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Art Basel: The “Olympics of the art world”

December 03, 2009 By Carlos Miller in Miami: Things to Do  | 1 Comment


After going through the rather breezy process of acquiring my press credentials for Art Basel, I began walking through the mazelike rows of art displays.

I was told I could photograph freely – which is always music to my ears – but I’m assuming that means that others are not allowed to photograph freely (we’ll see about that).

I was even given a special media pass with a little camera on it to distinguish myself from the other journalists who were not taking photos – as if the Canon SLR dangling from my neck was not enough evidence.

But then I noticed none of the art pieces had prices on them, forcing me to inquire each time I got curious.

And then I realized that my press credentials actually came with some limitations

“Oh, so you’re media?” one dealer asked after I inquired the price of a piece of art depicting the evils of capitalism. “We really can’t tell you.”


I raised an eyebrow and gave him a skeptical look.

“Well, we ask that you not report our prices.”

Much better, but I’m all about full disclosure.  Especially when thousands of dollars are involved. Or in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“$100,000,” the dealer told me when he realized I wasn’t going to play his game.

If I get barred from Art Basel this week, you’ll know why.

For those of you are not into the contemporary art scene, Art Basel is described as the “Olympics of the art world.” The exhibition started in Basel, Switzerland in 1970 where it is still held every year in June.

The Art Basel Miami Beach exhibition, which has been held every December since 2002, has now eclipsed the original exhibition.

So naturally, some of the world’s richest art collectors descend upon our sunny shores during this time. And apparently, buying art is like buying a car. Everything can be negotiated.

And like many things in life, the value and beauty of art lies in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s a beautiful piece of art but I wouldn’t want it hanging in my living room,” one woman told her companion as they viewed a large painting of Michael Jackson’s face on the body of King Philip II, who is straddling a horse.

How much for that piece?


The Equestrian Portrait of King Philipe II (with Michael Jackson’s face) by Kehinde Wiley goes for $175,000.

Wiley is described by Wikipedia as a New York-based artist who creates portraits of “contemporary African-American men in poses taken from the annals of art history.”

The truth is, it is a beautiful painting. And it’s also true I wouldn’t want it hanging in my living room.  But I’m about the only person in the universe who didn’t buy Thriller.

And I’m about the only journalist in the world who has yet to fully grasp the cultural, economic and global impact of Art Basel because more than 200 articles have been written about Art Basel in the past 24 hours, according to a recent Google search.

But I’m betting I’m one of the few that revealed prices.


Art Basel is being held at the Miami Beach Convention Center from December 3-6. To keep up with all the local parties and exhibits that are stemming from Art Basel, check out Soul of Miami.












Related Categories: Miami: Things to Do,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

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1 Comments on

"Art Basel: The “Olympics of the art world”"

cool says:

Cool article. Cool photographs. Cool Job

Posted on 12/03/2009 at 6:03 PM

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