I just did the math: between Art Basel Miami Beach, private collections, and satellite fairs I have viewed close to 1,576 pieces of art in the past 48 hours. I think I can consider myself an endurance aesthete, because even as I wandered the last fair with sand in my shoes I could have continued for another 48 hours.
Out of all the work, I would say 99% was not so great. As Sir Norman Rosenthal said before his talk with Tracey Emin on Thursday, “If 95% of the art fair was in the rubbish, the world would be a better place.”
That said there were some highlights, and being my first time for this special week in Miami, I was pleasantly surprised. The popular art press would have me believe I was walking into a celebrity mashed, super-sponsored, fashion-meets-art-Disneyland where art has sex with money. I thought it was perfectly low key. I mean you get to swim during your art viewing breaks! While there are lots of parties, you don’t have to attend. I opted for film screenings and outrageous “new Latin fusion” for dinner. And yes there are advertisements everywhere: the VIP lounge even had displays of cars and watches. This is nothing different than picking up your Harpers Magazine or [insert your fave magazine] each month with its requisite car and watch advertisements.
1. Jeffrey Gibson’s “I Wanna Go Bang” (Marc Strauss Gallery)
The work initially caught my eye as I had just read about Nelson Mandela’s love of boxing, and the fact that my husband and I have battled over our collections of art versus sports memorabilia. The work is domestic with its crafty beading and repetition, and violent – it’s a punching bag. The other layer is that Marc uses materials specific to his heritage and fuses it with art history. While he has lived throughout the world, and went to the Royal College in London, he is a member of the Mississippi band of Choctaw Indians, and half Cherokee.
2. Lee Krasner, “Assault on the Solar Plexus” (Robert Miller Gallery)
Continuing on the violence and domesticity theme, I found this work to be stunning. The earthy color suggests grounding, but the title and the movements suggest otherwise. I can’t imagine being married to Jackson Pollack, and this painting may prove some of the necessary requirements for navigating the relationship.
3. Patti Smith, (Robert Miller Gallery)
Beautiful photographs ensconced in handwritten text by Patti herself. Incredibly intimate, these drawings to me represent the authentic and contemplative nature of her songs and writing. They kind of look like her too – light and ethereal, quiet and profound.
4. José Antonio Suárez Londoño (Galeria Casas Riegner)
I would purchase the lot of his work, and more if I could. I first saw this Columbian artist’s work last year at the drawing center in NYC. His work is drawing as a form of thinking – drawing as an endless well for conceptual and formal explorations. Basically he draws everyday in a notebook, and over the years has amassed hundreds of drawings. Often his drawings are spawned from a piece of literature – his interpretation of other peoples’ thoughts. He does this daily, so the massive output is overwhelming in the best way. The output is quality work too – no small task in a distracted and stressed world. The works with their humble materials (drawing instruments and notebook paper) are rich reminders of the power of imagination, interpretation, repetition and perception.
5. Ann Hamilton book sculpture at Elizabeth Leach Gallery.
Ann Hamilton is one of the finest artists living today – her thinking and execution on all of her projects are magical. She explores repetition, touch, reading and the senses in the most unique way. Her projects are usually installations, are massive, are time and experience-based and therefore unavailable for purchase, making these small tokens of her practice that are for sale truly priceless.
I look forward to next year’s installation of Art Miami. As for the haters regarding crass commercialism of the arts, I’m not buying it. There were tons of artists as well as collectors milling about, and it serves as a unique time to see art from all over the world in one place while going to the beach. Not to mention there were many talks with luminaries in the art world including Tracey Emin, Joseph Kosuth, Hans Ulrich Olbrist, Ólafur Elíasson and Nan Goldin. The arts are not about money, we know that. The fact that the organizers of Art Basel have introduced artists to the dialog is huge. Kosuth was talking about the art market versus art history and when you put it in this light, yes it’s terrifying. But he was there talking about it, and that’s a start to a change in perception. And a start to educating collectors AND artists (hint, do not become an artist to make money ever. Truly. Never.). And collectors who buy the work to sell it and make money should be banned from the discussion as well, this is just economics and not passion for art).
Lastly, before people lambast the corporate, and shame the wealthy for purchasing and participating in art, look at the wonderful things that can happen with support from such people and corporations – Next month’s rent! Art for public schools!** So next time you are anxious to poo poo the money aspect of art, use your breath to discuss why art is so important to the culture as a whole – people need to start thinking very seriously about this.
PS. Some math in case you think it’s ridiculous that you could be a collector: If you didn’t have your daily Starbucks for a few years (approximately 3 years assuming medium size drip coffee, sooner if you abstain from latte or more fancy drinks), you could have bought a Marina Abramović edition (offered for charity by Elton John’s AIDS Foundation and her namesake institute), some original photos displayed at the Margulies collection to benefit a women’s shelter AND a piece from Parkett’s incredibly cool Artists Editions. Ta da, you are a collector!!
** This past year the city of Miami won an arts education prize worth over $1 million courtesy of LA based billionaire collector and philanthropist Eli Broad. This was visible during the fair as there were groups of school kids walking around, as well as special school entrances to the main fair. Thank you Mr. Broad.