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South Beach Swagger

by Petra Mason / 07.12.2011

MIAMI, F-L-A: Maybe the brothers were rolling, but by the time millionaire artist Damien Hirst and rap mogul Sean P. Diddy Combs had moved onto dinner at the W hotel après’ the “Music Loves Art” set with Nas, Theopolis London, Mary J.Blige and Usher at the Ricochet Lounge, Mr. Ghetto Fabulous, decked out in black shades and form fitting leathers, started giving Mr. Hirst a neck and shoulder rub. There’s no doubt Damien needed to chill following his recent “vicious feud” with a British teenager over a box of pencils that the 17-year-old graffiti artist pilfered from Hirst’s iconic artwork Pharmacy, a sculpture that’s priced at £10m.

Art Basel Miami

Now they say it’s a well-known medical fact that the only difference between a straight guy and a gay guy is one more glass of Ruinart, the official champagne sponsor of Art Basel Miami Beach, but before you assume Diddy’s on the down-low, he was in fact in town to promote his new book Culo – a lavishly illustrated photographic monograph featuring nothing but ladies big bottoms. Now, that particular report may be lite on facts and full of fantasy, inspired in part, by a photo in the daily edition of the highbrow The Art Newspaper, but the Art Basel Miami Beach media center can confirm the following facts and figures for the official show alone, excluding the hundreds of satellite events in and around Miami Beach for the + – 5 days that is Art Basel Miami Beach and it’s massive.

This year, more than 260 leading galleries from 30 countries across North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa exhibited works by over 2000 artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The show attracted a record of 50 000 visitors, which included 150 museum and institution groups from across the world.

For those who don’t know, Art Basel Miami Beach is the hot daughter of the cool Swiss Art Basel. The annual event, now in it’s 10th edition, has elevated Miami, and Miami in turn has left it’s mark on Art Basel, bringing the Swiss Miss downtown and down to earth, adding some flavour to its vanilla. While, like Las Vegas, what happens in Miami
stays in Miami, renown and notorious collectors from the America’s, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa and emerging markets around the globe were back for more in 2011, and ABMB’s grown deep roots in the community. All year ‘round, in impoverished, forgotten industrial areas, mechanics continue to mingle with collectors, and art galleries can trace their birth to 10 years back. This permanent correction in the Wynwood neighbourhood, is, I guess, a bit like the transformation of Woodstock in Cape Town, but it’s less of a gentrification and more an act of participation. The masterminds behind it all include the man who transformed New York’s Soho in the 1970s and 1980s, and Philadelphia’s downtown and parts of Miami’s South Beach. Proof that a
member of the 1% can get 100% behind the 99%, developer Tony Goldman partnered with notorious New York art dealer and now Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Jeffrey Deitch to create the on-going Walls of Wynwood project. The Walls kicked off at ABMB in 2009 with 12-pieces by artists including Kenny Scharf, Shepard
Fairey, Futura and Aiko. This year, Wynwood’s urban park grew to 28 pieces, added to by artists from Mexico, Greece and the Ukraine. The street art scene now includes hundreds of upstarts including the “Art is my weapon” gang and the monthly Wynwood Art Walk and it’s accompanying street fair, that’s not unlike the District 6 Day in Cape Town about 12-years back, or Ralph ‘n Adam’s Ghetto 3000 Pickle Parties back in the day: all noise
and energy and a lot of swagger.

Art Basel Miami Beach

Art Basel Miami Beach

Art Basel Miami Beach

*Images © Petra Mason.

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