Art Basel Miami Beach turned 10 this year. There is a lot of getting swept up in things at the fair and its ancillary activities—its many, many, many ancillary activities, like so many barnacles on a whale that the whale lists to the side. There’s satellite fairs to parties sponsored by champagne companies and fashion companies and car companies.
What can get lost in the shuffle is that there is still very good art to be seen in the convention center. Take the paintings by 79-year-old Joan Semmel at the booth of New York dealer Alexander Gray. There were Semmel’s paintings from the ’70s showing couples in flagrante and depicted from, as she will tell you, a woman’s perspective—which was a racier thing back then—and then there was the unflinching nude self-portrait she made just this year.
Art Basel celebrated its birthday later in the week (the event ran from Nov. 30-Dec. 4), with a series of performances co-organized with the Performa biennial. One was a comedy show. Reggie Watts, with voluminous Afro, took the stage. “Why does it have to be Your-ami?” he asked. Tell that to the bevy of car company-sponsored parties.