“It’s the best game you can play in the world,” said Jonathan Meese, the sculptor whose show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami was one of the hits of the huge Art Basel Miami Beach week. Mr. Meese, talking to me about art, added, “I believe in the total power of art, and I think it will one day rule the world.”
It says a lot about this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach extravaganza that my double espressos with him were one of the more sober moments of my stay. This global art shopping mall grew particularly unwieldy this year, more frantic, more packed with parties and less about art than ever.
Pawel Althamer is one of the best younger sculptors anywhere. But the booth was sold out by the time I could drag my own alcohol- and nicotine-saturated corpse over there.
The artist himself has little use for art fairs (there were about 20 of them in Miami last week). “They are nothing for an artist; they’re only for dealers and buyers,” he said. But he spoke passionately about art itself. “It is a ticket to another world, which is better than all the worlds we know. If you have a collection which is precise, sharp and radical, then you show that you have vision. People need to understand that this, art, can make you happy.”
And last week, art made a whole lot of people happy.
The art world often gets accused, unfairly, of being just one big party, but it sure looked like one in Miami. I know they don’t come for the art, because over half the people I bumped into wouldn’t know a Picasso from a Dana Schutz, and don’t care to. The foot-high pile of invitations and Evites on my desk is what they’re into, and if they want to get away from the cold and booze it up for free, I suppose I shouldn’t blame them. Miami is, after all, a great party town.
It used to frustrate me that so many of these revelers were not remotely interested in collecting, but this year, I decided to go with the flow. I went light on the art, and really focused on the dinners, cocktails and a thousand air kisses, the stuff that Art Basel Miami Beach does better than anywhere. People kept asking me if I saw “the main fair,” the Asian art fair, telling me that they loved the NADA fair, as well as the revamped design fair. Come on, I’m seriously hung over, overstimulated and overfed–you can’t expect me to keep up with all that, I told my editor. It’s just not fair! I wanted to shmooze and be shmoozed.
Though I did catch a glimpse of a few superb Cy Twomblys (priced up to $12 million at Acquavella Gallery) and John Chamberlains at the fair entrance, and I regret that I arrived too late to buy one of the 10 fantastic new Pawel Althamer corpse sculptures (about 70,000 euros each) at the Neugerriemschneider booth. There is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the best younger sculptors anywhere. But the booth was sold out by the time I could drag my own alcohol- and nicotine-saturated corpse over there.