Baselmania

 

Quite aware of the fact that it has been over a month since Miami Art Week during Basel 2014, I have pondered about the event and decided to write what I drew from the experience. Here it goes:

As much as I look forward with rising anticipation to Basel week in Miami, I always head home Sunday afternoon with a feeling of relief. Finally - I think - a good night sleep!

How do I sum up the madness that was Basel last year? Parties everywhere, so much art that it was almost impossible to see everything with the time and attention it deserved, and the people. Yes, the people. They make it and break it.

Of course it feels amazing, to run into friends, acquaintances and coworkers I have not seen in months, let alone years, having a drink with them, and catching up while strolling along aisles covered in art. I have to admit, that is one of the highlights. And yet, the crowds of rowdy people bumping into you, having way too many drinks and touching the works on display is quite off-putting.

I have the impression, what once was an affair of the art world attended by art lovers and connoisseurs, has become, as quite often happens in Miami, a rowdy circus of craziness. Perhaps, it has been previously so and I have just been oblivious. But to my defense I would like to state that I have been attending Basel for thirteen years.

The same change I have seen happen with the First Saturday Art Walks in the Design District and Wynwood. When I arrived to Miami between ten and thirteen years ago the Design District was the spot with the galleries. The local art world flocked to its streets once a month, to drink wine, eat cheese, and view what was happening in the local art scene. Galleries stopped offering the free drinks and appetizers as soon as art walks started to draw crowds solely concerned with the free booze. Much recently, Galleries in Wynwood started holding openings for exhibitions on the first Thursday of every month, in order to offer serious art enthusiasts the opportunity to experience the art work without the overwhelming masses. Yes, these are some of the cultural events in Miami that have declined from tasteful to boorish. Don’t get me wrong, first Saturday’s of the month are quite fun but definitely not conducive to appreciating art.

But I digress.

I count myself lucky that I was able to see as much as I did in one week. I attended the opening parties of ICA, Art Miami, Miami Project, Aqua, Pulse, PAMM and Locust Projects between others. I also was able to see the Art Basel Exhibition at the convention center, INK, Untitled, Scope, Spectrum, Pinta, and Context. Together, these fairs were able to offer good insight into the current tendencies of the art world.

Sadly, Art Basel Miami Beach was mostly disappointing. I just felt like I was being made fun of. There was so much conceptual art with lousy craftsmanship that it all just blended into one big mess of conceptualization. Yes, the Picasso's, the Calder's and the Cruz Diez were on view as usual and there were definitely some interesting things here and there, such as Nick Cave's Soundsuit and one of my favorites ever, Robert Frank's  Charleston, SC. The last two definite treats! For the most part though, it felt as if to make contemporary art the formula goes as follows: grab some garbage from a construction site (preferably large and bulky), prop it against something like a rock, and throw over it a combination of scraps from your kitchen and a couple of items taken from the donation pile for the Salvation Army. Depressing. I have retained fonder memories of the lunch at the Vegetarian bar in the Convention Center than of the artwork I saw displayed.

Pulse and Untitled were terribly boring! What the heck happened to Pulse? Their brunch used to be a blast and the art on display even better. This year It took me less than thirty minutes to go through the entire fair, eat breakfast and get a terrible head ache from their cheap cider. I will remember with fondness the delicious Bloody Mary's and the William Eggleston Prints first seen in the flesh at Pulse.

Spectrum showcased everything that was absolutely out of control in terms of color. Both at Spectrum and Scope wallpapering the booths with art seemed also to be a tendency. Obviously, it is expensive to get a booth during Art Week at any of the fairs, but come on, don’t completely throw out the window any considerations of display!! I know, I know, I forget that the order of the day is sales, sales, sales in the “White Cube”! But, in the end, should the art not be highlighted by how and next to what it is displayed? What ever happened to meaning by placement and association? 

Props go to Scope for having tons of beautiful work showcasing mad skills. Ink, Art Miami, Context and Miami Project had some amazing work as well. Loved Jack Fisher Gallery at Miami Project. Lauren Dicioccio’s pieces, showcased there, were the best fiber pieces I saw throughout the week. Three dimensional plastic bottles recreated, from shape to labels, using what seemed like organza fabrics, were absolutely stunning. Yet the showstopper for me were the pieces from her Familiars series. Endearing but bizare these nondescript 3D shapes in all kinds of fabrics were like bizarre and small, stuffed animals i just wanted to hug and play with.

All in all, as this post seems to be getting unbearably long, it just was an overwhelming experience. So much so, I have been postponing even thinking about it until now. As a final remark, I will permitting myself to say, that I found baffling the lack of vagina and fiber art. I did see some fiber pieces, but i think, that there was a larger amount of work, in these categories, on display in previous years. Is my medium becoming a dinosaur? Where have all the vagina pieces gone? With these questions dwelling in my mind to contemplate, I have put together a conglomeration of pictures showcasing my favorite work from all the fairs. Enjoy!

Talking about formulas for making art, I found this article funny, specially because it provides a DIY process for making contemporary art. How to Succeed in Contemporary Art Without Really Trying by Emily Levy.