Miami Art Basel : The Perfect Storm (PHOTOS)

Southbeach Florida. The site of Miami Basel 2015. Photo by EMS.

Basel 2015 kicks off its latest edition. Photo by EMS.

The 14th edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach was a perfect mix of rain, cool weather, and local flavor. This was my sophomore year in covering the annual arts mega fair in South Beach. Although the rain affected many Angelenos' hair-dos, red carpet dresses and Christian Louboutin stilettos, it was more of a typical week in Hawaii than a category 5 hurricane as social media led you to believe.

Collector Francois Odermatt. Photo by EMS.

A few nights it rained hard, drenching the evacuating party at the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), but those same nights tempered the partying on Ocean Drive where I stayed at the Congress a few nights, an answered prayer for someone who needed to sleep. Note to self: Do not stay on Ocean Drive next year if you're looking for a quiet night to sleep. 

Artist Larry Bell. Photo by EMS.

Luckily for me, I was introduced to some art world locals who invited me in their studios and drove me around the city. Eager to go to all the events, local clothing designer Glen Miller introduced me to local artists Carlos Betancourt and Macuria Montolanez. Miller had the perfect mix of energy and excitement that matched mine as an eager photojournalist. Miller gave me the history of Miami's art scene, the one not portrayed in Hollywood films. He also praised the annual zeitgeist of Basel and what it brings to the community and its role of something to look forward to at the end of the year, maybe even bigger than Christmas. 

Artist Lita Albuquerque. Photo by EMS.

Collectors Mera and Don Rubbell. Photo by EMS.

This years 2015 Art Basel presented 267 leading international galleries from 32 countries. The fair attracted an attendance of 77,000 over five days, including major private collectors as well as directors, curators,,  patrons of nearly 200 museum and institution groups. Collectors from over 110 countries attended the show, with first-time collectors coming from Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Romania, Togo and Zimbabwe. The show was spearheaded by Noah Horowitz, Art Basel's newly appointed Director Americas.

MOCA Director Phillipe Vergne and Dallas Price-Van Breda. Photo by EMS.

Sarah Gavlak. Photo by EMS.

Los Angeles dealers on the floor were Gavlak, who celebrated 10-years in the business with their brick and mortar in Palm Beach and new space in Hollywood. Others included Susanne Vielmetter, Regen Projects, Gemini GEL, Kohn Gallery, Blum & Poe, Maccarone, David Kordansky, and Francois Ghebaly. Other dealers I saw scouting the fair were Peter Goulds of LA Louver and Jennifer Kellen of Ace Gallery. Susanne Vielmetter said, "We usually do well at this fair, but this year, we had an exceptional experience and sold out the entire booth on the first day. Collectors are informed, thoughtful and very actively interested, so this has been a truly exhilarating experience for us."

Susanne Vielmetter. Photo by EMS.

Shaun Regen. Regen Projects. Photo by EMS.

Owner Jack Shainman of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, also said, "Not only is Art Basel in Miami Beach a wonderful fair, but it is an opportunity to connect with both new and old friends. We have had great success here. We are so pleased to show our artists this year across the fair, from our stand in the main halls, to Hank Willis Thomas in Public, to Carrie Mae Weems in Film."

Francois Ghebaly. Photo by EMS.

David Kordansky. Photo by EMS.

At one point I had a quaint conversation with David Kordansky who posed for a picture and flashed the shaka hand gesture, a hand sign notorious with surfers commonly known as "hang loose." Kordansky, far from laid back at this fair, more like a land shark, told me about his passion for surfing California beaches. Who would've thought? Art Basel lends itself to moments like this. If you play it cool, you, too, can learn things about these dealers who come to Miami to hustle hard and make the fair worth their while. Basel, unlike most of the sister fairs on the beach, never has a lull. The first two days of Basel are teaming with VIPs, collectors, and art world player's in shapes of curators, museum directors, advisers and facilitators. Then after those two days, when many have gone home, the masses come with children strollers and all. 

Gemini GEL. Photo by EMS.

LACMA Director Michael Govan. Photo by EMS.

Maggie Kayne of Kayne Griffin Corcoran. Photo by EMS.

Thaddaeus Ropac, Founder & Director, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris & Salzburg said, "It was surprising to see how Art Basel in Miami Beach, which already had in the previous years a top standard, could still increase its level by showing high quality art and attracting many new collectors from around the world. We are very happy that we could place all of the important works we brought, and were positively surprised by the connoisseurship of many visitors."

Peter Goulds of LA Louver. Photo by EMS.

Jennifer Kellen of Ace Gallery. Photo by EMS.

"We wish we had brought more work because we've sold 80 percent of the booth. We're really happy that sales have been across the board from historical to younger artists," said Andrea Rosen, President, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. Annette Kicken, Owner, Kicken Berlin, Berlin added, "We had an excellent fair, if not one of the best Art Basel in Miami Beach shows ever. We sold a number of high quality pieces. There was sales activity every day, not only at the opening, with a good mix of new contacts and returning collectors."

Blum & Poe. Photo by EMS.

Maccarone. Photo by EMS.

Overall, Basel 2015 served its patrons well, despite the intermix of nightly thunderstorms that dampened the hearts of the those who traveled to enjoy the warm waters and sun of South Beach. But then again, I wonder aloud, does anyone really travel to Miami Basel to enjoy its beaches, warm sun, and cocktails or is there so much art to see all over town that one is consumed by Uber drives and now, Uber Yacht. Its not the sand or the sunsets, wait...there's no sunset...but there are the posh events , the smell of spray paint in Wynwood, the city lights on Collins, the partying on Ocean Drive and the hospitality of the locals that makes the one week trip worth it. 

PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans. Photo by EMS.

Check out my photo set of Miami Basel 2015 and a short film I did.


This article is part of an ongoing photojournalism survey of art exhibition openings titled EMS N(art)rative. Through my lens I document a photographic essay or visual "N(art)rative" that captures the happenings, personalities, collectors, gallerists, artists and the art itself; all elements that form the richly varied and textured fabric of the SoCal art world. This reconnaissance offers a unique view for serious art world players to obtain news and information on the current pulse of what's in the now, yet capturing timeless indelible images for posterity and legacy. Here is EMS N(art)rative Thirty-Three.