Over 260 galleries took part in the utopian colony that was the 10th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach. Everyone showed up, no one said the R word or seemed concerned about the global economy, and there was so much to do no one was left out. Even Eigen+Art’s Judy Lybke, controversially left out of the Swiss edition, was there, telling me during the opening about a legendary party a few years ago where, apparently, Sofia Coppola launched a new Taschen book while wading in a swimming pool with Benedikt Taschen. “That was some years ago, but I heard Coppola might be throwing a party again this year,” Lybke noted.
Coppola wasn’t, but walking up Collins Avenue on Tuesday evening, I passed plenty of other shiny happy faces—among them Damien Hirst, on his way to Jay Jopling’s dinner at the Soho Beach House. After hand-rolled habanos at the W Hotel, site of this year’s opening party, the art mob made its way to the opening of Mark Handforth’s solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. Some would move on to celebrate Dior’s collaboration with Anselm Ryle (after his market bust, once again a fashionable artist, literally and in the booth of Contemporary Fine Arts) on a new line of fashion accessories. There, Larry Gagosian chatted with Wendi Murdoch and Almine Rech with Delphine Arnault, the 36-year-old vice president of Dior. Business was, as they say, as usual.
Life’s a beach, and so were some of the canvases by Eric Fischl, a bargain at $1.2 million a piece in Mary Boone’s booth. Boone’s walls were painted with a site-specific installation by Barbara Kruger called Money, Money, Money. “We are even selling the walls!” Ron Warren, partner at Boone, exclaimed, adding that both Ai Weiwei works they brought sold out by the opening.
Berlin’s neugerriemschneider wasn’t so lucky, with its edition of Ai’s Table With Legs on the Wall (2010) still available on the second day for roughly $400,000. “Two years ago, I was selling these kind of tables by Ai Weiwei for under $150,000,” Christoph Mao of non-participant Chambers Fine Art (New York and Beijing) told me. Mexican gallery Kurimanzutto was showing Damian Ortega’s installation Sistema de Clasificación (2011) for $110,000. A note of dissonance: Ortega’s other gallery, White Cube, was less happy with first-day sales. “This year’s edition just doesn’t have the same energy as the last years,” the gallery’s Graham Steele told A.i.A.
Iwan Wirth suppressed the unorthodox line: “That there is less energy this year is simply not true, at least not for us,” he said. Hauser+Wirth sold an entire edition of three Paul McCarthy sculptures, White Snow Dwarf (Bashful), 2010, for just under $1 million each. Cologne’s Daniel Buchholz was quiet but positive, citing a reserve on Tony Conrad’s large-scale Yellow Movie (1970), $150,000. So was Max Hetzler from Berlin, who sold Mona Hatoum’s Paravent (2008) to a South American private collection on the second day. He explained that the pace is leisurely in Miami, “One is not overcome with a flood of collectors on the first day,” he said. “It’s not like [in Basel], where you have to close sales on the first day.”
The quality of solo presentations was noteworthy. Highlights included Yvon Lambert’s solo presentation of Mexican Carlos Amorales, Helga de Alvear’s installation of Elmgreen and Dragset’s 2011 sauna Amigos, and a nicely installed Hans-Peter Feldmann at Barcelona’s ProjecteSD. Brussels dealer Xavier Hufkens didn’t bring out his big guns like Sterling Ruby, instead banking on younger artists such as Evan Holloway to roll in the booth’s rent, which can cost up to $30,000. And the future of Art Basel is assured.