The only day that did go as originally planned was Wednesday. And what a Wednesday it was! I managed to see (walk, really) all of the Convention Center in 3 hours. No small feat! I'm positive I missed many good things, including almost all the video art (although there wasn't much) and a booth here or there, as well as the botanical garden, but it was well worth my time. I discovered some fantastic new artists, saw great work from old favorites (I saw my very first Christo in person!), ran into old friends (which always seems to happen), and finished the day with a surprisingly fun, riveting performance by Ebony Bones.
After a day off, I returned to Miami on Friday afternoon, visiting the front-loaded Scope/Art Asia first. I then made my way over to FO-CI (never again) and caught Art Miami just before it closed. I found some of my favorite works at Scope and Art Asia (Sui Jianguo, pictured) but overall I was unimpressed. I left with only a handful of names and galleries on my list. This, however, was comparatively a great experience next to the abysmal art I found at FO-CI and Art Miami. And while FO-CI is a new fair, Art Miami is in its 20th year! There is absolutely no excuse and I don't know if I'll be willing to return.
I ended Basel on a high note visiting both Pulse and Aqua. After getting my borrowed press pass confiscated at the door (the snotty bastards!), I made my way through Pulse with visible irritation. And while the art was all of great quality and some of it was rather impressive, I could not find a single work I absolutely loved. Some small über-detailed works caught my eye (this became a running theme for me for the rest of the day) and some fun pieces by Devorah Sperber (pictured right and left) at two different galleries began to lift my spirits, but it wasn't until turning the last corner of the regular exhibitors section, just before the Impulse portion of the fair, that I recovered completely. This is where David Abir's installation Tekrar Study 4 was located. A white room of sublimity, it hypnotized me, not letting go after at least 10 minutes. After Pulse, I finished my Art Basel travails with a visit to Aqua. This kid brother to the larger satelite fairs is a bit more daring in its gallery choices and, thus, filled with more interesting works. Sure there was some crap, but I also found some of the best work in all of Miami at Aqua.
Great reviews of Art Basel and the extra fairs can be found everywhere (here, here, and here, to name a few). So instead of adding another, I'll be doing something a little different and, hopefully, easier to read... I give you art. music. film. whatever's First Annual Art Basel Miami Beach Awards or "Basels" for short (you can also call them the ABAs [Art Basel Awards] but that's so late-90s). I'll be pointing out some of the prevailing trends I found running through all of the fairs, as well as some of my favorites and some head-scratchers.
Hottest Seller: Photography
Specifically heavily manipulated images, many of which were Chuck Close-esque landscapes and portraits of famous political figures and celebrities, as well as stacked/repetetive images of buildings and large objects (hard to explain but the images below speak for themselves). I saw 1, 2, 5, sometimes 7 or 8 red dots on many of these.
Biggest Theme: Celebrities
Including, but not limited to, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, JFK, and of course the King of Pop (and Basel '09) himself, Michael Jackson. Photographs, portraits, and sculptures of these people were everywhere! I think this was due in large part to the exceeding desperation of most galleries to sell art and what sells more than celebrities? Dead celebrities.
(other) Biggest Theme: Blatant Appropriation
I know the Rubell Family Collection just opened the exhibition Beg, Borrow, and Steal on this exact theme to run concurrently with Art Basel, but this was ridiculous. (Picture above also applies. More below)
(another) Huge Theme: Vinyl Records
Though not as prevalent as the two themes above and the one below, there was at least one work with vinyl records, record sleeves, record players, or all of the above in every fair.
Most Annoying Theme: The English Language
Especially in neon, but also including (but definitely not limited to): glass, plastic, lightboxes, and candle wax. The worst of these (too many to count) looked as if they were purchased at Urban Outfitters.
Sui Jianguo, MADE IN CHINA. To be honest, I actually kind of like this... I kind of love the artist.
Best Fair: Aqua
A mix of fun installations, daring conceptual works, and many detailed small paintings and drawings, Aqua had it all and it was (almost) all great.
Best Fair I Didn't Attend: NADA
...or so everyone tells me.
Most Engrossing Work: David Abir, Tekrar Study 4, 2009, mixed media, dimensions variable.
Designed to emulate the anatomical structure of the human ear, this was the multi-sensory experience I yearn for in most all of my art. The subtle changes of the diffused color display are interwoven with Abir's musical composition built from a selection of musical phrases from classical compositions as well as film scores. The installation provided a sublime, almost transcendental, moment that washed over me and left me dumbfounded, perplexed, and amazed with the universe. See more images and a video of the work here.
Favorite Work by an Established Artist: by Doug Aitkin, Free and Now, 2009, LED lit lightbox.
These were both found at the Convention Center at 303 Gallery, New York and Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Stunning departures for Aitken, one of my all-time favorite artists, these socio-political statemetns are much more blatant and carefree than his past work but still very much keeping with his aesthetic. Beautiful.
Favorite Works by Artists I'm Sure I'll Otherwise Hate:
Favorite New Discoveries (in order):
This includes many small-scaled, highly detailed artworks, as well as a few humorous ones and others somewhere in between.
This is Awful! Not sure who the artist is (didn't care to find out).