Memories of Miami: Miami Basel Art Report 2009

Miami Basel 2009 was turned upside down by the opening of the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space building. It has 3 floors and 30,000 sq. feet of exhibition space. The collection has over 1,000 works.

Imagine: In 2008 Rosa de la Cruz said that she was opening a new museum in Miami to house her private collection. One year later it actually opened. While I was on the staircase to the second floor of her awesome space – free to all – with a 30,000 book art library – also free to all – Lisa Phillips of the New Museum walked upstairs past us with Ms. de la Cruz. Her new museum highlights the incredible achievements of many artists – but has a special space on the 3rd/top floor for Miami Born Latin Artists who became superstars in the artworld but have passed away. (Felix Gonzalez Torres and Ana Mendieta). With the Rubell’s 40,000 volume art library, Miami has one of the most important set of contemporary art libraries in the country.

The museum is in Miami’s white hot Design District, and will be joined in 2012 by the 40,000 sq. ft. Craig Robins Collection building. We had dinner at 8:45PM Saturday night at Fratelli Lyon, one of the Design District’s top restaurants. The restaurant was packed. When we left at midnight it was still packed and more people were coming in to enjoy themselves. The architect John Marquette owns the restaurant and is the designer of the de la Cruz space. Boutique hotels are planned for the area. Boutique stores are flooding in from across the globe. Several new restaurants are opening soon. Miami and Miami Beach have made it a habit to launch new restaurants and lounges in time for the next Baselmania.

With the Eugenio Lopez Collection also on display at the Bass Museum, Latin pride was in the house in Miami big time. There were Latin and Black guides, even to direct you to the restrooms! There was free luxury coffee service on the patio of the de la Cruz space.

On Saturday we visited the Margulies Warehouse was only partially rehung from the previous year, a first. They had a haunting George Segal work entitled Breadline on display.

New World Symphony building, Miami Beach, opens 2010

Frank Gehry’s New World Symphony campus under construction 11/23/08

Miami just opened a new bar called the Democratic Republic of Beer, with 400 different selections. Miami has a brand new concert hall, opera house and dance showcase. Miami Beach will open the Frank Gehry designed New World Symphony concert hall in 2010, giving Miami TWO major new concert halls. Because of the attention given to the other major Miami art collectors, Major collector Beth de Woody, of Palm Beach/NYC, is now planning her own blowout art museum space. Miami’s Norman Braman is considering a building as well. He owns over a billion in Modern and Contemporary Art. The Rubell Family Collection has over a thousand more works of art than LA MOCA, which has over 5,000 works. There were no serious restaurants in the Design District in Miami a five years ago. Across the street from the de la Cruz building is a dead apartment building that looks like it washed up in a hurricane. I doubt it will be there in two years.

de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space (photo credits)

Felix Gonzales-Torres and Jim Hodges (both who were at Pratt Institute during the early 1980’s) at the de la Cruz art space. (photo credits)

a Jonathan Meese room (photo credits)

a Guyton/Walker installation (photo credits)

Jumex Collection at the Bass Museum

Gabriel Orozco’s Pool Table (photo credits)

When we arrived at the Bass Museum, the New York Times was there photographing the Eugenio Lopez Collection. The Dzine Ghost Bike was sensational in the project space.

Private Collections @ Miami (via

Alexandre Arrechea at Margulies Foundation

Margulies Foundation

Cinsneros-Fontanals Foundation (CIFO)

Muntean/Rosenblum at Cisneros-Fontanals Foundation

Re the Video works at MOCA North Miami. Stellar works done by master storytellers. This is the second time we’ve seen a blowout show of video only works that were absolutely hypnotic. The first was at the CIFO in Miami in 2005. That still is the best video art exhibition I have ever seen anywhere in the U.S. The best I have ever seen was a massive stunning history of film and video at the Pompidou in Paris in 2006.

Jason Rhoades in the Rubell Family Collection

lmgreen & Dragset in the  Rubell Family Collection

Maurizio Cattelan in the Rubell Family Collection


We spent over seven hours looking at work in the half million square foot display that was 2009’s Art Basel Miami Beach. Because of this experience of total immersion into absolute quality, it was difficult to appreciate most of what was at Aqua and Pulse and NADA, each of which we spent but an hour or so visiting. We missed Art Miami, Photo Miami and Scope this year despite being in town 5 days.


Cool as fuck lounge areas in a retro-fun hotel on 67th and Collins ave. in Miami Beach. 1950’s Vegas on the South Florida coast. For the first time we realized that the Westwood area of LA was similar in layout, but far smaller in scale relative to what seems to be several miles of coast lining condos and apartments and hotels built at mid century in Miami Beach. The nondescript restaurant and lounge across the street from NADA was overflowing onto the sidewalk even as the evening sun gave way to nightfall. Bad at Sports was podcasting from NADA to their home base of Chicago. I’m looking forward to checking out the interviews online.

