Popular culture’s interest in art is by no means a new thing. New York City graffiti itself burst onto the Chelsea gallery scene essentially during its infancy. There was the whole Warhol era, where peers like Basquiat and Haring became uber-prevalent in the conversation of that time. Since then, there have been ebbs and flows that continue to link both inherently opposite worlds. 2013 in particular has been a year of more flow than ebb for art’s relevance in pop culture. Regardless of the opinions, Jay Z heralded himself as the “new Jean-Michel” and marketed the hell out of his “Picasso Baby” tune. Lady Gaga dubbed her latest music project Art Pop and hired Jeff Koons to commemorate it with some expensive balloon sculptures. And infamous British street artist Banksy had New York City running amok with his controversial Better Out Than In “residency.” That said, this year’s Miami Art Basel went down last week and we had a local artist by the name of Coz give us her take on the whole experience. It was her first time heading down there and she had a lot to take in, experience and recount. After the whole thing, it became pretty apparent that the heralded Art Basel is a tale of two cities, one curated for the art-driven collectors and fans, another for the passionate artists and proliferators. Coz invites us to understand a bit of it from her purist, bohemian end.
Words Coz Photos Sunny (fortheethrill.com)
Thanks to a grueling seven-hour delay I’ll never forget where I was during the breaking news of Nelson Mandela’s passing last week – LaGuardia Airport, New York City. I was cringing over two canceled flights and the fact that US Airlines sent my luggage on a first class trip to LOST – an amazing start to my first trip down to Art Basel in Miami.
Setbacks and all, I arrived hopeful at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with my backpack, a laptop, identification, and a little cash. Thankfully, I was able to hitchhike a ride with some new “friends” across town to South Beach, Miami. Art Basel awaited!
Seven homegirls from NYC posted up at Bikini Hostel on West Ave and 13th street, sharing one room with our good friends Malbec and Mary Jane. The next four days will be reminisced on for years.
That very first night began with some party hopping, ending at Twist, a local gay club, for a night of dancing. Later, around 3 a.m., we walked to the beach with plans to strip down to our nothings and bask in the ocean breeze. Alas, our plans were foiled by the Miami po’ on patrol. We didn’t want to give up that easily, but we settled under the circumstance that we’d need our rest. The next day was fixing to be a busy one.
While moneyed collectors and famed international artists mustered at the beach side convention center, the real fun was happening across town at Wynwood. That’s where I wanted to be, so me and the girls got dressed, stocked up on water and put on our walking shoes, hell bent on trekking it to Wynwood. Soon we would discover that despite the beautiful 82-degree weather, the art district was in no way walking distance away. So we hopped in the next cab, to 26th Street and 2nd, graffiti-heaven bound!
I was stunned when we got there. It was raw, wild, and unapologetic in its massive beauty. Every building, every wall, every surface on every block of the entire district covered in pieces both small and of breathtaking proportions. Behind me I heard some chick say “Oh my god, Kim K. and Kanye are here for Basel!” and I thought who the hell cares about Kim K. and Yeezus when right across the street is an eight-story Retna, next to me is an Easy and Trap throwup, a Reefa tribute by Nobody, an Aiko, Futura, Os Gemeos, Kenny Scarf, Invader, Swoon, Barry McGee, Ryan McGinley, VHILS, avaf, Indie, Miss Van, Fafi, Lady Pink…you getting the idea?
For many artists, like my friend Sabio, it was a magical place. “It’s a dream,” he said, painting his four-story wall in broad day at Adjust Gallery on NW 26th and 2nd Ave. Around the corner was Kobra, a sick muralist with giant portraitures dedicated to icons of the past like Tupac, Dali, Frida, Basquiat, and Andy Warhol, and now the late Nelson Mandela – RIP.
Later that day, stepping onto the scene at the Basel Convention Center on South Beach, one of my homegirls was the first to take note of the economical distinction that is the world of fine arts. She was a college girl from the hood in Queens, standing beside a Jeff Koons sculpture that sold for 8 million dollars. This led me to wonder – are these festivals just red carpet staging for A-listers and well-heeled collectors? Or, is this one of the only huge (and commercially successful) platforms that brings together people from all walks under the cloak of love for creation?
Meanwhile, on the other side of town at Wynwood, I was exactly where I needed to be. With music echoing from every corner, DJs set up on top of trucks while spinning sweet sets, live bands playing, and even ATVs dressed as fluorescent shelled insects driving around pumping sounds, I was excited for this live extension of “the arts.” Not to mention all of the food trucks, costumes, and live painting on anything with a surface. It was love, painting, great vibrations and respect. If it’s true that after death we manifest into our own personal heaven, I had really just entered mine. It was Aerosol Heaven.
I knew of every artist there because they had worked hard and paid their dues to be known in the art community. Despite any questions of Art Basel’s superficiality, to me, these street artists, muralists, and writers held prevalence and substance. I had never felt more desire to be a part of something so grand. The days there were spent strolling up and down Wynwood by day and dancing and bombing under Miami’s clear skies by night.
Coz stays inspired by the streets. Make sure to check out her solo exhibition, “I AM COZMIC,” this Friday, Dec 13th at APT. 78 (4447 Broadway) 7p.m.-10p.m.