Every December the art world buzzes about Art Basel, the main fair that is also used colloquially to refer to all of art week in Miami. Certainly the golden goose at the center of the gaggle of 20+ satellite fairs, Art Basel drew over 70,000 visitors this year to the Miami Convention Center in South Beach over the 5 days running from Dec. 3-7.
Art Basel overall was what I was expecting -- mostly paintings and sculptures by modern and contemporary artists, some of which I was familiar with from museum visits and others that I was not familiar with, but were probably in Art Forum magazine at some time or another. Smart, well executed works that you could easily live with by names that will probably hold their value.
Neon popped up in quite a few appearances as did highly reflective works such as this stunning Anish Kapoor, which seemed more appreciated for its selfie photo opportunities than its art merit. There were a few moments of welcomed non-commercialism, which included the “Sleeping Exercise” designed by performance artist Marina Abramovic: a large space with cots and colorful blankets to kick off your high heels, get tucked in and rest up for as long as you wish.
The art dealers offer no greetings or casual pleasantries; this is a very costly venture so their focus is to make themselves available to serious inquiries about the artist and, if all goes well, the price to acquire (which is never visible on the title placards).
SCOPE is a totally different vibe. Housed in a huge temporary tent right on the beach, this fair is focused on emerging artists and galleries that are serious about what they do, but perhaps a bit less stuffy in attitude. A towering Swoon dominated the entrance and the sound decibel was quite a bit louder and livelier than at Art Basel. The gallerists were friendly and a few artists were camped out in gallery booths working on art pieces while making themselves available to answer questions about their work. Prices are posted on many of the title placards, ranging from a few hundred dollars to the tens of thousands. Red (sold) dots were scarce but visible.