal waterfall of spider web thin black threads — made with a hot glue gun — cascading over another transparent, ladder-like web of fishing line stapled to the wall. At the end of the fair, it will come down, too delicate to move.
"An idea doesn’t exist. Then you make it tangible form, then you take it down and it doesn’t exist any more,” Jang said. “Like magic."
Perhaps the evening’s hottest event was not, strictly speaking, a fair opening, but Vanity Fair magazine’s annual bash at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, with 1,500 guests invited to mark Art Basel Miami Beach’s tenth edition and the museum’s 15th year. It was also the opening of Rolling Stop, an exhibition of larger-than life street objects, like a stop sign, by Miami sculptor Mark Handforth.
In attendance: designers Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel and photographer Bruce Weber.
In Wynwood’s burgeoning warehouse art district, just about every bare wall was being covered in spray paint. Developer Tony Goldman’s Wynwood Walls, which started it all two years ago with museum-quality graffiti murals, added new ones this year. Now many other property owners in the district are following suit, recruiting taggers and street artists from Brazil to L.A..
“For those of us who believe that culture is the essence of a great city, you add this and the beach and it’s an unbeatable package,’’ Goldman said. “Miami isn’t just a South Beach story anymore.’’