Art Basel Miami Beach

Art and Excess: Art Basel Miami 2014

It’s all over. The tabloid-ready fanfare. The champagne-soaked spectacle. The mayhem that was Art Week Miami is now over—bubble wrapped, crated, and headed home. For a 6-day stretch, the art world—its darlings, disciples, muses, and Medici’s—swarmed the beaches of Miami on a contemporary art safari of sorts. Frivolity and excess (and notoriously insane traffic) polka-dotted the brightly colored hunt for the next new artist at the next party at the next new hotel. Pop art, street art, and surrealism reigned supreme. It was a weeklong bacchanal busting at the seams with cavorting celebrities and around-the-clock pandemonium—plus some art too.

Aside from the mother-ship fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, held at the labyrinth that is the Miami Beach Convention Center, there were also the annual iterations of Pulse, NADA, Art Miami, Untitled, Select, and SCOPE fairs, as well as other smaller, independent satellite exhibitions. The outdoor mecca to street art, Wynwood Walls also staged its yearly reinvention too. Visual amusement was doled out in spades, from the highbrow to low and joyfully, everything in-between—from mammoth collaborative murals to a ballet about the Internet to underwater sculptures to Miley Cyrus in pasties (thank you, Jeffery Deitch?). The world’s galleries offered up their best (and most Instagram-able) wares.

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Shepard Fairey & Cleon Peterson Wynwood Walls – Image courtesy of Cleon Peterson’s Instagram feed

“A couple of times I was standing there and I felt a strange rarified energy on the back of my neck,” says the Brooklyn-based hyper-realist painter, Dan Witz. “I turned around and some celebrity I didn’t recognize was sailing down the aisle accompanied by his or her own private camera crew. Apparently, this year’s top fashion accessory is the entourage equipped with multiple cameras, lights, and microphones.”

But, after the shock of sensory overload and the nausea from the zigzag shalom of row after row of art booths wore off, moments of authenticity and true community were detected. The good news: there is a healthy bastion of artists that are creating—that has been creating and will continue to create—exciting and challenging works, sans camera crews.

Our highlights:

Master calligrapher and designer Aerosyn-Lex Mestrovic unveiled his latest work at the SCOPE and VH1 Closing Gala. With Noesis, a large-scale multimedia installation, his signature ink-driven designs and mark makings festooned 150 feet of Japanese synthetic paper draped throughout the club Mansion. “I wanted to create a site-specific, immersive, and almost participatory work,” says the artist. “The work itself is a series of action paintings that are in a sense works of choreography, of movement. The paintings are the remnants of motions, of a dance almost.”

High on that art life, Swizz Beatz also collaborated with SCOPE on an exhibition he coined “The Dean Collection.” He handpicked dynamic works by Swoon, D*FACE, and Lyle Owerko for his first go around curating. Flat screen TVs hung near the pieces, with Swizz himself explaining why he’d chosen the particular works.

Repping NYC’s own Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Dan Witz also showed at SCOPE. His insanely realistic paintings from his Mosh Pit Study series are of a dizzying intensity. “Showing at Jonathan LeVine (with me) was Evol from Berlin,” says Witz. “ He’s always been one of my favorite artists. I found most of [the other artwork on view] to be satisfyingly provocative and original. The skill level—the craft and technique of the artists was actually astonishingly good—and even a bit intimidating.”

No doubt one of the most photographed booths at Art Basel Miami was that of British gallery Sadie Coles HQ. Courtesy of Urs Fischer’s whimsical installation, Small Rain, 1,080 bright green raindrops hung in suspended animation.

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Cleon Peterson – Image courtesy of Library Street Collective’s Instagram Feed

Detroit’s own Library Street Collective hosted a popup gallery in Wynwood Walls with a killer lineup of heavy-weight hitters who forged their skills in public spaces, including Vhils, Maya Hayuk, How & Nosm, Tristan Eaton, Swoon, and Hush. It was the first time that Goldman Properties, the driving force behind Wynwood Walls, has ever partnered with an outside gallery.

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Faith47 and Alexis Diaz Wynwood Wall – Image courtesy of Faith47 and Alexis Diaz

Many of those artists featured in LSC’s popup also took part in the annual reinvention of Wynwood Walls by creating large-scale collaborative murals. In pairs, artists melded their own divergent styles and created new works that celebrated the alliance of art and community. Cleon Peterson and Shephard Fairey, Faith47 and Alexis Diaz, DALeast and Cryptik, Pose and Revok, and Hass and Hahn all crushed walls with their joined synergies.

Pose Art Basel

POSE – Image courtesy of Library Street Collective’s Instagram Feed

“I’ve always loved Alexis attention to detail,” says Faith47 on her collab with Alexis Diaz, “as well as his ability to create fantastical creatures from otherworldly dimensions. The image [we created] is one I’ve had in my mind for some time, and Alexis’ creatures bring the woman into an archetypal landscape weighted with symbolism.”

The OGs of graff were out there too. Crash collaborated with Smash137 on a mural with a wallop of bright color for the L.I.S.A. Project NYC. “To work with someone as explosive as Smash,” says Crash, “I just sat back and did a drawing and just wanted to do something [that] could shift and move, so the collaborative process would work…He totally went freestyle, and when he made suggestions, I took them and applied…It was fun.”

ASSEMBLE//MIAMI played host to the premiere live art battle, Secret Walls. How does an epic 5-on-5 all-star Royal Rumble sound? No pencils. No stencils. No joke. Just illustrators like Greg Mike, London Police, Lamour Supreme, Elle, and Nychos going head-to-head for 90 minutes. Hell yes.

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Secret Walls – Image courtesy of Secret Walls Instagram feed

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