On Tuesday morning, Dan Yellow, the Mayor of Miami Beach, exited City Hall and walked the half-block lined by botanical gardens to the city’s convention center, flanked by a small group of employees. A press conference was about to begin, and Gelber took a seat on the stage alongside the people who run the Swiss-based global mega-fair empire Art Basel. Gelber wore his baggy tie and big pants, a far cry from South Beach’s Speedos, and the crowd included several Swiss politicians, journalists from Asia and South America, billionaire art collectors who live in the city, and at least five armed police officers.
When his life led him to this press conference, Gelber had already been associated with Basel for 25 years – his in the late 1990s Father was Mayor of Miami Beach, and the forces worked together to bring the first-ever expansion of Art Basel to America. director Lorenzo Rudolph had turned a regional fair in the Rhineland into a world power with a waiting list of almost a thousand galleries. After partnering with UBS, Rudolf was thirsty for an expansion into America. Its communications director, sam keller, found that some of the fair’s most energetic collectors were clamoring for Miami. Miamians weren’t sure why.
“When Sam Keller came to Miami, he came to our house for dinner and said they were thinking about coming to Miami — not New York, not Los Angeles, but Miami,” said Rosa de la Cruz, the longtime Miami mega collector while he’s at a panel.
“Miami was really going downhill in the ’80s, and South Beach turned into a party town in the ’90s, which got me excited,” said the collector and real estate developer Craig Robins.
“We’ve gone through ours MiamiVice Phase that we really don’t want to remember that much,” said Gelber, who lived in DC when his father was mayor and worked as a federal prosecutor.
Still, there were advocates. The Mega Dealer Jeffrey Deitch, perhaps the biggest buyer at the Basel fair, came down to visit his customers Norman and Irma Bramann and was captured by South Beach’s art deco architecture with historic buildings ripe for reinvention. Deitch connected Norman to Rudolf and Keller, who then invited a delegation from the magical city to the beautiful Swiss town to see their decades-old funfair in a centuries-old town, and they still weren’t convinced.
But Miami advocates persisted, and eventually Art Basel Miami Beach first opened its doors in 2002. The fair brings in an estimated $500 million to the region each year, with the week of the fair becoming a bonanza of visitors Happenings– Museum galas, galleries pop up, fashion shows, boutique openings, brand activations, NFT nonsense, film premieres, high profile concerts and DJ performances, a Saint Laurent gallery pop up on the beach Stephen Meisel‘s photos of Madonna for her book sex– not found anywhere in the American cultural calendar.
That’s been the story for at least the last decade or so. But a renewed (and somewhat abrupt) changing of the guard at the top of the Basel leadership, coupled with the new vision of the media shoot james murdoch, which acquired the largest stake in the exhibition group’s parent company, the MCH Group, in 2020 means that the 20th anniversary edition for the exhibition comes at a time of upheaval. Both the outgoing Global Director, Marc Spiegler, and the new global CEO, Noah Horowitz, were on stage on Tuesday, sitting next to each other as if a baton was being passed between them. Many in the grand ballroom of the convention center were waiting for a spark of drama, much like the shock news of Spiegler’s departure a month earlier.
For those ready to pounce on Basel, Spiegler reminded them of the initial doubts surrounding Miami 20 years ago and even covertly shot at rival Frieze, which operates its US trade shows in the country’s two largest cities.
“Rarely have so many people been so wrong – because this show established itself as the most important fair in the most important art market in the world the moment it opened,” said Spiegler, staring at those present at the press conference from the podium. “And Art Basel in Miami Beach has held that position for 20 years, truly unchallenged, despite challenges from New York and Los Angeles.”
It should be said, while we should have gotten used to it by now, that even in 2022 the sheer amount of personal wealth on display in Miami during Basel is staggering. Hundreds of private jets are chartered to South Florida each year, arriving a day early to busily peruse dozens of private museums and collections, gallery exhibits, and mega-dealer pop-ups. The de la Cruz family opened their Key Biscayne mansion to invited guests on Monday morning, and more spoken Spanish than English wafted through the oceanfront mansion as women in extravagant high heels walked past a room-sized building Ugo Rondinone Installation and painting by Sigmar Polke and Albert Ohlen.
To the Rubell Museum, the massive Allapatah space run by the mega collectors Put on and Mera Rubell, which houses the collection they have built up over 50 years – gigantic works by Sterling Ruby and Keith Haring and a room full of Pictures Generation masterpieces. Then to the offices of DACRA, the real estate company founded by Craig Robins, who is in charge of the Design District. He offered champagne and caviar for hours while those on the list – hello, Jorge Perez! – marveled at the artworks alongside which his employees were allowed to hack out emails: honestly Jenny Saville Paintings by Multilove in bed, a suite of Marlene Dumas Paintings that competed with everything François Pinault‘s museum exhibition of the artist in Venice and Urs Fischer‘s larger than life wax statue of Julian Schnabel, shall be set on fire and melted down.
Speaking of beak, his son Vito was downstairs in the Buick building admiring a painting by Jamian Juliano Villani at 100 years a joint show by Deitch and Larry Gagosian. A few blocks away at the ICA Miami was the first Stateside Museum Show for Michael Majerus, swarmed with advisors representing the lenders on the show. And then White Cube took over the private beach offered to members of the Soho Beach House and erected a giant white tent for actors like actors Eric Andre, Singer joe jones, and collectors Sandretto and Agostino Re Rebaudengo could eat grilled lobster while listening to the legendary Roy Ayer breathe elegant melodies on the vibraphone.
And the fair wasn’t even open yet. As guests woke Tuesday, many rolled through their lobbies to see the artwork being installed at various Miami Beach hotels as part of No Vacancy, which will award a $10,000 prize to one of the featured artists. One such hotel is the Loews, the favorite local inn of many art dealers — the place is so lousy with gallery people it was like a niche reality show waiting to happen. Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong At a table sat the director of the Bard’s Hessel Museum of Art Tom Eccles at another, surrounded by dealers from David Zwirner, Skarstedt, Pace, Karma, Hauser & Wirth. The French retailer Slash TV star Camel Mennour was at a table, and New York Marianne Bosky was with another, and Sean Kelly was with someone else. (Gagosian stays at the chic 1 Hotel, but sources said he booked a double suite this year and then decided not to come.)
https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2022/12/art-basel-miami-twentieth-anniversary-future Art Basel Miami Beach: What does the future hold for the loudest week in American art?