Whether due to the election, the threat of Zika, or just the changing winds of fashion, it was a quieter Art Basel Miami Beach last week in terms of sheer turnout. But that was not a reflection of the art on view, and certainly not an indictment of the parties on offer, which were as outrageous as ever, if not more so. Here are all the highlight-worthy takeaways for those who kept their distance this year.
The Celebs Did Not Shy Away
Martha Stewart was seemingly everywhere. Sasha Lane continued to win our hearts. Paris Hilton partied on, blissfully ignorant. (Speaking of the formerly disgraced, there was even a sighting of Eliot Spitzer, keenly considering the art at the Rubell Collection.) And they all seemed to converge on Madonna's thoroughly debauched concert/gala for her charity Raising Malawi.
The Acres of Public Art
Art Basel spilled, like many a glass of champagne, into the nearby Collins Park this year with a massive exhibition of public art, including a scaled-down version of Ugo Rondinone's "Seven Magic Mountains" in the Nevada desert. Not to mention the countless new murals splashed across the Design District, of course. There was so much to see we even gave Shanina Shaik a guided tour.
The Ubiquitous Virgil Abloh
Virgil, whose resume verges on Aenied-esque length these days, can now add furniture designer to that list. He was ubiquitous in Miami, and his line of Off-White table and seating, which debuted at Design Miami, dominated Instagram feeds. As for the designs? They're quite... something.
The Upward Trajectory of Max Hooper Schneider
Hooper Schneider, whom we pegged as an emerging artist to watch last year, continues to impress. Though his installation at High Art's booth was among the smaller in the Art Basel fair, it made a big impact, appearing on many a best-of list. His neon terrariums look as if they were constructed as much in the lab as in the studio.
The Now Properly Appreciated Thomas Bayrle
Previously underappreciated in the U.S., the reception of the German artist's retrospective at the ICA was a correction of Bayrle's narrative Stateside — that is, it was met with universal praise in Miami. Of course, the towering, specially-commissioned, site-specific Madonna and child sculpture at the center of the show brought a certain wow factor — a necessary evil to stand out in a very loud week.
The Sun Rises on Sun Xun
The Chinese artist's commission for Audemars Piguet, a giant wave of bamboo that seemed like it could take down a pro surfer, loomed impressively over a beachfront pavilion that doubled as an exhibition space. Titled Reconstruction of the Universe, it looked both as powerful and fragile as water itself.
Maurizio Cattelan Strikes Again
Definitely unretired, the Italian provocateur not only saw a documentary about himself, Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back, screened in Miami, but saw to it that Toilet Paper, his periodical endeavor with Pierpaolo Ferrari, gobbled up all the attention with its installation at the Fondation Beyeler booth at the fair. It was one of the most Instagrammed booths at Art Basel, if not the most.
The Now Impossible to Unsee Jeff Koons Coitus
In case you missed the 2010 show of Jeff Koons's infamous 90's Cicciolina paintings in a staid Upper East Side townhouse, in which he sexes his then-wife Ilona Staller (aka the Italian porn star La Cicciolina), you got another chance to gawk at them in Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian's exhibition of erotic art curated by Diana Widmaier Picasso, which included the memorable Dirty – Jeff on Top. Now try to unsee it.
Jeff Koons, Continued
Oops! A Koons miniature balloon dog on a plate fell from its display at Design Miami and shattered the art world news cycle. The artist, though, was nonplussed. "It's just a porcelain plate," he told Page Six. At an estimated price of $9,000, it might not even be that for the world's most expensive living artist.
The Headliners Were Present
Madonna! Gucci Mane! Kendrick Lamar! Ariana Grande! Princess Nokia! Grace Dunham?! The performers really turned it up this year, proving that even in a down year Art Basel Miami is just too big to bail on completely. Till December 2017, Miami.