“What is Art Basel?”, asked a male acquaintance of mine last week, after I randomly hit him up to find out which Basel events the media conglomerate he works for might be sponsoring.
I immediately launched into a passionate explanation, covering the provenance of the event (Basel, Switzerland -> Miami Beach -> Hong Kong) as well as its greater cultural importance for the intersection of art, design, fashion, music, marketing, wealth amelioration, and big ideas.
I am pretty sure he regretted opening my over-enthusiastic Snapchat paragraphs, and would have preferred to see a 15-second video of me smiling with the goddess filter on, while showing too much cleavage.
But I’ve come to truly appreciate anything which spurns me into a tizzy of excitement, and not hold back from expressing those emotions, even if it may seem uncool or a little ~extra~. Art Basel is undoubtedly one of these emotional touchstones and catalysts for me.
To me, that can be one of the most beautiful things about a person, when they are so inspired by a passion that they cannot help but to let their wall fall down to channel genuine enthusiasm.
[Kicking off Art Basel at the beautiful new SLS Brickell]
Last spring, I went on a date at The Delano, unabashedly enjoying Italian comfort food in the hotel restaurant’s Philippe Starck designed outdoor setting. One of my favorite Miami spots, it whimsically mimics the visuals of Alice In Wonderland, playing with proportion vis-a-vis hyper-verdant shrubbery and dramatically outsized furniture (think towering human chess sets on the lawn and fancy chairs and tables *inside* the pool).
It was a romantic night, but appropriately rainy. My date was just visiting Miami for work, so I was acting more reserved and brooding than usual, feeling as though there was almost no point in really getting to know each other.
However, my date persisted in coaxing me out of my uncharacteristic, near-impenetrable shell, and by dessert, it felt as though we had known each other forever.
“What was the best moment of your night?”, I asked, hours later. I’d envisioned a few possible answers, but instead I received one far sweeter.
“When you couldn’t stop laughing, at dinner. In that moment, I got to see who you are. Who you really are. What you were like as a child, who you were before…”
He didn’t finish his train of thought, but I knew what filled in the blank spaces.
Before I learned how to hurt. How to lose. How to calculate. How to protect myself.
Certainly, self-preservation is a necessary trait. The world is an increasingly scarier place by the day, and not everyone is worthy of knowing your soul.
But in the appropriate circumstances, there are few things more sacred and powerful than sharing your true self with another person or a broader community.
Whether through laughter, words, or art, there are various conduits for authentic self expression. The latter of which, the visual arts, takes the prime spotlight during Art Basel.
For a measurable snippet of time, all of Miami becomes a stage for creatives, CEO’s, con artists, cool kids, charlatans. There are innumerable lenses through which you could interpret the spectacle which is Art Basel Miami Beach, and certainly all of the seven deadly sins are heightened during our artistic bacchanalia.
But my favorite Art Basel memories are the ones which strip us away, which reveal our inner selves and vulnerabilities.
For most of Art Basel, I feel like a chalice, a gaping, pink shell, absorbing thousands of images at warp speed, like some sort of bizarre Lord of the Flies conch/supercomputer hybrid.
Is that my favorite fashion blogger? The co-founder of Paypal? A C-list rapper? That weird performance art piece I read about in the NY Times? My next boyfriend?
Excavating through all of these layers of human and artistic detritus, we are given the opportunity to examine our personal relationship to art and what the art we connect to says about us.
The first piece I Instagrammed during Basel, Edie Nadelhaft’s “Better Living Through Chemistry”, is an eye-catching, colorful work. As I checked my phone to see how many people “liked” my post, I realized the meta significance of my action, since the piece itself speaks to our cultural addiction to tech. As someone who is veritably obsessed with the Internet (and has struggled with the concept of “moderation”), it is not a surprise that this piece was one of my favorites from Art Miami.
Another standout piece for me was the Hillary Clinton portrait at the Patricia Field pop-up at White Dot Gallery in Wynwood. An enticing royal portrait infused with the magical, rainbow palette of Lisa Frank, this painting spoke to me on a deep level. I forgot the outraged 26 year old filled with doubts and insecurity about America in 2016, and instead remembered the ambitious little girl who grew up in the idyllic 1990’s, shouting “GIRL POWER” at the top of her lungs while dancing to Spice Girls, Lisa Frank notebook in hand, fully certain that she could be an astronaut or a rockstar or the first female president.
Perhaps the adult expression of this feeling was visually illustrated through my favorite work of art, Zoe Buckman’s “Champ”, at the outstanding PULSE Contemporary Art Fair. Depicting the female reproduction organs, illuminated with neon and boxing gloves, it embodied everything we will need to be for the next 4 years. Light. Strength. Grace. Power.