Monday, December 6, 2010

Every Body Loves Art Basel

I just got back from my second trip down south to check out Art Basel Miami, and I can say, without a doubt, it is worth the trip.

This year's fair seemed even more buoyant and expansive than last year's. As a the overwhelming backdrop to everything, there was Phu Hoang's and Rachely Rotem's surprisingly poetic rope sculpture/arial installation that anyone with any friends in Miami has surely already seen photos of.

This year, instead of mapping out marching orders, I took a more organic approach, letting one event lead to another, with a few pointed stops along the way. Of course, it's really worth noting that I stayed with some friends who were wonderful, accommodating, fun hosts who really love their city. They took us on a kind of mini-tour of Miami, and I've come away with a deeper, semi-profound love of the city, which so sharply contrasts with our own.

It's not just that Miami is beautiful, and populated with a diverse, beautiful population, but rather that Miami has practice saying "yes." Whether it is to an all night party on the beach, or, to an art fair that transforms the city for a week in December. Recently I was asked to participate in a video project of Dolf James's; he wants to get people talking about why Jacksonville is great, or at least good. And for as long as I've lived here, the one thing I've said is that here, you can kind of decide you're going to do something, and just do the damn thing. It's kind of like the wild west in that manner, but also like the west, there isn't a whole lot of support structure in place (also like those olden days, often, if you've got a big enough "gun" one can convince people of an otherwise unwarrented, er, grandeur).

So this city often finds itself at odds with its own self. Of course, it doesn't seem to help that Jacksonville (from my perspective) has a habit of pouring funds into absurd, useless projects, and then, when there are no more funds left, crying to the creative community to help create something else, but now I digress.

This year in Miami, I visited the Rubell again, and wasn't as bowled over as last year, this year, I thought the break away show was Scope, specifically the artist Enrique Gomez de Molina. His attention to detail, scale, and willingness to work with what otherwise might be considered repulsive materials piques the curiosity, touches on ideas trophy and destruction, and is often seductively beautiful. In the rhino bust (pictured), the artist covered a rhino mould with thousands of iridescent beatle wings. It was exquisite. I wanted to sell my house, purchase the piece, and move in with it under a bridge.

Then there was Mr. Anthony Lister. I've been a huge fan (no other word for it) of his work since I first started seeing it on Wooster Collective years and years ago. His sure but hurried application and use of multiples within one image struck me as a really modern solution to figuration and narrative painting. This year he was all over Miami. With three murals and two shows, he was clearly working hard, and from the extraordinarily brief conversation I had with him, I'd say he was enjoying himself quite a bit (and was probably a little exhausted).

The same day I saw Lister (at a little LISTER pop-up gallery, and again at the Hello Kitty show), I got to see the Margulies Collection where in addition to seeing L'Hospice (Superhero Nursing Home), I was captivated by Pieter Hugo's photographs of Nigerian Gadawan Kura (Hyena Men). Incredibly formidable, the images immediately strike the speculation of the viewer: what kind of people tame hyenas (and baboons)?

As a little research shows, a family of performers who've been passing down the hyena secrets for generations.

Taking Art Basel as a whole is near impossible. Rather, I say make it to a few of the things your friends tell you not to miss, wander into a few unexpected spaces, and snack your way through the city (there was the taco truck outside of Rubell, Sugarcane near Scope, Prima Pasta in Miami Beach, Caminito Way in North Miami, the Chow Down Grill in Seaside, or any of a host of little pop-up snack places near the fairs).

This year, Art Basel was food, laughter and beauty. I can't wait to return.

Now, I'm gonna go eat the bagel I hauled back.

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