Rain, Rain, And More Rain.
The Sunshine State has not been kind to us for the entire week we spent in Miami for the huge Art Basel event. The art fair itself is only four days of orgy-like art immersion, but the two days leading-to and away-from were as important as the essential Convention Center main stage.
Imagine 300 art galleries from over the world showing their best stuff in one single spot -- a true dream for art lovers. Instead of criss-crossing the planet, one can see and buy mind-boggling offerings in one swooning spot. This is unbeatable.
Usually in December in Miami, it's sunny and warm. This year, for the first time in the past 14 years I have been going to the fair, it was raining and muggy. I mean really raining, everyday and every night, all the time. A premiere of sort. It made the scene miserable for all.
Walking the streets with raincoat, umbrellas, waterproof shoes and bags is no fun. Forget the usual white linens and stilettos, the Panama hats, the fashionable assortment of designer clothes and Louboutin shoes. If not prepared, all had to go shopping this year, as no sidewalk and no venue were dry.
Despite the strange weather -- after all, the normally sunny disposition of the city is one of the reasons it was chosen as a destination 15 years ago by the mother ship Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Where can we have a winter fair accessible to all, with perfect weather and joyous cafés, chic nightclubs and amazing scenery, but in Miami?
An Uber Disaster.
Well, this year, it disappointed. A disaster of massive proportion. Not that we wanted to make it a beach trip (we did), but at least we thought it was going to be pleasant. The traffic in the water-clogged city was another story. With one main causeway closed, and several vital arteries under construction, the place was a mess.
With the Design Miami fair taking over half the parking lot space of the convention center, the reduced available spots to park forced people to use off-site parking lots, where they then had to walk in the rain to get to the fair. One good thing this year was the free shuttles the City of Miami had put in place to help ferrying visitors through the Design District and onto the main fair center.
But they could not stop the water falling from the mighty skies.
Uber was facing another disaster when hundreds of customers called for cars and the drivers had no way of finding their clients amid the sea of waiting callers outside the convention center. And the clients had no way either to tell which car was their Uber! A mess... I tell you.
So the attendance inside the fair was abundant as people decided to spend the day there instead of having to face the rain again. In the middle of all that, on Alton Road, a main street on Miami Beach, police officers shot an alleged bank robber in the middle of the road, creating more confusion, and even more traffic.
Wait - I Have Not Even Talked About The Art Yet!
Art Basel is always a huge commercial success. Some galleries even sell all their offerings before the fair opens, during the preview day dedicated to art collectors and museums.
Major sales took place in the four days: the Francis Bacon Man in Blue VI, from 1954 sold for $15 Million; the Damien Hirst I Love You But I Don't Like You, from 2005 sold for $900,000 -- both from the Van de Weghe New York gallery.
From Mazzoleni Gallery of Turin, three works by Alberto Burri were sold: Plastica went for $2 million and Cellotex for $500,000. Five photographs from Roy DeCarava (Jenkins-Johnson Gallery) sold for a total of $310,000.
The art was great, everywhere you looked, there were ohs and ahs and every single sigh of wonderment at each corner of the vast place. But besides the main Miami Beach Convention Center, just about two dozen other venues were entertaining art in the most unconventional locations.
For example, the Satellite Fair had four different places, within walking distance to each other. One was an abandoned motel facing the beach and the ocean, where each room was given to an artist to display his work within the limits of the rather small room. Creativity ran wild. Another location for Satellite was a former drugstore called The Pharmacy, another was a restaurant, and the last was a band shell on the grass.
My Very Favorites.
Of all the Art Basel various fairs I saw, my preferred one was definitely PULSE. Located right off the boardwalk at the back of the famed Eden Roc Hotel, the two-pavilion fair was astonishing with creativity, fun, quality, and the best location. Arriving from the beach via a plank path among tall palm trees and feral cats was the best -- no cars, no parking, no lines, and no crowd in front of the art.
The 50,000 square feet of beach-side exhibition space, with two massive white tents hosting over 80 local and international exhibitors, the project this year was the best for us. A shuttle service was available between Art Basel Miami Beach and PULSE, some 40 blocks to the North. The Target showroom at PULSE was hilarious.
My other favorite visit this year was the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), hanging right by the bay, a majestic building with green columns and a unique floor plan. Designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, it is simply stunning. The spare rectangular space with walls of glass windows -- the largest hurricane-impact-resistant ones in the world - has 70 hydroponic gardens hanging from every side. Designed by French landscaper Patrick Blanc, the gardens are self-watering. Not that they would have needed watering during THAT week!
I would show you a picture, but I could not take any in the rain.
And then there was the lady with a knife. In the middle of an afternoon, a Chinese woman inside the Miami Beach Convention Center stabbed -- for no apparent reason, a woman in the neck and shoulder with an X-Acto knife. The women didn't know each but the victim told the police that her assailant had clearly been following her around.
The attacker added later: "I had to kill her and two more; I had to watch her bleed". She's since been charged with attempted murder. Did we say mental?
The crowd around kept walking and browsing thinking it was performance art, and did not bother helping until a gallierist realized the blood was real and the victim was in pain, fallen to the floor.
Miami Beach is Sinking.
And then there is the fact that the barrier island, where all this took place, is slowly sinking. With all the non-stop rain, streets and sidewalks were covered in water that has nowhere to run. Some stores had water inside. In some places, after finally finding a parking spot, you had to step out of your vehicle in ankle-deep water to reach a less-soaked path.
Because of rising sea levels, soon Atlantis will have nothing on Miami Beach. And don't forget that they also have hurricanes here. Even if for the past 10 years, no major damaging tempests have crossed Miami, it still brings water to a water-clogged place. I can't help thinking that those very heavy towers lining up the beach must also stress the area floor; they look very fragile from afar.
On our last day, we attempted to visit the magnificent Fairchild Garden in South Miami. Same weather there. We were just about the only ones braving the rain. They gave us white ponchos to go on the tram tour. There was no way to walk the walk, all was under water. The butterflies were not flying, the giant iguanas were not sunning on the low limestone walls. The leaves were greener and shinier, but we took only a few pictures, with dark skies above.
They better order some sun, fix the roads, add parking spaces, refloat the island, and find a way to manage the unmanageable, or Art Basel might need to find another sunny beach location for their 2016 edition. And that would be such a shame.