Fair and Loathing: Miami 2014

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

While the national news was weighted with stories of ever more black citizens assaulted or killed by abusive police--including in Miami this past August--the city was awash with reports of impossibly wealthy collectors buying impossibly expensive art during celebrity-filled VIP openings that flowed into after parties stretching long into the night. Those worlds collided for several hours on Friday evening during the fairs when demonstrators blocked I-95, which leads to one of the causeways between downtown Miami and Miami Beach, leaving hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fairgoers stuck in taxis while the meters ticked—or in packed, fair-provided shuttles going nowhere.

The best of times: Bridget Riley in David Zwirner's primo location opposite the entrance, at Art Basel Miami Beach

The worst of times: Having to fight for your life

“It was a nightmare,” said more than one fairgoer of the traffic, the lack of available taxis, and the extortionate rates charged by Uber, whose billionaire owner was getting wealthier by the moment—to say nothing of the current events that prompted the traffic tie-up. (Meanwhile, one of my taxi drivers, a lovely, edging-toward-elderly man named Clairvoie, told me he hadn’t gotten a raise in 10 years.)

Yes, Miami can be a bit of a warm and breezy bubble for those too busy to check in with the real world, or a source of cognitive dissonance for those who do. But the Miami I inhabited for six days was largely one of hardworking artists, dealers, critics and curators staying in crummy hotels with slow wifi and working long hours, a sorority/fraternity of colleagues trying to earn a living from the work we do. 

The New York dealer Pavel Zoubok, posting on Facebook, offered this perspective: “Behind all the gloss and misinformation that surrounds the art world is a very real community of passionate, creative people that I am very proud to be part of. I am reminded of this every time we gather on such occasions.” Yes, thank you.

On the grounds at the Bass Museum of Art, a few blocks from ABMB and across the street from the beach: Fieldwork, curated by Nicholas Baume. Here, Lynda Benglis, foreground, and Jessica Stockholder left rear, two of 26 sculptors in the outdoor exhibition

An Overview
There were 22 fairs (some international and mega, like Art Basel Miami Beach at the Convention Center; others small and artist-run, like Fridge Fair in Little Havana); four private collections on view; at least two big museum exhibitions; numerous local gallery exhibitions and a few pop-up shows in both Miami Beach and downtown Miami; and dozens of special projects around town. There were also numerous talks at ABMB’s Conversations program, including one with Lynda Benglis; a panel, The Importance of Women Artists in Today’s Market, at Miami Project; and a conversation, Women in Art, at Pulse.

If you started with the previews on Tuesday the 2nd and walked briskly through each event until the last closing on Sunday the 8th—scheduling visits to take advantage of selected 10:00 a.m. start times and 10:00 p.m. closings—it might have been possible to see almost everything. Almost. But it would have required superhuman stamina, miles of travel and traffic, and several hundred dollars in entry fees (if you didn’t have comp entries) to see it all. Remembering everything would have been impossible.

I chose to photograph and remember what I saw, so I got selective with the fairs: Aqua Art, Art Basel Miami Beach, Ink, Pulse, NADA and Untitled, all on the beach side; Miami Project and Art Miami in Wynwood. 

In terms of special events, I walked through the grounds of the Bass Museum of Art to see Fieldwork, 26 sculptures curated by Nicholas Baume, director and chief curator of Public Art Fund, placed on a greensward across the street from the beach. Then I crossed Collins Avenue to walk on the beach at Collins Park, where the Peabody Essex Museum had organized performances of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests, half a dozen enormous articulated sculptures whose sails captured the wind, which propelled the skeletal forms to “walk” across the sand. Despite the gathered crowds, which pressed close to the great beests, it was still possible to experience their quirky, cartoony, lyrical, sci-fi fabulousness. I stopped into the Square Foot exhibition at Projects Gallery in Wynwood, a mixed-bag exhibition of work by artists who were not necessarily fair-represented. (A closing will take place tomorrow night, December 10.)

