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A Few Fine Days in Miami: When the Fine Art World Comes to Town: Part One

The Miami fine art highlight of the year is over. And we at the Fine Art Ledger are still taking stock.

Arguably, the week of fairs represents the fine art event on US soil, bringing a remarkable mix of dealers, collectors, artists, party setters, the curious, and the general public to a few days of fine art frenzy in Miami, backing up traffic and generating its fair share of delight, excitement, high-prices and at least some misery to the locals trying to navigate the hordes, busy restaurants and logjam, beach-to-city.

We got in, admittedly a bit late, on the Wednesday. By then, the primary fair, Art Basel, had opened its private viewing and the tempo in the City was building, with the accompanying fairs, Pulse, Scope, Art Miami, Context and others gearing up. We headed for South Beach to the heart of the fairs, and checked into the Shelborne hotel, usually a welcomingly quieter space on Collins, just a few doors up from the louder SLS, with its sports car bedecked entrance and au courant crowd.

Known colloquially as 'Art Basel', the week in Miami actually consists of a number of fairs which have sprung up over the years, with the central, and most up-market being the sister fair of the original Art Basel, as in the Switzerland 'Basel', which found a home and huge popularity in Miami a few years ago.

Hosted in the Miami Convention Center, a short hop from Collins, we made it our first stop, naturally, as the linchpin fair.

To say that Art Basel, the fair itself, is both astounding and bewildering, is an understatement. As you enter the vast convention hall, the rows of galleries presenting, the quality, and not to mention prices of the art are breathtaking. It takes a degree of composure, skill and planning to navigate through the maze of stalls, take in the sheer feat of organization, planning and logistics of bringing this all together, and to focus in on the works, their detail and brilliance.

Take for example, Sarah Lucas's 'Jubilee' edition of steel and concrete boots, the center piece of Sadie Cole's booth. An astounding work all for its size and imposing statement, and, no less, the apparent ingenuity in transporting and installing the work at the fair. Or Leandro Erlich's 'Traffic Jam', an installation of beach sand moulded into a sand-traffic-jam replete with sand-crafted cars. A true kid magnet, presented by Gallery Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires, there was a moment when the 'do not touch' signs were definitely being ignored by a little art enthusiast who had found his sand-pit.

And that is the draw of the fair. On its public days, the throngs of visitors include all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and ages. Families with kids circle the booths, eyes-wide-open in apparent awe and I-can-do-that gawks in disbelief. It is an art and creativity education at its best, and wise are the parents who give their kids this introduction in a world where most are bored stiff at anything remotely cultural.

We did the rounds and enjoyed every minute of the fair. We ran into contacts and friends from opposite corners of the earth, and connected on artists and pieces, which we as collectors have bought and enjoyed over the years. We stopped in at Stevenson, the Cape Town gallery, to chat about Zanele Muholi, and spent a bit of time with Pace talking about Michal Rovner's beautiful and haunting Jackal installation, and Keith Haring's inverted pink triangular 'Silence=Death' piece brought in by Levy Gorvy at its booth E6. Not to mention Marilyn Minter's 'Red Flare/Thawed' enamel on metal, shown by Los Angeles's Regen Projects. Certainly highlights of the fair, for us at least.

But that is the beauty of the fair. Fine Art is what you like. Each person is drawn for his own reasons to his own attractions. No two people are alike, and no work of fine art is the same, or seen the same. Some may shock, offend, others delight and inspire. And that is what fine art does. It is a moment in time, immutably frozen reflection of humanity, inspiration, and creativity in an otherwise fleeting world.

And Art Basel brings that together in one dazzling display, with its both inspiring and, at the same time, exhausting visual, cultural and intellectual immersion.

Keep an eye on our Art Wire for further installments of this series as we share

our Miami 2018 experience.


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