Whitehot Magazine

December 2010, Joe Heaps at Art Basel Miami Beach

The main thing about it is, nobody sleeps. Everybody loves to complain about it, but I must admit I love it like a rat loves cheese. Of course I am speaking of the first week in December, when Miami is inundated by the annual migration of thousands of artists, dealers, collectors, and assorted lunatics from around the world. People come to party, but it's tough, because Miami isn't really much of a party town. Just kidding! Waiting in line for gift bags, making googly eyes while blowing air kisses, and looking at art and one another are favorite pastimes of the international art crowd during the day. Night is all about running from party to party while trying to not lose your drugs and VIP passes, and, of course, waiting in line some more. Acting important and pretending to know more than everybody else are also popular activities. All of these things are cliches, I realize, but only because they are true. But, somehow, it's still great!

When Noah Becker asked me to go, I hesitated. After all, there isn't any Whitehot party this year. But when he begged me to run around shooting photographs, and promised me an unlimited expense account, I shrugged and said, "OK." If you don't already know, Art Basel Miami Beach is the big attraction, with 250 galleries under one roof. It's crowded, expensive, and confusing. Somehow, bringing the world's fanciest galleries together has a neutralizing effect. Maybe it's because most of the 250 galleries are showing work by the same 25 artists. I kid, I kid! But I did hear that George Condo had work at 6 booths at Basel. After a very little while, your eyes glaze and you can't see the art any more - it begins to look like plain old money. The whole town is also blighted by fake art events, art of Hello Kitty, Romero Britto, and the like. Fortunately, over the years numerous satellite fairs have sprung up around town. Since it's impossible to see everything in the few days it's up, part of the fun is deciding which fairs to skip.

What was missing this year? First of all there was no Deitch Projects booth at Basel. I suppose here I should insert the fact that everybody already knows, Jeffrey Deitch closed his gallery this year and moved to L.A. to run the LA MoCA. Say what you will about Deitch, he really did bring the fun. Also missing were some of the satellite fairs, but nobody can remember which ones, obviously because they were the ones that nobody went to. It just seems like there used to be 20 or so, and now it's more like 13 or 14.

What was new and exciting this year was Seven. It was just down the road from Fountain. Seven galleries that everybody likes (PPOW, Winkleman, Bravin Lee, Postmasters, Pierogi, Feldman, and London's Hales) went in on a big warehouse space. The quality of the work was outstanding and the vibe was very cool. I especially liked a giant wall hung salon-style with work from all the galleries jumbled together. The bar was very small. Everybody I spoke to thought it was great and maybe others will try and emulate it. And don't forget the Miami galleries! Sure there's a lot of dumb, cheezy crap, I mean it is Miami after all. But some of the galleries are worth checking out, and they make an effort to put on their best shows while the international collectors are in town. Bernice Steinbaum is #1, and there are other good ones. Gallery Diet and Locust Projects come to mind, and that's without even looking at the Google!
Maybe it's because I spent almost all of my time in Wynwood this year, and it came as a surprise to me, but I think the popularity and strength of street art is the real story. Trends in the art world are really stupid in my opinion. I mean a few years ago everybody was drawing deer, then it was skulls, then Chinese Art got hot, and street art has been hot for a long time. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about the art market, I mean street art as a social force. Wynwood was just absolutely crawling with street artists getting up on all the walls, and fans trying to chase Barry McGee. It was fun! Last year, developer Tony Goldman (in cahoots with Deitch) opened up the Wynwood Walls, a mural project designed to make the neglected industrial/warehouse neighborhood of Wynwood a hot commodity. It appears to be working. Think about it. A big real estate developer actually encouraging street art, in order to increase property values. Guiliani just choked on a bagel. It's so crazy, it just might work!

Scope was good, Pulse was good, Seven was great, props to Fountain, didn't make it to NADA, didn't make it to the "secret" Deitch party at the Raleigh, but I heard from Paulie the Instigator that frustrated fans without credentials bumrushed the back wall from the beach to see LCD Soundsystem perform, made it to Jonathan LeVine's opening, went to the Scope party but I don't remember it, didn't make it to Spencer Tunick's book signing (Sorry!), rode a bike around and checked out dozens of murals, got to hang out with Shepard Fairey at the fabulous Retna show, saw a lot of art and friends and had a great time.

On the way back, the TSA searched all my bags because I of course I was traveling with expired ID, and everybody knows that's what terrorists do. So I showed the woman my Art Basel press pass, and she said, "Oh, Art Basel! A lot of partying!" I said, "It's all part of the job, ma'am."

Now I gotta wrap this up because I just flew in from Miami, and boy are my arms tired! Hope you enjoy the pictures.

  Olek, in front of Art Basel Miami Beach  
 Shepard Fairey and Heaps

   The Wall of Fame

 Art Basel Miami Beach.

 Alice Neel @ ABM

 Retna, at Primary Flight

 The weather was appropriately gorgeous. 

 Rhinoplasty, by Enrique Gomez de Molina, Spinello Gallery, at Scope.

 With Anne Kim, from the Anonymous Gallery, in front of Erik Foss’s Vintage Porn Alphabet, at Scope.

  Jennifer Rubell at her porridge themed installation.

 Hiroshi Shafer, getting ready to do something.

 I encountered Jeremy Dean’s CEO Stagecoach on N.W. 2nd Avenue.

 Hung Liu, at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery

   Aaron Zimmerman, George Boorujy, and Heaps at Seven.

 Robin Williams, now showing with PPOW, at Seven.

 Ryan McGinness mural at Wynwood Walls

 Jonathan LeVine on a fly ride

 Chicks dig Caveman Robot

 My friend Pearl Albino, in Miami with Torch Gallery, Amsterdam. Painting by Terry Rodgers, photographed by Mo Van Der Have.

  El Mac, in the back room at Primary Flight

  Apex and his crew getting epic on 24th Street  

Joe Heaps Nelson

Joe Heaps Nelson is an artist and writer in New York City.

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