At the beginning of the month Miami played host to the 13th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, infamously dubbed by the comedian Lenny Bruce as the place ‘neon goes to die’. The fair has become a magnet for the extremely wealthy and this year it expected to draw some 250 private jets during its five days, whilst at the luxury Mondrian South Beach Hotel the average price of a room went up by a staggering $1,150. Art Basel Miami Beach is, after all, an incredibly profitable week, with an estimated $500 million economic impact on the city and with attendance up by 150% between 2002 and 2014, this figure is only going to keep rising.
That said, according to co-founder Rachel Lehmann this year the fair aimed to be more ‘exhibition-like’, a clear sign of awareness of criticism of the fair’s more vacuous elements. For the 13th edition of the fair 267 galleries from across the world attended, only 3 of which were from Florida, and half of which had exhibition space in the Americas.
As always the fair featured a huge range of artistic ability from the very good, to the bad and the exceptionally ugly. The great revelation of Miley Cyrus’s art predictably created a social media storm. The art, which she describes as ‘a bunch of shit [glued] to a bunch of shit’ and resembles some kind of west coast glitter bomb, was as terrible as you would expect, but tellingly didn’t look totally out of place and uniwittingly raised some serious questions about the validity of the likes of Mike Kelley.
The true winners were the Latin Americans. As always, the fair showed a strong and persistent interest in art from South and Central America, with many high quality works for sale from the region. The fair’s geographic positioning has always worked to its advantage in this regard and this year dealers noted a rise in attendance from Latin American collectors. Works by the likes of Jose Davila, Enrique Martínez and Beatriz Milhazes featured in prominent galleries and sold for high prices. Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão’s Polvo Portraits IV (Seascape Series) reportedly sold for $400,000 and Teresita Fernández’s Golden (Obsidian Double) went for between $250-300,000.
It is unclear just how much money was made in total, but last year’s edition saw over $100 million dollars’ worth of sales, which gives us an idea of the vast quantity of money this year’s fair will have generated. Attendance this year seemed to be down fractionally from last year, but the fair’s all important media presence appeared greater than ever.