Art Basel— Epicenter Of Culture, Class

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By: Diane Feen Contributing Writer

Art Basel has evolved from an intimate understated art show to a global art extravaganza in Miami Beach. What started out as a showcase for paintings and sculptures (that cost more than your parents first house) has become the biggest swirl of color and commotion in the country.

It brings celebrities out of their manicured mansions and pairs them with captivating artists that usually have more in common with their housekeepers. Perhaps not.

Not only has Art Basel become the moniker of elegance and art, but it has spread its wings from the Miami Beach Convention Center to all areas of Miami. If you don’t like to drive or find that crowds of people that look like they eat elegance for breakfast annoy you, then this year you were in luck.

The reason is that The Cornell Museum in Old School Square got bit by the Basel bug too. Their exhibit: “Beyond Art Basel” took place the same night as Art Basel in Miami. The Cornell paid tribute to this art mania by hosting an opening party with live performance art, cocktails and artist meet and greets.

The Basel torch went ablaze all month by showcasing the colorful yet profound artwork of Delray artist (and provocateur) Dana Donaty. Her work is known for its outer-worldly existence and ethereal characters that dance with delight across a panorama of pandemonium.

The interesting thing about art from a global Basel perspective is that it has become a social – political statement in neon. Last year we saw designer AK47 rifles decorated in Dior casings and explosives in plexiglass. This year the highlights included a large mix-media portrait of a woman holding a broom made of cigarettes. The matching cigarette figures sold immediately for the low price of $325,000 (by Sarah Lucas).

Another memorable moment at the Convention Center was reading a large mirrored stainless-steel picture with catchy phrases in metal chain. You couldn’t help but wonder how this artist (Xu Zhen) sleeps at night. Sayings like “Does This Outfit Make My Concealed Weapon Look Big?” and “And the Axe Murderer Lived Happily Ever After,” gave us a chuckle, but also a look into the inner-mind traversing popular culture.

Art Basel is also a people watching parade of rarified existence. The clothing, the style, the swagger and the pedigree are as artful as the canvases and stationary sculptures. The clothing was dazzling, and the finesse of art patrons and gawkers flew by in eloquent waves. NetJets had a private dining area in the Collectors Lounge where only clients could dine.

Words made art even more intimate with canvases painted with sayings like: “Tonight We Make History – p.s. I can’t be there.” To offset this irreverent humor a tiny penguin stood at the bottom of Harland Miller’s word-scape. Artist Sam Durant took an electric sign and added vinyl words that read: “We are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For” in primary colors.

Graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s primitive artwork was everywhere in its raw color and form, but with a price tag of $3.2 million it was not on many wish lists. There were also galleries and artists from Delray and Boca at shows with names like Red Dot, Context, Scope, Spectrum, Pulse and dozens of others nearby.

Nuria Carrasco Dominguez, owner of konzeptARTS gallery in Boca Raton brought mix-media artwork by Delray resident Deborah Rader to the Red Dot show. Rader’s paintings and sculptures come in a myriad of forms and colors with an elevated eclecticism. Delray resident Rebekah Leah also showed her work at Red Dot. Her circular mix-media piece in abstract shades of pink, white and gray was intriguing and emotionally charged. Leah also makes fine jewelry that is more art than accessory.

The talent and the fury of passion runs high and wide at Art Basel, whether people watching or art gazing. Twin skinhead ladies Eva and Adele were there for the 17th year in a row dressed in a swath of pearls and ruffles. They have been described as, “surrealist pantomime dames” and are considered walking art as well as artists.

When you see Eva & Adele you know you are in the rarified world of possibilities. Because the numbers don’t add up and the view is spectacular whether you stand on your head or look up at the wall. If you’re at Art Basel, the world is your oyster and the visual panorama is as colorful and creative as mankind would allow.