Miami (P)Art(y) Basel
What would you call an event if you took 60,000 A-Type personalities, threw them in a city that is 80 degrees in December, put $3B dollars of art on the wall for sale, got every known (and unknown) corporate sponsor to throw massive parties that everyone wants to get into, and terrible traffic – all spread over 18 different fairs and god-knows-how-many galleries. Well, you’d call it Miami Art Basel.
Like a giant squid, Art Basel extends its inky tentacles of commercialism and throbbing trendiness over 6 days into what seems the wonderful madness of everything that is happening NOW - not just in the Art world, but also in Furniture, Cooking, Fashion, Architecture and any other lifestyle industry that isn’t bolted down. It’s a melting pot of contemporary culture, a seething cauldron of unabashed capitalism that, to the outside world, seems self-important, but to me was highly amusing and, most of the time, great.
I had a chance to see friends like artist Damien Hirst, whom I’ve known for 15 years, and who remains to be one the most dynamic and brilliant artists alive, and paid handsomely for it. Jay Jopling was there, the Prime Minister of the London art scene and the host of the hottest ticket in town with his White Cube party. I also had a chance to meet and give a “Because He Can” pocket square to artist Marina Abramović, who I think is truly a superstar and one of the most creative performance and visual artists around. I chatted with Richard Meier the architect and showed him my “Mad-for-Dots” 3D Printed bracelet which he was fascinated with, and to whom I am sending one as as a long overdue Christmas present. Then there was Steven Tyler from Aerosmith in-line at the Dom Perignon/Jeff Koons party looking confused about the cryptic procedure of getting inside, finally passing the black draped PR girls hunched over their glowing iPads, looking up the names of the chosen few. And then of course there was Kanye West, who I didn’t see but I’m sure he was there; he is as culturally pervasive as stomach flu at an elementary school.
Of course, not be outdone, I had to throw my hat (or 4 Santa Hats to be exact) in the ring of the marketing cacophony. After being denied by the City of Miami a permit to launch a human cannonball flying 70 MPH over the White Cube party, I opted to bring in 4 of my Polka Dot Santas, who are part of a Christmas promotion for my new Mens collection. Like some Dadaist Icelandic joke, they roamed around Miami in a 1965 Camaro convertible, stopping traffic wherever they went, and eventually ending up running into a pack of strippers on bicycles promoting a strip club in gold lame bikinis. The Santas were more than happy to have them sit on their lap, and like a proud father, I smiled and took in the moment of co-branding where marketing initiatives collide and, in the words of David Blaine, magic is made.
And what about the “Art?” Well, there was a lot of it, some good, some not so good. Nothing in particular stood out, but then again Miami Art Basel and all its satellites are the “Art”. The paintings and sculptures merely serve as the backdrop for the global culture of jet-setting Russian Oligarchs, French industrialists, New York hedge-fund masters of the universe, and Kim Kardashian look-alikes that roam the world for the next big thing.
Miami Art Basel is like Burning Man with corporate sponsors. Having been to both, the difference between Burning Man and Miami Art Basel is that even though both freely promote creativity, Burning Man shuns the commercialization of it. Miami embraces it like caviar clinging to a cracker, or a Louis Vuitton purse hanging remora-like off the arm of a tall beauty, wearing heels as high as the jet stream of the private plane that got her there.
All in all I enjoyed it, and when I go back next year, I’ll be sure to bring a human cannonball to stir things up. And yes I’ll invite the Santas back, because I’m sure the strippers will have missed them.