- Written by Kat Villari
Nearly two weeks after our city was overrun with more visual stimuli than one can reasonably handle, I am still trying to make sense of it all. Here's a glimpse of what I saw.
Art Basel seems to start earlier and earlier every year. While the official Art Basel Miami Beach is a long weekend, the satellite fairs and various events that pop up around it come into existence ever closer to November.
I opted to ignore my invitation to the opening of Select Fair and apparently missed Usher charging his cellphone via performance artist Lena Marquise's vagina.
Covered in a layer of sweat and sunblock, I sat in a slow-moving line of traffic on Brickell Ave as the sun faded behind the tall buildings. I had just come from a full day of jumping on trampolines in the sun because my life is ridiculous, and was on my way to the opening of Spectrum Art Fair, regretting my decision to bring a pair of heels. My bare toes stretched over the top of the brake pedal.
Arriving at the tents squeezed together in Midtown, I found myself in yet another slow-moving line–this time people without their cars. Once inside, I was bombarded with the colors and shapes and motion of people milling about, looking at art, looking for someone they know, looking for the bar.
It didn't take very long to view everything on display. Nothing really moved me. A gentleman in a hat, who seemed to be walking at the same pace, stopped me as I took a closer look at a Thomas Wargin sculpture. We agreed it was the best thing on display and that the majority of other works was underwhelming. He was an art dealer from New York and invited me to check out his booth at Red Dot, a fair I'm generally pleased with. This man became my BFF for the evening.
A brief glimpse of Scope was had before I was whisked away to stand in the dark, rainy evening for a few hours. This is also related to trampolining, et cetera.
Drenched and cold, I went to meet a dear, art-loving friend who would accompany me to all of the subsequent events. We enjoyed some slices at Steve's Pizza and then drove on to make the opening of Miami River Art Fair. This didn't happen.
Between another endless jam of traffic and the rain (you would think Miamians would know how to drive in the rain), we arrived a few blocks from the Knight Center just in time to realize we had no time. Alas.
It was a beautiful, dry morning. We walked through Downtown, past restaurants offering early lunches and parking garages charging $5 or more per half hour.
Miami River Art Fair was just opening its doors when we got there. No one asked for our passes, or sold tickets, or anything. A crowd of charming robots crafted from found materials by Ruben Santurian grabbed my attention first. And some lovely paintings by Giovanni Perrone.
Being essentially the only visitors in the space at the time was wonderful. No one crowding us. No loud noises.
Towards the back, I came across what appeared to be the remains of a live painting event. A very large portrait of The Beatles lay flat on the floor, and a group of empty chairs surrounding. Something about it felt sad.
On returning to the car, we spotted an igloo-shaped structure in Bayfront Park. Inside was apparently a video immersion project by Ai Weiwei, but it was not yet open. This section of our day was completed with a slide down Isamu Noguchi's Slide Mantra (a 29-ton white marble sculpture and functional playground slide) because we are adults.
Off we went to Midtown and the tents to take up the behatted gentleman's offer to visit Red Dot.
I was pleased to see some familiar pieces by painter Anja Van Herle. Seeing a work in a new environment is like bumping into an old acquaintance you have fond memories of. Also pleasing to find was a series of celebrity portraits, mostly from the 1960s by the late, great, Bert Stern.
It was at Red Dot that I began to start noticing trends. Not simply at this show, but all the shows I attended during the week. Paintings and photographs of bookshelves straight on, lenticular prints, Carole A. Feureman's eerily realistic sculptures of people, an inordinate number of images of Marilyn Monroe (the majority being the same likeness as Warhol's Marilyn Diptych, itself a reproduction of a publicity still from the film Niagara). As the week went on, this began to irritate me.
On the advice of my new friend, who learned we liked photography, we visited Miami Project next. A large balloon tethered to the tent bobbed joyously in the wind.
Overall, we were very happy with this one. Adam Katseff's dark and dreamy landscapes captured my heart. As did Paul McDonough's street photos and writer Dave Eggers' delightful drawings of animals juxtaposed with almost ominous texts. The back of this tent housed Mel Chin's giant sculpture Cabinet of Craving, with its long, thin, spider legs and containing a delicate tea set.
Saturday felt like a good day to visit Wynwood, Miami's art district. But first, a visit to South Beach's Temple House to see photographer Matthew Cherry's Incandescent series up close. Afterwards, another stop over at Spectrum, as a mini Circque du Soleil performance was to happen that evening. We wandered around the tent for a while and saw nothing of the sort, save for one performer in a clear box outside applying makeup. This non-event felt like the very definition of Miami.
The long walk through the neighborhood between Midtown and Wynwood helped to clear our minds a little. Upon arriving, we found hordes of people in the street, as is usual in the area. However, a number of the galleries were closed, which we found strange. Was it because it wasn't second Saturday Art Walk? It must have been a while since I'd been in that area, but there seemed to be more retail shops, which saddened me.
The majority of people were headed towards the BET Art Lounge, which popped up on NW 23rd Street, presumably to see DJ Low Down Loretta Brown, otherwise known as Erykah Badu, spin a set. Unsure if late or early for this event, we walked through the temporary structure, passing a few groups of people excitedly dancing to loud hip-hop, and a couple wall panels displaying a few paintings. Beyond that, was another crowd, this one falling upon a series of food trucks as though food would never exist again. This seemed like a good opportunity to have a gelato bar. It was.
Past the feeding frenzy was Mana Wynwood, a production studio that turns art gallery. I first became aware of its existence the previous year, when I found myself inside the building covered in clay with a featureless mask (again the aforementioned absurdity of my life). Curious if there was something else going on again this year, we walked up to the large, quiet building.
One entrance brought us into an alien world filled with indecipherable symbols, stacks of television sets and shiny spacemen. It wasn't clear who put this together, but it felt wonderful to be immersed in this environment. Leaving that door, and entering another, we found the Mana Monumental exhibit. Particularly memorable were a wall-sized blown-up contact sheet of erotic photographs by Sante D'Orazio, a different Feuerman piece–her bronze diver Golden Mean, and Eugene Lemay's Nights in Beiruit installation.
The final day of Art Week we started our journey at Select in North Beach, first coming across a nude woman in some sort of plant-covered structure. A small crowd gathered, mobile phones raised to capture her. A peacock strutted around in an attached cage. Nearby a kiosk appeared to sell brightly colored imitation alligator skins.
The tent held a few items of interest, but again, I was mostly disappointed. Was I burned out from looking at too much art? Has quality just gone down in general? Are my standards too high?
Upon turning a corner, my companion exclaimed "Jesus Christ! It's a fucking mess." He was referring to a sparkly installation with seemingly random quasi-religious words and symbols strewn about. This, I discovered later, was the setting for the phone-charging incident.
We left Select and continued down Collins Ave to South Beach and Scope.
Ahh, Scope. Much like Miami Project and Red Dot, we were pleased with the contents of this huge white tent on the beach. Even the pieces I saw that I didn't like, I still appreciated. We moved slowly through the aisles, hearts warmed by Andy Kehoe's resin forest scenes, in awe of the incredible detail on Young-Wook Han's scratched aluminum faces, and filled with a dreadful unease at Géza Szöllősi's taxidermy.
We walked away from the tent as the sun was just beginning to make its descent behind the buildings, the sand leaving a fine dust on our weary shoes.