Art Basel: Pretentious Misadventures on a Hot December Day

We’re somewhere in Miami Beach between school and the Bass Museum of Art when the heat begins to take its toll.

“It’s really hot out, man.”

“Yes, it’s quite blistering indeed.”

It’s December 7th, yet it feels like the middle of summer. Despite having known full well that it was going to be 80 degrees out today, I made the decision this morning to wear black jeans, and I’m regretting it with a fury. It’s really only been about four minutes since our departure from the sweet air conditioned haven that is our school, but we’re drenched in sweat. David Gilinski, yes, the David Hieronymus Gilinski, self-proclaimed “shizzle-ma-frizzle,” known for his pretentious disposition, apathetic nature, taxidermy collection, and highly expressive uni-brow is becoming irate.

“When are we to arrive at our God-forsaken destination? My mono-brow is beginning to perspire, and I just shampooed him this morning!”

As we slowly reach our destination, I become aware of a large structure made entirely out of neon boulders that looms in the distance, and at first I’m not so entirely sure as to whether I’m hallucinating from the heat or staring at something that’s supposed to be art. It’s the latter. It turns out that the large looming structure made entirely out of neon boulders is in fact a piece of art. It’s a sculpture that’s part of Collins Park, which is where our destination, the Bass Museum, can be found.

See, today David and I are on a journey to the very center of Miami’s prestigious art scene: Art Basel. Today, people ranging from pretentious to pretentiouser come from around the globe to fill our streets with traffic and observe art, and we just so happen to have all-access passes provided to us courtesy of the Warrior Word. We choose to start our day at the Bass Museum of Art because of its proximity to school; a mere eight minute walk. The Bass is quite a nice building, bearing on the front in large lit up letters the phrase “ETERNITY NOW.” We walk through the front door and are greeted by a young woman working at the desk.

“Hello, sorry, the museum isn’t open until 10.”

It’s 9:52.

“Why should you be sorry?” David asks. “There’s no need to be sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong! In fact, I’m sorry!”

At this point the young woman is visibly annoyed.

After a few tense and awkward moments we exit the Bass with haste.

Outside it is hot as ever, so we sit at a small table with an umbrella that proves to be useless against the horrid heat. My head is beginning to throb when a small dog comes running up to our table area. The dog is immeasurably cute, and greets every single person in the area. It is truly an amazing experience.

When the clock turns ten, we go back into the Bass. Inside is a wall covered in neon signs displaying the word “Welcome” in nearly every language. Disembodied ponytails shift violently out of holes in the walls. In a dark corner of the building we find a dark room displaying a film that consists solely of shots of women working in tacky gift shops somewhere in Asia, occasionally checking their phones.

Upstairs we find a room that shall forever be engraved in my nightmares. The entire room is filled with at least fifty creepy clowns sprawling on the floor in different positions. At this point, we decide it’s time to go.

I insist upon leaving that we should go back to school to get more information about the different art exhibits going on and find out where to go next, but in classic fashion David disputes this. He says we don’t need structure on our journey– that we should just go with the flow. After much arguing and a small lie, I get him to come back to school with me.

We have two goals here. We want to get an idea of where to go next, but we also want to expand our party. See, a party of two is no fun: we must get Itai. We find Itai de Roca– boy genius, resident calm person, known first for his remarkable hair and second for his invention of the time machine– in the halls.

“Yooooo.”

“Yooooo.”

“Yooooo.”

This is code for “Hello, how are you doing, would you like to leave school and run around Miami with us in the ultimate search for sweet art?” and “Yes.”

And so it’s done, and our party is increased by one. Now we must find the great Mr. Curley. When it comes to art, the Mr. Buckmeister Curlicious knows all, for it is his job. We spend about 30 minutes planning out a schedule for the day, starting at an art installation at an old hotel called the Aqua, and ending in an exhibit called Context. In between we will visit Pulse, ICA, the Wynwood Walls, and the Margulies Gallery.

We only do one of these things.

