[Editorial] Ultra Who? In Miami, It’s All About Art Basel
Every December, the city of Miami welcomes Art Basel back to the beach. Widely considered the largest gathering for Contemporary Arts in the United States, the event, which launched in 2002, has directly coincided with a rise in the city’s street art, especially in its Wynwood Arts District.
In addition to the multitude of art shows, many quality musical talents feature each and every year, with last year’s edition bringing the likes of Guy Gerber, Damian Lazaraus, Richie Hawtin, Bedouin, Art Department, Green Velvet, Tiga, Pillowtalk, Soul Clap and many more…
This year, the musical choices were diverse and plenty. For example, at the Electric Pickle, labels like Touch of Class and Crew Love offered great showcases, while III Points Festival joined forces with Plot for a massive Life & Death showcase, which included label staples Tale of Us, Mind Against, Thugfucker, alongside special guest Richie Hawtin at a key venue named Mana, a gigantic warehouse located in the heart of Wynwood. Furthermore, some lucky fans enjoyed a very rare appearance of arguably one of the founding fathers of electronic music, Giorgio Moroder at Basement, while Behrouz, owner of unpretentious though excellent venue, Do Not Sit On The Furniture, surprised his crowd with Guy Gerber & (once again) Richie Hawtin.
Since its birth in the eponymous Swiss city back in 1970, the Art Basel brand has expanded greatly, even moving into Hong Kong a few years back, but with such brand expansion one may also be reminded of another Miami institution: Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival!
After nearly three decades, it is the consensus of many DJs & Promoters, that those two once proud institutions are not nearly the same as they once were. It is quite obvious that for non-EDM artists there is more incentive to participate in Art Basel. The UMF & WMC still offer “big” acts, but many underground artists feel like they get lost in the masses. I mean, when the likes of Madonna or Justin Bieber are showing up on stage, what is the point? The WMC recently celebrated 30 years while the U.M.F. now offers fans to finance their tickets – now selling at a price of $350. Those two establishments have shown great success, but by becoming so expansive, it feels as though their magic has faded. It feels like a hundred years ago when U.M.F’s founders named their festival after Depeche Mode’s seminal album, “Ultra”.
With that, the Art Basel Institution and its monthly Art Walk, has made the Wynwood Arts District the undeniable location for the more discerning creative to see and be seen, with many local music enthusiasts also tired of the usual tourist trap South Beach clubs requiring bottle service to male attendees as the sole admittance criteria. Take, for example, back in 2013, when Richie Hawtin was announced to play at a secret location during the week. When the venue was announced on twitter at 1pm, by 4pm a thousand devoted fans were enjoying his Pop Up in a Wynwood parking lot: free entry for everyone, and not a single bro in site. Take also, the aforementioned venue Mana, which became home to the growing III Points Festival. This years lineup featured names like Nicholas Jaar, Bonobo, Mano le Tough, DJ Tennis, Danny Daze, Roman Flugel, Damian Lazarus and even quality hip hop like Run the Jewels and Jay Electronica, at an event easily reminiscent of a 1990s era Ultra Music Festival, gathering off the edge ravers with alternative rock aficionados and hip hop hipsters with tickets selling for a hundred bucks.
Though, some locals have already started complaining about the amount of events posted on social media with the natural, “Is this Ultra yet?”, the excitement for Art Basel is huge and, what seems like, only the beginning. After all, isn’t that what we all want? The recipe for a good party will always come back to the simplest ingredients: some nice speakers, a good DJ and the right amount of happy faces without the pop, pressure, and circumstance of the image-conscious glam clubber. Let’s see what happens as Art Basel continues to expand, but for now, its mixture of bohemian creativity and underground focus has brought some of electronic music’s finest back to the shores of South Beach, occupying the warehouses and after hours spots we all hold so dear. Rave on!
by Emeric Dally
Featured Image Credit: Aaron Curry, courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech Gallery