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ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH – DAY 1

This week, Paris, LA will be bringing you an exclusive look inside Art Basel, the world’s largest international art fair, which began today in Miami Beach and lasts until Sunday. In addition to the primary Art Basel fair, featuring 250 galleries from 31 countries as well as lecture and film series, more than ten independent art fairs take over the tropical beaches of South Florida and the museum spaces of metropolitan Miami.

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The week began with a press conference hosted by Director Marc Spiegler and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. The two introduced the fair’s sponsor, UBS Financial Services, and announced a number of revitalization initiatives in Miami, including the construction of a new convention center next year (to house future Art Basels) and the unveiling of a new Institute for Contemporary Art Miami, a controversial breakaway museum from Miami’s preexisting Museum of Contemporary Art.

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After the press conference, Paris, LA headed to the W Hotel South Beach for a private preview of a photographic series by Peter Lindberg, in conjunction with IWC Schaffhausen’s new watch collection. It wouldn’t be a major art fair without the inextricable collaboration of fine art, commercial advertising, and fashion. As the atmosphere and activity of Art Basel reveals, art is a commodity par excellence.

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At 11am, Art Basel Miami Beach officially threw open its doors to select collectors. The stalls were almost instantly swarming with eager collectors, though most fairgoers perused without significant scrutiny.

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Fondation Beyeler presented a collaborative performance by Marina Abramovic, part of the 14 Rooms series, which involved sleeping participants listening to soothing soundtracks while bundled on cots in a gallery. P.P.O.W. of New York presented a moving David Wonjarowicz retrospective, which displayed the artist’s multimedia sculptures and paintings next to his videos and photographs of the artist by friends Peter Hujar and Nan Goldin.

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Tornabuoni Art, Milan exhibited the light yellow drinking-straw wall sculptures of Francesca Pasquali next to deep blue and black paintings by iconic Italian artist Lucio Fontana. The booth was notably minimal in its primary color palette and white furniture to match its carpet and walls. Nearby, São Paolo’s Galeria Raquel Arnaud showed work by Carlos Zilio, influenced by quantum mechanics and metaphysical diagrams.

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Gladstone Gallery of New York and Brussels presented Cyprien Gaillard’s Cuban Wren, a massive steel excavator claw strung across with a bar of banded calcite, its iridescent mineral veins shining against the rusted machinery. The work recalled Gaillard’s work completed during his residency at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles last year, in which he used steel parts from Caterpillar excavators to mimic ancient sabertooths and refer to the constant construction in the Hammer’s neighborhood of Westwood. Gaillard’s was not the only work from the Hammer, as Los Angeles gallery Regen Projects exhibited site-specific work by Gabriel Kuri, sculptures that mimic the marble flooring of the museum’s second-floor smoking patio.

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Many galleries were awash with “blue chip” pieces. Marian Goodman Gallery of New York showed an impressive array: recent work by Jeff Wall, drawings and a video by William Kentridge, and mineral photographs by Tacita Dean. Next door, New York’s Cheim and Read showed a fleshy, pink Lynda Benglis wall sculpture and an unusually colorful Jenny Holzer ticker. London’s White Cube showed installations by Haim Steinbach, a lightbox by Alfredo Jaar, and documentation photographs of an early Marina Abramovic performance.

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After several hours of art viewing (tomorrow’s post will cover other Basel highlights), Paris, LA continued down Ocean Avenue to Untitled., the independent art far in a gleaming white tent on Miami Beach’s soft sandy shores. The crowd was much more casual and congenial. Several booths offered giveaway posters and tabloids, including Alfredo Jaar’s ingenious For Sale, Not For Sale (2014), a perfect addition to such a commercial setting.

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Zürcher Gallery of New York displayed calculators by Brian Belott that looked as if they had washed ashore, coated in barnacles and sandy pebbles. SIC, or Helsinki’s Initiatives for Individuality, displayed the detritus of a Monday night performance by Anastasia Ax: giant blocks of shredded paper, splattered with black paint, crumbling across the gallery floor. Ax has created “refugee camps” out of plaster and destroyed them in fits of rage, synced to live-performed noise music.

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Los Angeles had a definitive presence in the small fair. Culver City gallery Luis de Jesus showed Margie Livingston’s amusing (and ironically titled) Body of Work (2014) and a pair of beautiful digital prints by Kate Bonner. Veteran L.A. crafts artist Joel Otterson had a whimsical candelabra and ceramic vase exhibted in Maloney Fine Art’s booth.

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Stay tuned for Day 2 of Paris, LA’s trip to Art Basel Miami Beach.

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