art basel miami 2014

Sh*t Collectors Say on Black Wednesday at Art Basel: A Photo Essay While Eavesdropping

If you happen to be a very wealthy art collector, or help one spend her money, 11 a.m. this morning at the Miami Beach convention center was like Black Friday. That’s when the properly certified VIPs are allowed inside, along with some press, and they were lined up in rows behind ropes, anxiously jostling.

Of course, nobody was there for a bargain. And unlike people showing up at Walmart at the crack of dawn, still detoxing from tryptophan and cranberry sauce, there were mobile refreshment stands.
One of the first booths at the entrance is Matthew Marks Gallery, and one of the first things I heard was a woman whose VIP instincts are so strong that she saw something in the storage area, to which the door was open. “How much is that Gober in the closet?” she asked, without apparent irony. It was a framed political button with “I Don’t Want Eleanor Either” on it (Untitled 2012, Glazed porcelain with embedded pigment, brass, paper, artist’s frame) and it cost $45,000 — if I eavesdropped correctly. She bought it.
Over at Barbara Gladstone, which you enter under a gently off-kilter Marquee (guirlande), by Philippe Parreno, an older gentleman, balding in a white silk shirt, was asking who I assume was his art advisor about a little statue of what appeared to be a half-robot-warrior Barbie astride her giant dog by Andro Wekua called Untitled (Wax, bronze, aluminum, silicone, natural hair, fabric and steel). “Did you ever hear of this artist?” he asked. “Any good?” “It’s not your thing,” he was assured. But it sure seemed like he thought it was his thing to me.
Everyone was trying to get a leg up at the Gagosian booth.
Nearby, at Galeria Luisa Strina, a group of smartly dressed people were gathered around Pedro Reyes Smith’s Swiss Army Knife (Rural).” One woman asked, discouragingly (or perhaps she was only trying to be practical): “But where would you put this?” The more important question might have been: What would you do with it?
These are Yayoi Kusama’s Bow Shoes, which are ceramic, next to a woman’s, which were not, at Victoria Miro.
At White Cube, Damien Hirst’s pill fetish piece Love Remembered was closely studied. This guy recognized that it had what he needed (Valium? Diazepam?) and said to his friend: “That’s the one I want right there. Can I open it?”
One of the event paparazzi complains to a friend that there aren’t enough celebrities to photograph. “So why am I here?”
A man walks into Fergus McCaffrey’s full-on gay Jack Early extravaganza. The gallerist tries to start a conversation about “appropriation,” but the man cuts him off. “I’m not going to buy any of this,” he says. He has a shy but incredulous smile on his face. They hug; he leaves.
Tracey Rose perfornance at Dan Gunn. He’s reading ArtForum, naturally.
One of the most arresting booths was Sadie Coles’s. While I’m staring at it, a brassy, blonde middle-aged woman walks by, frustrated, telling her friend, “I think what they are trying to do is not sell it to anyone they don’t want to.” A few minutes later, a slovenly man walks by complaing to his friend that he can’t find any Raymond Pettibon.
It’s now almost 2. Over at David Zwirner, a frantic man in a suit and Prada sneakers is pacing around in front of a room full of Lisa Yuskavage’s paintings, talking on his cell phone. “Maybe it’s better if you come with your client now, because they’re disappearing quickly,” he says. Meanwhile, behind him, a Zwirner employee had to break the sad news about one of the Yuskavages’ — it was sold already, to a couple looking to buy, and gently shifted their attention to the one next to it, which features a full-frontal woman, legs spread. “It is a little racy,” he admits, giggling. The wife looks skeptical, and when the gallery employee walks away, their advisor says: “You either like it or you don’t.” “I don’t,” she says. I see David Zwirner. He’s happy — things are going well, clearly — but he is also not happy. “I like doing business down here. But I don’t like this place.” He’s staying at the just-opened Edition hotel. The room service, he reports, sucks.
Over at Wallspace (a smaller gallery), a collector is contemplating an odd-looking Nancy Lupo sculpture. “That would be hard to find room for,” he says. “Have you sold any?” And, as if to beg off, explains: “We have a very small apartment.” “It’s not that small,” replies the gallerist.
The Marina Abramovic Institute took over the Foundation Beyeler space, which is next to the VIP lounge, where people were allowed to nap, wearing noise-canceling headphones. Not many were — it sort of defeats the concept of a VIP preview — but the gray-haired man in the back had been there for two hours. It’s now 2:30. The fair opens up to a larger tranche of VIPs by 3. No time to waste.
At Sperone Westwater, Tom Sachs’s James Brown Listening Station was rocking on. Angela Westwater tells me people have been dancing in front of it. It costs $275,000; the records and the liquor are included. When a collector heard this, he said: “Which you will need after paying that.” But his skepticism hardly matters: It had already been put on hold by someone who knows a good time — if not necessarily a good deal — when they see it.
Overheard at Art Basel on Wednesday