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For Art Lovers, Art Basel in Miami Beach Was the Place to Be


Visitors could see art from 200 galleries representing 30 countries. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Correction attached

VOICE ONE:

I’m Bob Doughty.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Pat Bodnar with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today, we travel to the warm and sunny city of Miami, Florida to visit the largest modern art show in the United States. For the past six years, art galleries, dealers, and artists from all over the world have gathered for Art Basel Miami Beach. Many other smaller art fairs also take place around the city. For five days in December, these fairs in Miami become an important center of the art industry and market.

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VOICE ONE:

Art Basel Miami Beach is linked to Art Basel, a famous art show that has been taking place for over thirty-eight years in Switzerland.

The Miami version of the show was held this year in the Miami Convention Center from December fifth to the ninth. Forty-three thousand people visited the fair, which included art from two hundred galleries in thirty countries. Walking through the fair is an exciting experience in which you are completely surrounded by art. You might feel like you are in a museum, but the artwork around you is all for sale. On the walls of the many gallery exhibition spaces, you could find works by some of the most famous artists in the world such as Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. There were also works by many important living artists such as Barbara Kruger, Anish Kapoor, and Damien Hirst.

VOICE TWO:

Modern art can take surprising forms. You are as likely to find videos, machines, or light bulbs as you are to find paintings and photographs. One unusual sculpture combined ice and sound.

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This sculpture is by American artist Kelly Nipper. Pieces of ice hanging from a metal form fell onto a surface similar to a drum instrument. The falling drops made a sound, which was then repeated much more loudly by a speaker device.

VOICE ONE:

You might even find a few pieces that do not at first seem like a work of art. For example, the artist Xu Zhen made an installation piece that looks like a modern food shop in China. The artist recreated boxes and bottles of common foods and drinks. He included lights and shelves for storage. There was even a woman operating the cash register where visitors could try to pay for goods. But all of the containers were empty. So the store became pointless. Xu Zhen makes an interesting statement about modern society and the culture of buying and using, or consuming, goods.

VOICE TWO:

Art that comments on the culture of consumption serves as a reminder that Art Basel is, after all, about business. Millions of dollars of art are bought and sold at this event. Many companies pay large amounts of money to help support the show and its many events and parties. For some collectors, buying art is more about making an investment than about having something nice to hang on the wall.

VOICE ONE:

The art market can be very competitive. Some collectors decide to “flip” art by purchasing art from a gallery at a good price. As the artist’s work becomes more popular, its price increases because there is higher demand than supply. Several years later, a collector can sell the same piece of art at an auction house where buyers compete to purchase the piece. The collector can then make a great deal of money. To fight this problem, art galleries can require buyers to sign an agreement that if they resell the art, they must first make an offer to sell it back to the art gallery.

Some art collectors like the fact that they can get higher prices for their works in the competitive sales environment of an auction house. But for artists, higher prices mean their work is less likely to be bought by museums. And some artists would rather see their works enjoyed by collectors rather than treated like a traded object.

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VOICE TWO:

Art Basel may be the place to buy some of the most costly and famous art. But more than twenty other art fairs also take place in Miami at the same time.

One of them is called Pulse Miami, now in its third year. This contemporary art show included works from eighty galleries in sixteen countries. The show takes place in the Wynwood area of Miami, which is filled with industrial buildings and warehouses. Helen Allen helped create Pulse. She says that in such a competitive area as the art world, Pulse helps support new and inventive art and programs that are separate from the Art Basel show.

VOICE ONE:

One striking artist at Pulse is represented by the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City. Mark Wagner makes extraordinarily detailed collage works. He cuts pieces of paper and sticks them with glue to a paper surface to create pictures. But the kind of paper he uses might surprise you.

MARK WAGNER:

"Hello, I’m Mark Wagner. I’m an artist based out of Brooklyn and I make artwork that’s made entirely out of the U.S. one dollar bill. I was making a lot of collage and realized that a lot of people were drawn to things that were familiar to them, so eventually ended up on what’s the most familiar piece of paper in America, and it’s the one-dollar bill. Everyone has it in their hands all the time. And, I wanted to take that thing that everyone was familiar with and make something very unfamiliar out of it."

Since the American President George Washington is on the dollar bill, many of Mark Wagner’s works show Washington doing different activities. In one work, he is cutting a cherry-tree while in another piece he is rowing a boat in a sea of dollar bills.

VOICE TWO:

Another gallery at Pulse called bitforms showed artists who make moving sculptures. One work by Choe U-Ram looked like a large metal flower that opened and closed. The work was as artistically interesting as it was mechanically perfect.

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VOICE ONE:

The NADA art fair is organized by the New Art Dealers Alliance. Galleries from Europe, Mexico, Japan and other countries come together in a building called the Ice Palace to show their art. For example, Rodeo Gallery from Istanbul showed the work of the Turkish artist Ahmet Öğüt. Özge Ersoy works with this gallery. She explained that this artist's twenty-three drawings show different important artists, museum directors and art historians. With these works and others, he explores the power structures that exist within the art world.

VOICE TWO:

One gallery from New York City had a moving sculpture called “The Message” by David Ellis and Roberto Lange. You could hear the work before you could actually see it.

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“The Message” consists of a processor that controls a typewriter and a box of bottles and paint cans. The typewriter writes out the words of a song onto paper while a drum instrument hits glass and metal objects to create a beat. Listen as one of the artists explains more.

ROBERTO LANGE:

“My name is Roberto Lange. The piece is called “The Message” and it is based on the Grandmaster Flash song “The Message.” So, it types out the lyrics and keeps the lyrics in tempo of the beat. The piece was made by David Ellis and myself. David Ellis he put the whole sculpture together and did the whole concept and I did the musical composition aspect of it.”

VOICE ONE:

Other shows took place in more unusual settings. Fountain, a show with galleries from Brooklyn, New York, was held in a warehouse. If you were tired of seeing art inside, you could walk outside Fountain and see well-known graffiti artists creating spray-painted pictures on the walls. The galleries Aqua and Flow held their shows in hotels. And another group of galleries showed their collections on a boat called the SeaFair. This seventy meter long yacht was specially built to be an exhibition space. If you got tired -- or seasick -- from looking at art, you could rest at one of the restaurants on the boat.

VOICE TWO:

Philae Knight works for the New York art sellers Phillips de Pury and Company. She says that smaller art shows like Pulse and NADA allow experienced art collectors the satisfaction of discovering the work of artists who are not yet well known. And, she says that the shows are also great for beginning art collectors to find work they love at good prices.

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VOICE ONE:

Visiting Art Basel and the other shows was about more than just the art. It was also a good excuse for a party. Every day there were many social gatherings and concerts throughout the city. For example, the American rock musician Iggy Pop gave a concert one night on the beach. Another night, Busta Rhymes and Moby performed. And visitors could watch the artist Jona Cerwinske paint a picture in the swimming pool of the Delano Hotel.

VOICE TWO:

Art Basel and its satellite shows gave visitors an exciting chance to explore and discover every imaginable kind of art. Visitors got to experience the inventiveness, energy and creativity of art today.

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VOICE ONE:

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m ­­­­Bob Doughty.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Pat Bodnar. To learn more about Art Basel and see photographs of its galleries and visitors, you can visit w-w-w dot art basel dot com. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

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Correction: Art Basel Miami Beach was held at the Miami Beach Convention Center in the city of Miami Beach, not at the Miami Convention Center, or the city of Miami, as reported in this story.

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