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Miami Art Fair Report: Reveling in Excess at Art Basel

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It seems the entire Commes-des-Garcons-clad art industry has parachuted into Miami for the art fairs and their squajillion related events—a debauched week of drinking, ogling art, more drinking, and trying desperately to get on the list for the swanky Miami Beach parties, the ones with supermodels. (I've spent my evenings at a local dive, listening to the Gypsy Kings sing "Hotel California" and drinking $5 gins.)

Earlier this week, in between my champagne breakfasts at the convention center and the free Shake Shack burgers at the Art of Basketball show in the arts district, I managed to spend some quality time ogling the wares at Art Basel Miami Beach, the mack daddy of Miami's art fairs. As in years past, the show is big (250 galleries featuring work by more than 2000 artists), occupying the entire Miami Beach Convention Center, as well as numerous sites beyond it.

But this year the show was big in another way, too. After a couple of years spent showcasing more demure works in deference to the weak economy (as in: easier to transport and sell), the fair is back to its usual Fall-of-Rome splendor, with giant sculptures and large installations and one totally over-the-top booth designed by Zaha Hadid. (Which makes me wonder if one day there will be something like the airplane graveyard in Arizona for massive installation art that is no longer considered hot.)

Herewith, a little taste of what I saw at Art Basel. The fair runs through Dec. 5, in Miami Beach.

"I think we need more wallpaper." Many Art Basel booths try to grab the viewer's eye with over-the-top displays. Above, the Praz-Delavallade Gallery from Paris does just that.
"I think we need more wallpaper." Many Art Basel booths try to grab the viewer's eye with over-the-top displays. Above, the Praz-Delavallade Gallery from Paris does just that. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
NYC's Tony Shafrazi gallery had the camp on high. Dennis Hopper's 'Self-Portrait with Rock and Cactus.'
NYC's Tony Shafrazi gallery had the camp on high. Dennis Hopper's 'Self-Portrait with Rock and Cactus.' ( Carolina A. Miranda )
More from Shafrazi: In this picture, a piece by Robert Williams. It got crazier. There was a sculpture that consisted of a goat with a diamond coming out of its behind. I will spare you the visuals.
More from Shafrazi: In this picture, a piece by Robert Williams. It got crazier. There was a sculpture that consisted of a goat with a diamond coming out of its behind. I will spare you the visuals. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Steven Claydon's intriguing bell piece at London's Hotel Gallery booth: The battant was made out of a microphone, which picked up ambient audio and channeled it to an amp, creating an echoed hum.
Steven Claydon's intriguing bell piece at London's Hotel Gallery booth: The battant was made out of a microphone, which picked up ambient audio and channeled it to an amp, creating an echoed hum. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Call me crazy, but I think this Roy Lichtenstein cheese door is all kinds of cool - spotted at Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, an NYC gallery.
Call me crazy, but I think this Roy Lichtenstein cheese door is all kinds of cool - spotted at Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, an NYC gallery. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
An Anish Kapoor sculpture blows through.
An Anish Kapoor sculpture blows through. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Art Basel has more sparkle than a tweenage girl's bedroom. Above, Jim Lambie's "Bhangra Remix," a piece from 2010, at the Anton Kern Gallery space.
Art Basel has more sparkle than a tweenage girl's bedroom. Above, Jim Lambie's "Bhangra Remix," a piece from 2010, at the Anton Kern Gallery space. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
It's an art fair, which means somebody's gotta be selling a piece by Julian Opie.
It's an art fair, which means somebody's gotta be selling a piece by Julian Opie. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Probably the freakiest thing about Art Basel is the moment when they bring the food out during the media preview. It was survival of the fittest around the shrimp cocktail.
Probably the freakiest thing about Art Basel is the moment when they bring the food out during the media preview. It was survival of the fittest around the shrimp cocktail. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Using broom handles found in Mexico City, artist Thomas Glassford (with the Sicardi Gallery, in Houston) created a color field abstraction. A powerful use of a simple material.
Using broom handles found in Mexico City, artist Thomas Glassford (with the Sicardi Gallery, in Houston) created a color field abstraction. A powerful use of a simple material. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
NYC's James Cohan Gallery let artist Trenton Doyle Hancock redo their booth's floor.
NYC's James Cohan Gallery let artist Trenton Doyle Hancock redo their booth's floor. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
An explosion of rippled flippers. 'Patas de Ranas Negras,' an installation by the Cuban duo Los Carpinteros, at NYC's Sean Kelly Gallery.
An explosion of rippled flippers. 'Patas de Ranas Negras,' an installation by the Cuban duo Los Carpinteros, at NYC's Sean Kelly Gallery. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
The economic crisis had tempered the type of installations seen at Art Basel. But this year, bigger installations made a comeback. Above, a massive carved wood sculpture by Sudarshan Shetty.
The economic crisis had tempered the type of installations seen at Art Basel. But this year, bigger installations made a comeback. Above, a massive carved wood sculpture by Sudarshan Shetty. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Tibi Tibi Neuspiel's Charlie Rose-interviewing-Martin Amis sweats, at Art Metropole. I want to see a version from the episode where Charlie flirts with architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable.
Tibi Tibi Neuspiel's Charlie Rose-interviewing-Martin Amis sweats, at Art Metropole. I want to see a version from the episode where Charlie flirts with architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
The book stores at Art Basel are the best part of the whole darn show (and you can get into them for free). Above: An art book by LA artist Paul McCarthy, sold in a faux vintage Tide box.
The book stores at Art Basel are the best part of the whole darn show (and you can get into them for free). Above: An art book by LA artist Paul McCarthy, sold in a faux vintage Tide box. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
"It'll look great over your Italian sofa." Berlin's Neuger-Riemschneider wins my unofficial award for Most Bling.
"It'll look great over your Italian sofa." Berlin's Neuger-Riemschneider wins my unofficial award for Most Bling. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
An installation of books about dictators by Luis Molina Pantu at the Venezuelan gallery Fabría Fábregas. There was something engrossing about seeing such monstrous lives reduced to such banality.
An installation of books about dictators by Luis Molina Pantu at the Venezuelan gallery Fabría Fábregas. There was something engrossing about seeing such monstrous lives reduced to such banality. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
At NYC's Lombard Fried: Carpeted skateboards by Mounir Fatmi.
At NYC's Lombard Fried: Carpeted skateboards by Mounir Fatmi. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
A wood sculpture by Leonardo Drew, titled 'Number 143.'
A wood sculpture by Leonardo Drew, titled 'Number 143.' ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Outside the Convention Center: This white egret wandered around the sidewalk, wondering what the heck all the humans did with his mangroves.
Outside the Convention Center: This white egret wandered around the sidewalk, wondering what the heck all the humans did with his mangroves. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
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