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Monday, January 3, 2011

Art Basel Miami Beach 2010

The theme of my annual Miami trip is “can you really do Art Basel is 36 hours?” The answer is no – taking off at 6am and going all day for two days caused me to get glazed over easier and skip things I would have otherwise spent more time exploring. I landed in Miami at 9am, jumped in a car and zipped over to South Beach. I thought I would go right to the ink Art Fair as it was the only one opening at 10am, but was instead enticed by Balan’s on Lincoln Road for a quick brunch. I of course had to park in the Herzog de Mueron garage - it was as fantastic as expected. It was a great architectural design with triple height spaces quickly becoming compressed and then opening up again. I also stopped into the Alchemist retail space on the 6th floor – filled with overpriced scarves – obviously necessary for South Beach – and overstaffed with beautiful gay men.

Since brunch alone took longer than expected, I skipped ink and went right to Aqua. I think this exhibit was the highlight of the weekend. It was one of the only satellite fairs that was the same size (although the downtown location was scrapped this year).  One of the first pieces I saw was Cynthia Consentino’s “Girl with Gun” from www.wbfinearts.com and I thought immediately how could I have possibly passed this trip up? Another initial highlight was the SVA gallery where I always find great curated works. This year was more contemporary than previous years with more monumental video and sculptural pieces. Whereas in previous years I was blown away by large paintings of men, this year I was inspired by Kevin Stahl’s sculptural piece of a human rib cage, stomach and gastric bypass device. The piece was simple and beautiful and although it was almost medical, its resin material made it beautiful and almost pretty. The other major work was a video piece by Robert Gill, which I still need more information about but was a diptych screen with accompanying photographs.

There were a few things I could afford at Aqua. The first one (by Gilbert Hsiao at www.mckenziefineart.com from Chelsea) was a paper piece that was very geometric as silver dots created a square against a black background. And within the pattern the tone of the silver color created a circle within the square. It was a great simple chic piece and a steal at $500. Another great piece was by Erik Parra at www.fouladiprojects.com from San Francisco that was really hard to walk away from. It was a found image from an old textbook of connecting highways that looked like the 5 and the 10 in west LA. The artist took this image and added a little car with shards of colored paper flying off the back of it. I was geographic, historic, playful and basically amazing. And it was only $575. And the final “affordable” piece that I really loved was a color spectrum piece whereas typically these works are separated into clean color striations, in this piece the colors connected and merged into one another. This piece by Bernadette Jiyong Frank from www.sbfinearts.com was also a Bay Area based gallery and also $500.

I could keep going on for days about Aqua, other highlights include a stuffed bear made out of resin by Rob Tarbell at www.decorazongallery.com from Dallas, Holly Farrell’s great prints of 50s-esqe Babies at www.garde-rail.com from Austin, beautiful ocean paintings by Chris Armstrong at www.bethurdanggallery.com from Boston and beautiful paintings by www.rachelbess.com. Also, www.katharinemulherin.com had wonderful LA-esque photographs by Dennis Ekstedt and finally a great interpretation of the hand of man touching the hand of a huge rat by Hannes Bend from www.artslant.com that was offensive and fantastic. I’m not sure why I pulled the card for www.gallery339.com from Philadelphia but they have some interesting photographs that are highlighted on their Facebook page.


From Aqua, I grabbed an iced tripio and walked back over to main fair at the where I paid $36 for no reason but for an overcrowded convention floor with pieces I’ve seen at MoMA or other major galleries in New York. There were a few highlights, such as a corner where Dan Flavin and Richard Tuttle shared a small space or a small $300,000 neon eye-poke by Bruce Nauman at very pretentious www.donaldyoung.com from Chicago. 

Other highlights includes:
-        the first non-light sculptural piece I’ve seen by Doug Aitken at all-time fav www.regenprojects.com out of LA

-        A Rubens Mano video piece
-        Historic photograph from Marina Abromonvic’s “breathing in, breathing out”

-     Died for Draset and Elmgreen’s sculptural piece called “wash your hands” – only $30,000 at another pretentious gallery - www.massimodecarlo.it from Milan
-        Philippe Parreno’s Blue Candles at http://www.estherschipper.com/ from Berlin

-        Allora and Calzadilla’s gas pump

-        Bruce Weber pictures that included portraits of Dash Snow and Louise Bourgeois

-     Spencer Finch at http://www.nordenhake.com/ from Berlin had a great light sculpture (although I am loving his work at the Corcoran more)

Another highlight that was surprising to find at the main fair was Linder at www.modernart.net from London. Clearly, he is obsessed with nudity and sexuality – his photographs at the gallery combining pornography and desserts, was an interesting and I found comical connection. Chocolate is often referred to as a fill-in for sex, but I can’t I’ve ever seen anyone display the connection so brashly. I also don’t know why I picked up the card for www.tonkonow.com out of Chelsea, but they had some nice works – especially Laurel Nakadate who has some interesting photographs.