On Wednesday night, we attended the free Art Loves Music concert, featuring the fireball Londoner Ebony Bones. This evening concert that was held on the sand of Miami Beach at 10PM about 200 feet from the ocean. It was absolutely incredible. The glow from the open door of a truck parked on the beach was mesmerizing. In all past years this concert was for Basel VIPs only. This year there were dozens of  Basel concerts everywhere, at the fairs, at the clubs, on the streets. This year the Basel VIP’s were next door in the new W Hotel South Beach, built on the land of the demolished Holiday Inn.


Lots of live entertainment arrived from out of town, as usual. This year’s hottest ticket was for The Box at Nikki Beach, a hot as hell burlesque performance space from the Lower East Side of New York.

The Box VIP Party 11PM-1AM

Doors will open at 11pm and the show will commence shortly thereafter.
The late night show is bottle service only and will turn up the heat with their performance. Bottle service packages are available for parties of 2,4,6,8, and 10. VIP packages provide premium seating centered on or around the stage.
Listed prices do not include tax and gratuity.



Goldman Warehouse

“Back in December of 2005, father and son developer duo Tony and Joey Goldman, who’ve had their hand in fostering growth and revitalization in the Wynwood area for some years now, donated the 14,000 square foot space.” The Goldman Warehouse severed its ties with MOCA North Miami, and will now go it alone as a big time project space. Francesco Clemente’s 180 foot long magisterial watercolor is currently on display. If the warehouse is curated in a compelling fashion it could become one of the most important spaces of its type in the U.S.

We attended the IT AIN’T FAIR opening just after dinner at Casale, one of Miami’s several new pizza spots. It was expensive. Parking was by valet for $10. The space was fashionable, the service superior, the waitstaff primarily from Italy. But the food made no impression on me at all as compared to the best pizza in LA (Mozza and Antica Pizza). Gang Gang Can Dance performed later in the week at this Miami alternative space that is the toy of a few New Yorkers, which may be over 10,000 square feet.

Art Basel 2009
December 2 – 6, 2009
3100 NW 7 Avenue / Miami / Florida / 33127

“The second installment of It Ain’t Fair promises to be even more spectacular than our inaugural exhibition. Calling on our community for participation, we assembled an international group show comprised of over 30 artists that we feel are creating the most relevant work today including Rita Ackermann, Tim Barber, Lizzy Bougatsos, Scott Campbell, Julia Chiang, Barb Choit, Peter Chung, Brian Degraw, Ry Fyan, Cyprien Gaillard, Michael Genovese, Todd James, KAWS, Zak Kitnick, Terence Koh, Harmony Korine, Andrew Kuo, Nate Lowman, Adam Marnie, Megan Marrin, Santiago Mostyn, Neck Face, José Parlá, Erik Parker, Brad Phillips, Kenny Scharf, Aurel Schmidt, David Benjamin Sherry, Agathe Snow, Spencer Sweeney, Eric White, Bobbi Woods and Aaron Young.  Opening night will be highlighted by a special rooftop performance by French symphonic composer Koudlam alongside a jumbo-sized outdoor screening of Cyprien Gaillard’s Crazy Horse accompanied by explosions and visual effects.”


The LA Artworld wants Basel to move to LA and is applying soft yet serious pressure to get it done. The city that for so long touted its artworld as coming into existence because it had no market, wants both global market access and control now through Basel, to go along with its position as a major production center for contemporary art. I envision that there literally will be a contest between the several Internationally connected Miami Billionaires/Art Collectors versus Eli Broad and the LA Artworld to get/keep Miami Basel. One of the chief reasons to go to Miami Basel is to see the newest selections of the private collections. The CIFO, World Class Boxing, the Rubell Family Collection, the Margulies Warehouse, and now the de la Cruz space. And the small but incredible museum shows, which this year included Miami Museum, the Bass Museum, and MOCA North Miami, which as I will say again because the works were so strong, had the best selection of world-class videos I have seen anywhere, equaled only by the 2005 video exhibition at the CIFO. Both the former Miami Art Central (MAC) building, and the Design District’s massive Moore Space are still standing and available to be used for exhibitions, as they were in earlier Miami Basels.

I might be wrong, but it was 80 degrees and balmy in Miami this past week, while it was in the 50’s/40’s in LA. Miami is closer to Brazil, Mexico, and Europe in terms of lifestyle and worldview than is LA. Miami is only one of two US cities that has a 5AM nightlife scene seven days a week. Miami/Miami Beach has virtually no traffic and loves staying up all night.

