Bienvenidos a Miami

The Bombay Gin models were gorgeous, seven feet tall and performing water ballet. You could get close enough to the Warhols and the Picassos to see the brush strokes. And price tags ranged from the thousands to the millions.

Satellite gallery owner Bill Thompson.

Such were the sights at Art Basel Miami Beach, the American sister to one of the world’s top art fairs, Art Basel. This year, for the first time, a group of Asheville artists attended through The Satellite Gallery. They returned earlier this month and shared their observations with Xpress.

“It was overwhelming,” says local artist Alli Good, who remarked on the models, the brush strokes and the price tags.

Bill Thompson owns Satellite, which earned an invite (and after the strong Asheville showing, a return invite) to the Gen Art Vanguard fair, a contemporary art show held alongside Art Basel Miami Beach. The Satellite stall was loaded with Asheville work from artists such as Good, Gabriel Shaffer, Taiyo la Paix, Brian Mashburn and Dustin Spagnola.

“We rocked their socks off,” says Thompson, who says he was thrilled. “We had all new work by all new artists: We were showing against big galleries in big cities.”

Although Art Basel Miami has only been around for two years, it’s widely considered the most important American art fair. Miami hosted seven sites for this year’s extravaganza, each with its own genre and specialized contingent of dealers, collectors, curators and artists. In addition, a melange of other art fairs are held at the same time.

The main event caters to several hundred of the most important national and international galleries that exhibit works of the world’s most prominent artists, living or dead: It’s the place where important collectors compete for works priced in the millions of dollars.

The Gen Art Vanguard fair, where the Satellite Gallery stall was located, was in the Wynwood Art District of the city and hosted seven galleries, most from California, and all from cities much larger than Asheville.

Bombay Sapphire girls.

West Coast artist and teacher John Baldessari once said “an artist going to an art fair is like a teenager barging into his parent’s bedroom while they’re having sex. At fairs gallerists are reduced to merchants, a role in which they’d rather not be seen by their artists.”

La Paix and Mashburn had a different experience, which they say was both valuable and enlightening. “For the first time,” la Paix says, “I really saw the marketers as human beings, all just trying to put food on their table. It was good to see that firsthand.”

Mashburn says he found the marketing aspect of his experience educational. “At one point in time, it would have rubbed me the wrong way,” he admits. “But I saw the arts industry in action. People were gracious and gave me advice on how to proceed—I learned a lot about the nuances of marketing.”

The artists agree they were on sensory overload the whole time.

From la Paix: The blow-up sculptures on Biscayne Boulevard blew him away.  And the Gen Art Vanguard party was unlike anything he’d ever seen or imagined.

From Spagnola: He was awed by the pool at one end of the space with synchronized swimmers, the light pen he played with that was connected to a computer and a projector, the martini bars and the fact that he saw 30 murals created in two days.

Spagnola and la Paix stayed in the Wynwood district, while Mashburn and Good explored more of the venues. Mashburn found the work at Art Asia particularly inspiring: “It was sharp and tight, challenging, but still approachable. I found it engaging on many different levels,” he said.

He spent a whole day at the convention center, where he says he found the work of very high quality, “but I became numb—there was just too much!”

Good was awed to meet artists she had admired for years, and delighted to feel that her work, which she says is not carried by “fancy” galleries, seemed to fit in the context of the Gen Art fair. “It would be an understatement to say that I was overexcited,” she exclaims. “I felt like a child!”

“It was inspiring to walk into a random gallery and see work I had seen in magazines,” she adds. “There was so much high-end work.”

Good, who went with her husband, Doug, and 8-year-old son, Oscar, also came home with philosophical questions about her work and her life. “It was great to have people feel that my art is important, but seeing acres of art made me think, what is the purpose of all this? How do I get to be a part of it? And, most of all, why do I want to be a part of it?”

[Connie Bostic is an Asheville-based painter and writer.]

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3 thoughts on “Bienvenidos a Miami

  1. James Marshall

    This is the most awful article ever written. It is obvious that the writer is absolutely clueless as to the importance of the events. The Satellite Gallery has done wonderful things for the art community and for artists in general. To be invited in to any event for Art Basel Miami is a huge accomplishment. The writer completely diminishes this fact. Basel Miami has been going strong for 10+yrs and the Vangaurd fair for 2.

    No other gallery and or artist from WNC or even the rest of NC has EVER been to Art basel Miami. When will the rest of WNC wake up to the fact that Bill Thompson and The Satellite Gallery are internationally recognized. Not only that, the gallery has done more for the artist community in the 3 1/2 years it has been opened than any other gallery in Asheville. Wake up and smell the art Connie Bostic give recognition where it is due. The Satellite Gallery continually gets over looked in this area due to peoples closed ideas of art. This gallery is the best thing that has happened to Asheville in a long time when will you people educate yourselves.

  2. Gabriel Shaffer

    First, thank you to Bill Thompson for not only pushing Asheville artists to grow creatively, but to also be aware of the mechanics that operate outside of the studio.He has consistently exposed our little city to a much larger picture from the moment he opened his doors. Also, i want to express my gratitude to him, for highlighting us in such a high profile event. I dont know if enough folks are aware of just how important what he did for us was. Thank you to the Mountain Xpress , for making Asheville a little more aware that this took place, we held our own and drew much interest with some of the best.
    I would also like to address just a few things in the article. First, there were some other very talented local artists who exhibited with the Satellite gallery in Miami, that were left out of the article. Ted Harper, had a freakishly beautiful sculpture on display, Sean Pace also had some of his fantastic inventions hanging, Nicole Mcconeville also had her lovely mixed medias there and ruth whiting had some beautiful looking paintings.
    regarding the Art Basel in Miami. this show has existed for over 10 years now and has become the biggest show in America. the sheer volume of art and artists that flood into Miamis Wynwood district, during basel weekend is staggering.Gen Art, a super classy organization has sponsored shows during Basel for the past 3 years, making an effort to highlight contemporary underground and emerging art. each year their events have become more and more successful and publicized, this year was no exception.
    I could ramble for days about how happy and proud i am to have not only had the opportunity to show there, but to also have done it with so many peers that i respect and admire, in my hometown. I have the utmost confidence and highest hopes in the future of our cities art scene, to be considered one of the best.
    If anyone is interested in seeing more pictures and related info about the event we posted a set on my flickr page here
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabrielshaffer/sets/72157611029820343/

  3. ACG

    Just a small correction for the article and 2 posted comments by James and Gabriel. Art Basel Miami Beach, the official name of Swiss Art Basel’s sister art fair in Miami, has not been around for 10+ years or 2 years as the article claims. It was scheduled to open in December of 2001 but due to the 9/11 terrorists attacks in NYC, it was postponed to open the following year. Therefore, the self proclaimed most important art fair in the United States has been around for 7 years.

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