Miami Art Basel Goes Out with a Whimper

Like a depressing microcosm of the problems afflicting the world at large, Miami Art Basel was a shadow of its former wild and ostentatious self and has drawn to a close, leaving debt, hangovers, and photos of Pamela Anderson's ass in its wake. Despite elaborate prevarication from certain onlookers, the combination of thinner crowds, a subdued mood, and desperate discounts left no one in any doubt that the art bubble has truly burst.

Some people tried to find a silver lining: At Friday night's bash hosted by Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani to honor Bruce Weber, one gallerist said he was pleased by the absence of hedge funders "buying up Damien Hirst by the yard," while Marc Jacobs, Jay Jopling, Naomi Campbell, and Lola Schnabel partied away.

But there was no getting away from the scarcity of big sales. Gallerist Dara Metz said she would be happy if she broke even, compared to previous years when she had VIPs fighting over pieces, and another New York dealer confirmed: "There's not the buzz. How could there be? Over 500,000 people lost their jobs last month." Significantly, one major piece that was sold was a topical installation by Chinese artist Zheng Guogu. "Commemorative Plaque 2008: Lehman Brothers Gate" features photos of Lehman employees carrying boxes out of their office alongside portraits of Hank Paulson and Warren Buffett, and was bought by a European collector.

One enterprising artist even erected a three-story banner on a Collins Avenue building with the entreaty "Please, François Pinault, Buy My Work." Indeed, the fair might have had a happier outcome for everyone if the billionaire collector and his wallet had shown up.

Eli Broad, Jay-Z Tour Slower Miami Art Fair, Collectors Haggle [Bloomberg]
'The art's the thing' — Basel fans focus on art, not sales [Miami Herald]
In Town: Jay Jopling whoops it up at the Miama Beach Art Fair [First Post]
All's Not Fair in Miami [WSJ]