From there I decided to go Verge, which was VERY small this year. The fair usually takes over the entire first floor of one of the Catalina buildings, but this year, was under 50%. And the galleries are always up and coming, but this year felt more amateur. It was great though to see some of the artists manning the spaces and I think moving forward it would be a great marketing strategy to highlight the rarity of that at ABMB. I did pick up a small, very affordable piece by www.mikereynolds.us from the artist himself.  From there I decide to hit Nada as I heard good things about it from multiple people. This was the second year that Nada decided to show at 67th and Collins, which is very off the beaten bath for Basel. Plus, the parking around the hotel sucks and there is always a ton of traffic . As a New Yorker, I don’t expect parking, except when you are forced to get to a fair by auto and the venue offers no parking. So I took my chances and parked at the Rite Aid parking lot where huge signs warned of towing. Needless to say, I lasted about 10 minutes in the fair before fear got the best of me and I ran back to the car. I would pay for the valet parking, but for the past two years it was full. So, needless to say, I don’t have any reviews from that show – but running through the whole thing in10 minutes, nothing really jumped out at me – again a regret for not booking a longer trip.

By now it was 6pm - I refreshed (aka showered since I'd be up since 4am), grabbed dinner with a friend and headed to the Fountain party downtown. I immediately felt like I was transported to Third Ward, a collective artists space in a gigantic warehouse in industrial Bushwick. The galleries were filled with art, everything from royal cartoon portraits to artists on swings from the ceilings. Some of the highlights were a space you had to walk through and looked like the aftermath of a raging party. The interpretation of Hope with a six-pack of Pabst, a collective from Brooklyn  (www.we-are-familia.com) included a traditional children’s wooden desk covered in carvings that were all Facebook statuses the artists found online. A bubble boy world in the middle of the ocean, pictures by David S Allee at www.morganlehmangallery.com from Williamsburg of subway cars being dumped into the ocean, and finally drawings of pornographic acts on doilies. The free booze kept us there longer than we needed to be, although I was hoping to see a performance piece that was happening at 11pm in the yard, the friends I was with were more 9th Avenue than Bedford.

Saturday morning I was awoken way too early by my friend’s housekeeper, we were out the door by 9am, drove over to Big Pink for a “cold” outdoor brunch and then headed to Wynwood. At Scope, I was disappointed to see some of the same works from last year, including Aidrian King’s illuminated books and Cecilia Paredes‘s updated photographs  (wrapping her models in fabric instead of the normal body paint I’ve seen previously). There were some great photographs – both of landscapes and of people. There was only one Sanchez Brothers picture this year. However there was a great video section at Pulse and I died for the Omer Fast piece, I almost couldn’t leave the space – it was intoxicating (clip below). Also, was great to see familiar yet still disturbing video pieces by Michael Wolf and new photographs of vacant and depressing American landscapes by Brian Ulrich at www.kochgallery.com from San Francisco. I was also surprised to find myself totally intoxicated by Mary Henderson’s photographic-quality drawings of youth beside a lake. There was something really moving in her work. Miles Aldrich had bright and beautiful Stepford wives in the grocery store. Hugo Lugo’s drawings of men in suits avoiding the rain on oversized lined paper were another highlight. There was also a lot of play with mirrors throughout the fairs - although I can't find the artist names of some of the great pieces below. At Paci Arte, Michal Macku created a fantastic silhouette of a man with an almost eerie light pouring out of his chest, a trend I found runs through most of his work. Korean artist, Miru Kim had a fantastic photograph titled “NY1” with a single naked man on all fours among a few dozen pigs. Also, Jackson Fine Art was there from Atlanta with some great photographic/video pieces by Joseph Guay. This is a gallery I came across over the summer, when I fell in love with David Hillard’s photographs - www.jacksonfineart.com. Another interesting piece and a character was www.agnizotis.com, who showed at Pulse (I think) and had a video work she created last year. The piece was shot at Aqua’s downtown location during a blackout and focuses on a “prominent” art critic masturbating on a work of art in front of a cheering crowd. Definitely said a lot about the art world and the mentality at some of the Miami fairs. 

I forget where I came across Julia Fullerton-Batten’s haunting photograph, but it was very well conceived (at www.randallscottprojects.com from DC). A dated high school gym locker room, filled with judgmental tweens all in beige one-piece bathing suits, staring at the one girl who got her period all over the floor.

From there we drove over to the Midtown area to hit Art Miami, Scope and Red Dot. Honestly, I barely remember these fairs – the main problem with waking up at 4am and going strong for 20 hours. The highlight was the shared booth by Roberta’s and Blue Bottle Coffee at Scope. These are two Williamsburg (or Bushwick, depending on who you ask) institutions, and I was excited to get amazing coffee. Finally, same as last year, one of the last things I saw were three new Saultianos. Last year’s deep red paintings completely woke me up when I was glazed over and half asleep. This year’s vacant, clean pencil drawings were so pure and simple they did the same thing. I wouldn’t have loved them as much if I didn’t know his work to be exclusively red. My favorite, not shockingly, was the drawing of two men in a very intoxicating and inquisitive position that left me wanting to know more. If I had the $30,000, it would have come home with me without question.

We wrapped up around 5pm and I thought about going back over to the beach to see Design Miami or maybe back to Nada – I had a few hours until my flight. Ultimately, I am sad to say, I was too tired to keep going and took my 30-year-old ass to the airport where I spent the extra hour in the AA lounge looking over some of the Art Newspapers from the week. I spent Sunday in bed recovering – the whole day.

In the end, although I saw a lot of the same pieces and a lot of New York galleries, it was still an amazing experience. This was my fourth ABMB and the fact that I saw such a wide range of art in different mediums and price points is still fantastic. This trip sealed the deal that I will continue to make this annual trip down and next year will definitely book four days as to take it all in.

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