One of Theo Jansen's Strandbeests on the strand

Close to 200 artists showing their work at Square Foot in the Projects Gallery in Wynwood

Some highlights
Several of these categories will appear as dedicated posts

. A lot of great painting, large and small, at all the fairs 

Claire Sherman, foreground; Robert Kushner, center rear, 
at D.C. Moore Gallery, Miami Project

Joan Brown and Andrew Masullo at Gallery Paule Anglim, also Miami Project

Dona Nelson at Thomas Erben Gallery, NADA

Katherine Bradford at Freight and Volume, Miami Project

. As always, a nice selection of Mid-Century geometric abstraction, not only from Latin America, which delivers dependably strong work, but from U.S. dealers showing the work of Myron Stout, Leon Polk Smith, Judith Rothschild and others
Decio Viera and others at Guillermo de Osma Galleria, at ABMB

Judith Rothschild at Valerie Carberry Gallery, at ABMB

Fiber- and cloth-based work, like a wall of wrapped forms by Sheila Hicks, and unraveled serapes reconfigured  by Adrian Esparza 

Sheila Hicks at Sikkema Jenkins, ABMB

Adrian Esparza at Cindy Rucker Gallery, Untitled

. Strong work on paper, from large to small--both contemporary and from decades past

Michelle Stuart solo exhibition at Leslie Tonkonow Projects in the Survey section of ABMB

Drawing on the financial pages: Horacio Zabala at Henrique Faria Buenos Aires. at Untitled
Detail above, installation below

. A blurring of lines between categories, which is not a bad thing. At Ink, for instance, a fair devoted to prints, I saw some great paintings by Mike Carroll at Dolan Maxwell (you'll see pics when I publish the Paintings post). At Pulse, there were some large cut-metal shapes—ferns and coral on tangerine walls—that seem to have come from straight from Design Miami. And artists known for their work in one medum were showing a selection of work in another, like Polly Apfelbaum’s painterly ceramics at ABMB
Polly Apfelbaum's painterly ceramics at Galerie Nachst St., Stephen/Rosemarie Schwarzwalder, at ABMB

. A bunch of rocks
. A ton of tondos
. A lot of talk, well words--and that's not counting the ever chatty Mel Bochner

Rocks, real and cast, by Alicja Kwade at Kamel Mennour, at ABMB

Judy Pfaff paper and plastic tondo at Pavel Zoubok Gallery, at Miami Project

Say what? Lisa Levy at Schroeder Romero Gallery, at Pulse

More trends
. Plenty of black and white, and gray—even from Josef Albers. (Funny story: As I’m standing in front of a shades-of-gray Albers, a couple of nouveau collectors approach the painting. She to him: “Yves Klein, right?” )

Michiel Ceulers at Mihai Nicodim Gallery, NADA

An achromatic Josef Albers at ABMB

. The usual complement of mirrored, or shiny surfaces. Some screamed “buy me” to the collectors with more money than taste, but there was also some sensuous, gorgeous work—inlaid, gilded—that beckoned for closer viewing, like the exquisite inlaid paintings of Nancy Lorenz shown below

Gorgeous gilding: Nancy Lorenz at Morgan Lehman, at Miami Project
Detail above; full view below

Well, this one's shiny and great for selfies: John M. Armleder at Mehdi Chouakri, ABMB
Yes, that's me below

. Materiality was once again in evidence, from Anatsui's bottleneck-label tapestries, to pine knots set elegantly into sheets of plywood, to paintings that look like bolts of fabric, to a square sculpture of wax and wood so reminiscent of Jackie Winsor I thought it might have been hers

El Anatsui at Jack Shainman, ABMB

Sam Ekwurtzel at Simone Subal Gallery, in the Nova section of ABMB
Detail of inset pine knot, above; full view below of two 96 x 48" birch panels 

Hu Quingyan at Galerie Urs Meile, ABMB
These are double-sided paintings rolled to look like fabric. I saw them at ABMB last year, at the same gallery, but they still do it for me so you get to see them again

Jeremy Wafer wood and wax cube at Goodman Gallery, Capetown, ABMB

. As usual, I paid no attention to video and very little to photography. (Not for nothing is the tag ling for this blog Biased, Myopic, Incomplete and Journalistically Suspect)

More soon. Meanwhile, Jerry Saltz's fake Miami report is better than my real one.


Sue Marrazzo Fine Art said...

Thanks Joanne...I am so inspired! Thanks!

pam in sw florida said...

This report is almost as good as going myself. Well, better as no taxi drives and crowds.
Thank you Joanne

Christine said...

Thank you Joanne! I always appreciate your organization in presenting your experience! After reading the Times article I'm dying to see a Stanbeest in action. Really enjoyed Ekwurtzel's Pine knot pieces, and Ceuler's painintgs(that feel like drawings?). But I laughed out loud at one of the word paintings of Levy's.."Welcome to the Home of a truly smart sexy art collector." Thank you too for acknowledging the particular and painful juxtaposition of the protests amid and during the fairs...Zoubaks quote hits the nail on the head.Looking forward to future posts.

Joanne Freeman said...

Very nice to have the cultural perspective of an artist and writer who knows the history and trajectory of the fair. I too felt like I was there, experiencing the frustration and inspiration. Great reporting, Thanks!