Three days after I’d received complimentary tickets to Art Basel, Aqua, Red Dot and Miami Project I drove down 95 and across the causeway to Miami Beach. Having gone three other times over the past several years I knew to get there early lest the traffic and parking be, respectively, slow and far away. Surely enough I was able to park across from the convention enter right before it filled up. I waited in line at the entrance and was one of the first to enter.
After two hours of looking at the works hung from the walls or placed on the floor I started to feel that the most interesting subjects was not the art but those gazing upon them. There was a short, stout Argentinian wearing a mix between a
pirate’s shirt and an artist’s smock whose lilting style of Spanish carried over into his English when speaking with his associate about the investment value of a particular artist. I saw Kristen Ritter, one of my favorite actresses of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23 and Breaking Bad fame, walking along the aisles. There was a couple in their late forties dressed up in haute steam punk style and a wide variety of the Miami hipsters.
The primary reason I stopped paying attention to it, besides the feeling of overload of so much in such a small apace, was that a lot the art was exceptionally abstract and I didn’t relate to most of it there. Pieces of string going through a piece of glass, symbolizing I’m not sure what, stylized text repeated on large wooden boards, and colored circles against a stark white background just don’t get me excited. What I thought was the most interesting and exciting piece was an interactive art installation from a gallery in Brazil. Loud music came out from a room while a woman dressed up like the Chiquita Banana woman on LSD encouraged passers-by to come into the room filled with brightly colored pictures, masks, inflatable animals, bric-a-brac and toys. After her encouragement I stayed and played in there a while.
After almost four hours looking at art I was quite hungry. I left the exhibition, sold my tickets outside, ate a Cubano and some pastelitos before crossing the bridge back to Miami. Once at Red Dot, my affinity to the pieces of art there was raised dramatically. Here were the works made by artists that didn’t think that innovation was done by the rejection of forms and tropes followed for hundreds of years but through novel use of them. Gone were most of the abstract pieces and instead there was a number of highly imaginative works that didn’t require years of art-schooling in order to be able to understand it.
Some of the standout pieces, for me, were knitted pictures of Lindsay Lohan, a small rendition of a mosque made out of used bullet casings, a portrait of black girl in white face with the clothes typically found in portraits of royalty, Dave Eggers’ unusual illustrations and sayings, Niccolo Cosme’s Mater Dolorosa Conflictus and an enormously large and intricate tapestry depicting the Tower of Babel called Allegory of the Prisoner’s Dilemma made by Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth. The vibe, too, was also better. The people walking around were less concerned with embodying highly idiosyncratic avatars full of esoteric knowledge on the relationship between artists and market values and were more interested in the work itself and having a good time.
After completing circulation of the exhibition hall, it was a short walk to Aqua. Aqua was, in a word, amazing. It was, however, also too good to be so big that it was thus big for it’s own good. While smaller than Art Basel’s space, because the art was so good that it made me stop more often that after almost four hours of walking around I didn’t even see everything there!
Another piece that I found to be particularly interesting was the Family Tree installation by Charlotte Potter. The installation, represented by Heller Galleries, consisted of a number of cameos that were connected to one another in chains. Above the black and white images were water spigots with blood coming out of them. Immediately below that they were tied to others cameos to represent the marriages and births created from those relationships. Such a graphic representation of a family was not groundbreaking, but it is notable for it’s aesthetically pleasing play with the notion of bloodlines and the chains that connect families together.
Upon exiting Aqua I was again, surprisingly, searched. When asked why I discovered that someone had stolen Pablo Picasso’s Visage Aux Mains the night before and the security staff suspected that they had placed it somewhere in the facility and were going to take it out at a different time. I was rather shocked by this. I was more so upon reading, a few days later, the following commentary on the theft by Art Miami director Nick Korniloff to be interesting:
“We have issued a $5,000.00 reward for the return of the work with no questions asked— based on our own internal conclusion that whomever took the piece knows nothing about art and took it based on the fact that they thought it to be solid silver. […] It makes absolutely no sense that this work would be targeted by anyone with knowledge of art. We hope that the piece is returned to the owner to preserve the existence of the work for future generations.”
I find it interesting because not only is the reward for an object purportedly worth $85,000 so low but as this authoritative person in the art world states that that someone trying to obtain this Picasso is, essentially, a fool. Considering the feelings evoked by most of the work in the Art Basel exhibition hall, hearing this made me feel less of a philistine and less that I wasn’t the fool in the room that thought much of what was there was “great art” and “really valuable” outside of what gallery sales personally can convince someone to believe or pay.
All in all I had a great time. I’m very happy that art-world entrepreneurs have attached these other events onto the more recognized Art Basel, much in the same way Ultra has assisted the growth of Miami Music Week and Winter Music Conference. I look forward to going again next year!