Miami in December? Book it!
So it was, I found myself pulling out an unseasonal assortment of polos, shorts, linen suits and loafers for my first trip to Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) to support two great Rally Point clients: UBS and Moët Hennessy. It’s worth noting that UBS is the primary sponsor (going on 20 years!) of the country’s largest art extravaganza.
I touched down that Wednesday afternoon with just an hour to spare for a quick wardrobe change from a white tee, khakis and Jordans into a cranberry blazer, plum pull-over, gray slacks and my blue suede shoes (Elvis would have been proud).
Art, With Inclusion In Mind
Art has always been an interest but I confess, not a passion. Every vacation to a big city has included a stop or two at a local museum. Besides studying the key figures of the craft in school, of course I also donned that smock in 7th grade to dabble in water coloring.
I came to Art Basel with a purpose, but I was stepping into an unfamiliar world. In addition to some of the most expensive art available for sale, this event attracts the world’s uber wealthy, celebrities and everyday people, like me. Inclusivity is both intentional and a part of the fair’s charm, it is a true model for the industry and others in bringing the best minds and conversations to the table.
Dressed in our Miami best, my wife and I stepped out into the warm and humid evening air with an exclusive invite in hand to Art Basel’s opening reception at the Miami Beach Convention Center. We began to chip away at the exhibition which included more than 280 galleries from around the world spread across 500,000 square feet and compartmentalized like an IKEA showroom. But that’s where the comparison to IKEA stopped.
As we navigated the long corridors of paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations I headed over to the private UBS reception at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. The event celebrated the release of the book Reimagining: New Perspectives highlighting the UBS Art Collection’s recent acquisitions of works by artists of diverse backgrounds of which replicas of some were on display in the garden including pieces by Theaster Gates, Stanley Whitney, Adam Pendleton, Lauren Halsey and Latifa Echakhch. We were greeted by a reporter invited to cover UBS’s commitment and investment to the work of multicultural artists. The mood was energetic as was the Dallas Mavericks in-arena beat spinner DJ Poison Ivy.
Venturing Beyond the Convention Doors
The next day we ventured to the west side of Biscayne Bay and into Miami proper. The first stop was Wynwood Walls – a permanent outdoor/indoor exhibition showcasing the great creativity and culture that is street art – large, colorful murals that look like a Crayola box (the 64, not the 32 pack) exploded onto the wall.
A wonderful exhibit entitled BOUND by artist Hebru Brantley questioned the limitations and expectations set by others and the negative feelings created when individuals try to “fit in” or “belong”.
Friday included an early wakeup call (especially when the schedule is party all night). Our team had worked together with UBS and Forbes in presenting a live panel discussion entitled, How Art & Capital are Driving Social & Environmental Impact and moderated by my former CNBC colleague, now Forbes editor Maneet Ahuja.
The real cultural vibe – the urban flavor if you will – was back in Miami where we shuffled over to the Design District where our other client, LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) created The Artists Lounge – a pop-up feel storefront-turned-gallery highlighting the works of four incredible diverse artists – Roger J. Carter, Sammy Smily, Glenneisha Darkins and Cruise Bogle.
Let me tell you about Cruise. Paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair after a spinal injury, he learned to create pictures drawn with an Apple Pencil in his mouth on an iPad that poke fun at the fact that everybody needs assistance. His inclusion coincided with December 3, 2023 as it was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Something for Everyone
You can’t hit Miami Beach without heading to the waterfront. The last stop was Scope – the dopest contemporary art show you will find. If Art Basel is quiet and highbrow, Scope is its wild cousin.
Imagine a football field-sized white tent erected over a white sand floor, a DJ spinning tunes and some of the funkiest pieces of art you could find – from photos of the cholos in Los Angeles to Black artists like Angele Etoundi Essamba whose beautiful work features deep black and blue photos of Black women.
At one point when I found myself a bit hungry, I was thrilled to see a McDonald’s, but in this Wonderland everything is not what it seemed. I soon realized the fast food chain was part of the exhibition itself – an entire restaurant made of felt (I kid you not, right down to the drinks and fries).
I’m a sneakerhead and the Nike Air Jordan 1s made of recycled vintage Louis Vuitton luggage and other upcycled material caught my eye, but stopped with my wallet. I overheard one guy trying to negotiate a custom pair at a price tag of $14,000.
A fitting conclusion to this weeklong appreciation of art was when I found my childhood and adulthood coming together in the painting Wood Grain Bear by artist Jerkface. It featured Care Bears adorned with the Wu Tang Clan logo on their bellies because hey, Wu Tang is for the children.
Miami Art Week was a vibe.
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