A Supermarket of Fine Art in Miami Beach

Article excerpt

Byline: Ivette M. Yee, Times-Union staff writer

MIAMI BEACH -- Art Basel: This is the place where Michelangelo and Georgia O'Keeffe meet for mimosas, the place where Andy Warhol doesn't feel fidgety, the place where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera finally get along.

Last weekend, Art Basel -- the Dom Perignon of art festivals -- took place in South Florida, where 160 of the world's top galleries showcased their treasures.

So much to do, so much to see -- and art lovers and collectors from all corners of the globe indulged.

First, a little background about Art Basel. Basel is a city in Switzerland where art reigns supreme. Though only 200,000 residents live in Basel, it is home to more than 150 galleries and 30 museums, including The Kunst museum, which houses one of the oldest public art collections in Europe.

For 33 years, the city has been host to Europe's most prestigious fair, titled, of course, Art Basel. The fair draws some 60,000 art lovers and collectors, who spend millions of dollars on artwork during its short run.

This year, Art Basel crossed the Atlantic to establish a satellite in Miami Beach, where it drew 30,000 visitors. It will return for the next two years.

Art Basel Miami Beach kicked off Dec. 5 with Art Positions, an open-air party in a village of shipping containers transformed into small galleries on well-known Collins Avenue.

The hipness factor was high.

A fine art supermarket with boutique polish, Art Basel did not discriminate. The main event took place over the next three days at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the works of famous names hung alongside up-and-coming artists. The blue-chip galleries represented included the Jan Krugier Gallery in Geneva, where such modern 20th-century masters as Picasso, Matisse, Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo were on display.

The early works of Wilfredo Lam, a Chinese-African artist raised in Cuba, were showcased at Mary Anne Martin Fine Art of New York. The gallery specializes in modern and contemporary Latin American art. Also there was the kinetic art of Jesus Soto, and the surrealist works of Roberto Matta, a Chilean artist and one of the last surviving surrealists from the old school, who painted outer space and other dimensions. Also of note at Mary Anne Martin was Isabelle Obaldia, a young artist who is one of the few making glass sculptures and who is redefining the material as a serious medium not meant to be simply decorative.

Up close at the Galerie Di Meo of Paris and the Tega Galleria of Milan were paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Haitian artist from New York City who was one of the leaders of the graffiti movement, and works by Fernando Botero, whose signature plump people earned him notoriety. …