David, having never left his house before, and I, having not grown up here, don’t know much about Miami. Itai however, knows everything. He elects that we start at the Faena, and so we do. The Faena is a super luxurious hotel on Collins with a lobby that is art all on its own. However, it’s what’s in the Faena’s backyard that makes it so cool, for in the back of the Faena is a giant real wooly mammoth skeleton covered in gold. It’s really a sight to see, and I suggest that everyone goes and sees it because it’s there year round, and all you have to do is sort of sneak your way into the back of the hotel.

Next up we decide to go the Aqua, an old hotel that’s been converted into an art gallery. After a short and extremely uncomfortable trolley ride courtesy of the City of Miami we reach the Aqua. We show the security lady our all-access passes.

“Ooh, aren’t you guys cool.”

Yes. Yes, we are.

The Aqua is definitely my favorite destination of the day. Here, each converted hotel room hosts a different small time artist. The art featured in the Aqua is very eclectic, ranging from gorgeous landscape paintings to rubber band Jim Morrisons. In some rooms, you can find the artist watching as people observe their art. David doesn’t realize this as he looks at a piece that he doesn’t particularly like.

“You know, this is the type of stuff I despise.”

Behind us a few people stop talking for a moment and look at David.

“David, you know that the artist is in here, right?”

“Oh.”

For the second time that day, we leave with haste.

At this point we’re all tired. Running around Miami looking at art can be extremely exhausting. It’s three o’clock now, though, and it’s time to walk to the convention center for the main event. We meet up with Mr. Curley and other kids from our school on an official field trip, and we’re in. 

Oh, how does one explain Art Basel? It’s certainly interesting. The spectrum of art is truly something to behold, and I don’t know if I mean that in a good way or what. I have always seen things like this on the internet, but never thought that I would see it in real life, you know? On one hand, someone thought that a good idea for art was a half eaten apple surrounded by two strawberries. On the floor. Just an apple and some strawberries. There are toilets hanging from the ceiling, and a straight up Nazi flag made of male genitalia. On the other hand, there is some truly great art displayed as well, from lesser-known artists to those by great famous artists such as Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.

I see an early sketch of Warhol’s  Campbell’s Soup painting. There is a small room featuring a few Picasso’s, which we overhear are worth upwards of $30,000,000 dollars. I contemplate for a moment what would happen if I were to touch the Picasso’s, but decide against it based on the somewhat logical conclusion that it would not end well for me, and I’d be in debt for the rest of my life.

At this point, I’m tired of looking at art, my legs hurt, and I want to sit down. So I do, while David and Itai go frolicking about. They’re enjoying this much more than I am. They say they’ll come get me in a few minutes. Five minutes pass, no sight of them. Ten minutes pass. I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable because a very pretentious looking blonde woman has been staring at me for the duration of my sitting. Fifteen minutes pass, and she’s still stealing a glance every minute or so. I am becoming self-conscious. Why is she staring at me? Am I doing something wrong?

After about twenty minutes, David and Itai finally come back to get me.

“We didn’t forget about you.”

Usually when people say this, it means that they did, in actuality, forget about your existence for a moment there.

As it turns out for David, today is a day of long lost family reunions, for as we walk the seemingly endless aisles of art, he spots a cousin he hasn’t seen in years.

“Hmm… that man looks oddly familiar.”

The man is leaving a private room with his wife and an art dealer.

“Excuse me,” David says to the man. “Are we cousins?”

Apparently, as he later confides to me, they hadn’t seen David since he was a wee lad, so they had much to discuss it seemed. They chat for a never ending five minutes in rapid-fire Espanol, while Itai and I stand around awkwardly, hands in pockets, shifting back and forth, waiting for a conversation we cannot understand to end.

A couple hours later as our journey comes to a close, David sees another familiar person.

“Ey! Eyyy, ey! Ey!” He says to the man whilst performing obscure hand motions.

The man wisely chooses to ignore him and continues walking.

“Well that was rude,” David remarks.

“Why did you just spasm in front of that guy?”

“He’s my cousin.”

For the second time that day, David encountered one of his cousins, and we agree that the day has been weird enough, and decide that it’s time to go.

It’s been a long, strange day.

By: Jacob Rosmarin (12th Grade)

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