Art Basel-ing

By staff December 10, 2007

In a guest blog, copy editor Megan McDonald drives to Miami for one of the most important contemporary art shows in the world.


When I saw a picture of Lance Armstrong and Matt Damon cavorting in Miami on Thursday—“in support of Art Basel,” read the photo caption—I knew I had made the right choice in deciding to go. Potential hot-male celebrity sightings? Yes, please!


I kid, I kid. For me and for Tiffany, the friend who accompanied me to Miami, Art Basel was really all about the art. And while I don’t consider myself particularly “arty,” I certainly appreciate art, and I like analyzing the emotions that arise when viewing various pieces.


After breakfast on Friday morning, Tiffany and I headed down to Miami. Here’s what happened next.


Friday, Dec. 7 Four hours after leaving Sarasota, we arrived in Miami and headed to the Art Deco District in South Beach. Luckily, the Miami Beach Convention Center, where Art Basel takes place, was only a few blocks from the Clay Hostel, where we were staying, so we were able to walk there. Our first stop? The Art Video Lounge, located in the Botanical Gardens across the street from the back of the convention center, where we watched videos by Miranda July, Anne Matthern and Euan Mcdonald (among others). Then we picked up our Bang & Olufsen MP3 players and headphones at the Art Sound Lounge booth and sat outside in the adjacent Art Café, listening to the Art Sound Lounge soundtrack, which included pieces by Thomas Edison, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Spooky. The weather had cooled, and Tiff and I enjoyed the breeze as dusk fell and South Beach lit up in the background.


The Miami Beach Convention Center, home of Art Basel from Dec. 5-9.


After leaving the Botanical Gardens, we walked as fast as we could to Lincoln Road, where we hoped to attend a lecture on art and architecture. Unfortunately, the event was sold out, so we decided have dinner at Pizza Rustica, where we enjoyed huge slices and commented on people’s outfits. Then we trudged back to our hotel room (which we shared with four other women) and happily went to sleep.


Saturday, Dec. 8 Our second—and last—day in Miami began with us checking out of the Clay Hostel and driving into downtown Miami for an exhibition at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO, I enjoyed this exhibition, which was called Fortunate Objects and which put a unique, playful spin on objects we use in our everyday lives. Pieces included giant gray spoons, a display of stacked bicycles, and fastened belts suspended from the ceiling.


The exterior of the CIFO building in Miami, where Fortunate Objects was on exhibit.


From CIFO, we headed back to South Beach and the Convention Center for a lecture on women in art, a panel discussion featuring artists Marina Abramovic, Dara Birnbaum, Valie Export, Susan Hiller, Sharon Lockhart and curator Catherine Morris, moderated by Peter Aspden of London’s Financial Times. I loved listening to the women speak, particularly when they started talking about the role nature plays in women's art and the role of feminism in today's art world. Abramovic was particuarly animated, filling her responses to Aspden's questions with personal anecdotes and causing the audience to erupt in laughter several times.


After the lecture, we bought tickets for Art Basel itself and spent seven hours wandering through the exhibitions, breaking a few times to sit down and eat lunch. The experience was almost overwhelming. Just when we thought we’d seen almost everything, we would wander into an entirely new section of work in the convention center. There was an interesting juxtaposition between art and business; it was jarring to look at a piece by Picasso and then overhear someone buying a $60,000 painting a few feet away (the Blackberry was the accessory du jour). But the art was inspiring, subversive and thought provoking, which is just what I thought it should be. We left Miami that night exhausted but happy, arriving in Sarasota around 12:30 a.m. I can’t wait for next year.


Others who went to Art Basel, what was your experience like? Any first-time attendees, like me? Post your comments below—and thanks for reading!
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