Miami’s airport has built two massive spectacular new wings in the past 3 years. Fort Lauderdale has gained so many luxury beachfront hotels as to be a world-class destination unto itself. And its airport is serviced by Virgin Atlantic. Let’s see whose fingers break first between the Miami and LA handshake re Basel. For the West Coast, Vegas is a far better place for an art fair of the caliber of Basel because of its caliber of restaurants and nightclubs, its low traffic, and it’s proximity to Los Angeles. LA could have a far greater presence at Miami Basel if it were closer to Los Angeles. Yet I cannot envision NYC loosening its grip on either Miami Beach or Miami Basel anytime soon. NYC’s media coverage is tall, wide and deep for Miami Basel, from Bloomberg News, the New York Times, New York Magazine, ArtForum, ArtInfo, ArtNet. The Miami newspapers, particulary Miami’s New Times, start bouncing off of the ceiling over Miami Basel and provide comprehensive local color and perspective on the scene. This is where it was reported this year about the fly-by-night galleries that set up in Miami during Basel, and about the extreme discontent of the local art community over their not getting Basel and the international artworld’s attention after even eight years of being there. It is there that the closure of galleries is reported, and the temporary reopening of galleries for Basel that have otherwise closed their Miami space, like Paris powerhouse Emanuel Perrotin gallery. The LA Artworld world love to be showered by the coverage of Basel in LA by the NYC and London media machines every December. So would many other cities that have similar and even lesser ambitions. I’m pretty sure that NYC would love it if Basel came to town, even if it meant that New Yorker’s wouldn’t be going to Miami Beach for a just before winter art holiday. My thinking is that the Armory Show should expand to Miami Basel time, and close up shop in New York. That would cause even more high-end galleries to come to Miami. That would give the NADA Art Fair some incredible competition. And it would keep the galleries in Miami that will be again pushed away once the galleries who did not do Basel this year want back in for 2010. It would also allow the Armory Show to go head to head with Art Basel, and move a huge market-based show away from the buzz of the Whitney Biennial and the Greater New York shows.


Miami is the winter showcase for global contemporary art. Only a handful of Miami artists have risen with inbound Basel tide.

Miami media represented in 2009 that Miami realizes it is being used and not being invited to the big art party. Local art events continue to showcase Miami artists in more and more professional situations in an endless effort to capture the Basel audience. On Biscayne Boulevard there was a curated show of Miami artists selected by ten Miami local curators. In the Design District was a show in a quality design building of the handful of Miami artists who had reached the world stage through their Miami gallery representation. Many creative people in Miami are convinced that if they just ramp up their game that Basel will give them a full share at the artworld power table. Many others believe that they need to decamp to LA or NYC to have a fighting chance.


Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles.

Biography July 2010Vincent Johnson lives and works in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at Las Cienegas Projects, LAXART, the P.S. 1. Museum, the SK Stiftung, Cologne, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Adamski Gallery of Contemporary Art, Aachen, the Sacramento Center for Contemporary Art, 18th Street Arts, Santa Monica and the Boston University Art Gallery. His photographic works engage both significant and neglected historical and contemporary cultural artifacts and is based on intensive research of his subjects. Upcoming is a group show at the Kellogg Museum of Cal Poly Pomona.

Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in 1997. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Vincent  Johnson Artist Statement

Vincent Johnson’s work is a form of sustained cultural mining that explores the depths of his subjects. His photographic works created from 2001-2007 delved into architecture as fantasy, from the vernacular architecture of Los Angeles to that found throughout the American West. He has documented several of the no longer extant commercial vernacular structures in both South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley that came into existence during the birth of long distance family travel by car. In 2007 he presented a fully fabricated work of sculpture – a 12 foot long six-foot high replica of a 1956 Chrysler Air Raid Siren. This project developed as he was both researching and documenting a former military corridor in the San Fernando Valley that included a retired military airfield. His newest photographic works, all created in 2008 and 2009, are large-scale photographic montages, each of which confront significant cultural figures and several dramatic signal events of Cold War era Western cultural history, including Television, the launch of Sputnik, the Soviet Space program, American home-based bomb shelter  program, and Vietnam. He is working on large-scale photomontages of the several major American political figures of 1960’s, including Martin Luther King, the Kennedy family, and Malcolm X, as well the representations of both Communism and Capitalism, Hollywood and Los Angeles and many related Cold War era subjects. Johnson’s photomontages can take several months to create as he captures hundreds of images from online sources, before selecting those which most well index a particular historical moment, personage or event. The creative juxtapositions and scale shifts of the found images is what he most relies on to develop his potent and illuminating photographic works.

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