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Impressions from Florida:
The Fourth Art Basel Miami Beach

The Miami Skyline
Photo: Oliver Koerner von Gustorf

"At the moment, art seems to be a kind of leading culture," says Sam Keller, director of the Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) while lunching with the German press. "Like techno music in the nineties, art is providing crucial cultural impulses, and architects, fashion people, the film industry, and designers are very interested in what’s happening in this field. I can’t remember when the interest in art was greater than it is today. And it’s not even only about buying art. Art school and academy enrollments are rising rapidly; more and more people want to become artists, and there are more museums than ever before. This development forms the base for an art market that’s no longer run by a few hundred people anymore, but is growing steadily."

4. Art Basel Miami Beach 2005
Photo: Julia Rothhaas

The number of visitors to the 4th Art Basel Miami Beach indicate that Keller is quite right. This year’s fair once again broke every record. From November 30 to December 4, over 32,000 visitors flocked to Florida. The official program had already begun on the evening before the fair with an opening reception at the Hotel Delano, the legendary Art Deco skyscraper on Collins Ave. that was renovated in the nineties for 22 million dollars and designed entirely in white by Phillippe Stark. It’s impossible to overlook the fact that art in Miami has everything to do with lifestyle and hospitality, and so Keller shook each guest’s hand personally, while hostesses dressed rather skimpily for European standards poured the champagne.

William Kentridge at his show at the Miami Art Central
Photo: Oliver Koerner von Gustorf

The Miami Art Central is showing an exhibition by the South African William Kentridge, whose installation Black Box/ Chambre Noire can also currently be seen at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. I Know Whom You Showed Last Summer at the Museum of Contemporary Art Miami is the title of the first large American museum exhibition of the German painter Albert Oehlen. Milling in the crowd here, you could rub elbows with prominent figures like Bruce Weber and the British video artist Isaac Julien.

View into the exhibition hall of the Convention Center
Photo: Oliver Koerner von Gustorf

The real run, however, began the next day at noon in the fair halls of the Convention Center, where 195 galleries from 28 countries presented works by over 1,500 artists. One of the most expensive works at the fair was a sculpture: in the framework of the "Cabinet" section, for which selected galleries curated thematic exhibitions, the Galerie Krugier from Geneva showed a whole cabinet of works by Picasso that documents his oeuvre from 1920 up to the 70s. Here, the solid price of 25 million dollars was paid for a meter-high model Picasso created for his work Tete.

Art Basel Miami Beach, 2005
Photo: Julia Rothhaas

An increased trend towards sculpture and installation was evident at the fair, whether you consider the hotly discussed statue Blue Moon by the Turner Prizewinner Chris Ofili from Contemporary Fine Arts; the huge painted wheels of Franz Ackermann’s Revolving Painting from the gallery Neugerriemschneider, also based in Berlin; or the objects of Sarah Lucas, which the London gallery dealer Sadie Coles dedicated her stand to. The Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury showed three oversized pop metal mushrooms (60,000 to 90,000 dollars) in the booth of the Austrian star gallery dealer Thaddaeus Ropac, while the Galerie Chantal Crousel of Paris sold a monumental work by Thomas Hirschhorn, who lives in the city, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for around 80,000 dollars. His six meter-wide wall installation Camo-Outgrowth (Winter) consists of shelves with 131 deformed globes and hundreds of photographs of mercenaries and soldiers.

Franz Ackermann, Revolving Painting at neugerriemschneider
Photo: Julia Rothhaas

The boom in German painting, however, is still very much alive. It’s almost a traditional ritual by now when Judy Lybke from the Galerie Eigen+Art (Berlin/Leipzig) announces, only hours after the fair’s beginning, that his painters have been completely sold out. This time, it took a little over three hours until the last canvas was snatched up. A painting by the Leipzig-born Neo Rauch from 1993 changed owners here for 260,000 Euros, while the works of Martin Eder (around 50,000 Euros) were also sold at record speed. Reason enough to celebrate: after polishing off his lucrative business, a very satisfied-looking Judy Lübke appeared at many of the events that contribute to the image of Art Basel Miami Beach every bit as much as the spectacular sales.

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