Art Basel frontlines: SCOPEing out Friday

Guardian photos by Paula Connelly

Art Basel is not the only show in Miami’s town this weekend. In addition to every gallery, boutique, and busy streetcorner hosting its own opening of varying degrees of importance, there are approximately 2,100 smaller art fairs going on (give or take). One of these is SCOPE, which I heard about first because urban art trendsetter SF gallery White Walls was trucking some canvases of ABOVE’s stenciled hip-hop dancers– and street artist ROA’s drawings of animals in capitivity, etched on wooden crates — down to show. (CORRECTION: ROA’s publicist has informed us that his installation is not wood etchings. His mediums are enamel, charcoal, China ink, aerosol and acrylic on found wood….no crates.) 

But to get into SCOPE, I first had to make it past the Alpine climber.

And I’m not talking Avery Lawrence’s “Moving a Tree,” though his real-life treadmilling amongst the artourists was a refreshing welcome to SCOPE’s cool white-tent embrace.

“Hi! I’m hear for press reg — ” I began, but didn’t take into account there was an older, wealthier European man with three likewise situated adults with him, behind me. 

“WELL WHAT IS THIS?” he bellowed, and the young woman at the front desk switched her attention like some money-seeking automaton. “Hello! This is SCOPE Festival!” 

“Is it mainly… emerging artists?” ventured the woman in tow with the man, who was now at my elbow at the front desk and had briefly given me a look of consolation when he realized he had asserted his importance over mine. Whatever, they paid first and then the other guy at the counter took pity on me and let me in. 

Everyone clucks when I tell them this story later in the wind of a South Beach hotel terrace. Were you trying to buy art? Well then. SCOPE, on its own, is responsible for $100 million in art sales each year. It concentrates on more edgy art — statement pieces, if you will. And there was some fantastically beautiful things on sales.

Here is the art fair to attend if you are interested in purchasing a life-size replica of a taco shack (Kenton Parker), multi-level traditional Iranian drawings wherein size-appropriate photographs of modern Iranians seamlessly collaged in (Soody Sharifi), Isabel Samaras‘ “Nuthatches With Attitude” (they’re wearing NWA hats and dookie gold and they’re adorable). But also, a rhinestone hamburger. 

This was the most serious buyer-seller discussion I heard, and yes I took photos of it with my Droid (above!) The couple were deciding between the basketball-sized hamburger, opened Lifesavers pack, or Chanel perfume bottle, all shiny and glorious. The Chanel bottle was beginning to rise above the hamburger, and the salewoman smoothly informed them “this one is $26,000. You see, the artist applies each stone individually. It really is amazing.” Reflecting on how little I wanted to see that puppy installed in someone’s home (or dressing room, e-blargh!) I moved on to eavesdrop on other, less trainwrecky people.

Later on the same day, a few blocks from SCOPE, we wandered into the Rubell Family Collection, currently hosting an exhibit featuring a room wallpapered in full Budweiser sixpacks (old label design) and sculptures of gravestones with putt-putt holes on the grass before them, human hands protruding from their flanks holding paper cups where their gravestone ears would be. It is called “American Exuberance,” but judging from my experience at SCOPE you could most likely have the same experience at any of the art fairs in Miami this weekend. Duh.