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December 11, 2014 Repository 163: Miami Art Basel Digest | Artist from Mars Posted In: contemporary art, culture, exhibition of note, social critique, travel

As expected Art Basel Miami Beach was a dizzy round robin of art viewing. Out of the 54,569 pieces of art viewed I am thrilled to announce I was able to purchase one piece from an artist which I wrote about last year. I’m over the moon about it, and feel very fortunate his gallery from Columbia was showing his work yet again this year. Some other highlights:

1. Many Donkeys

Besides the requisite beach-themed work, or aqua-scented canvases I noticed many donkeys popping up in different artists work. Most notably was a donkey included in an installation of pretend adverts for animals with ailments. The donkey was the model for “depression”, next to giraffes with anxiety, etc. The artist seems to be playing with the notion that perhaps if we look at the animals with these problems they will garner more empathy than we give to one another. Another significant donkey sighting was at the Marguiles Collection where there were 68 donkeys ensconced in the neon writing stacked on shelves by artist Jason Rhodes titled “Shelf” (Fur Pie). They were adorable and completely out of place. Around the corner from this was a gigantic, purple, plush donkey sculpture standing on a red plush bear. I have absolutely no idea what this is about. Donkeys represent on one hand patience and hard work, and on the other they have the “ass” reputation. All good works of art reflect the viewer, so depending on who is looking, the work will be thus appreciated.

Donkey art at main Art Basel fair, apologies I don't have artist's name!

Donkey art at main Art Basel fair, apologies I don’t have artist’s name!

2. Violence

Many galleries chose to show work by black artists from here or abroad – this truly felt like an act of solidarity given the outrageous current events going on in the US justice system. There was a show at the National YoungArts Foundation Miami chapter in partnership with PS1 that was appropriately called “#zerotolerance”. This show filled their small building with loud and angry snippets of artist initiated protests and stern statements. There was a protest on Friday, and there was a general air of intolerance (intolerance also of the art and artists, or of the fair attendees in general).

Hank Willis Thomas at Goodman Gallery at Art Basel.

Hank Willis Thomas at Goodman Gallery at Art Basel.

3. Immaterial

Across the courtyard of the ex-Bacardi Rum factory (now housing the National YoungArts Foundation) was a jewel box of a building that housed a woman facilitating “slow walks” on behalf of Marina Abramovic. I highly recommend practicing the slow walk – it is only in these moments of slowness that we realize our center and how to take action. The immaterial was also embraced in a rice counting station made from gorgeous wood pew/desks also facilitated by Marinia Abromovic. I counted and sorted the rice and lentils until a group of 35 teenagers came in for a visit. Good on them. Lastly there was a wonderful “Sanatorium” created by artist Pedro Reyes in the brand new ICA in Miami. The doctors were all volunteer artists who led you through the different stations. I made a Goodoo doll for my mom, shared secrets, and envisioned my life on a giant maquette using small plastic toys and trinkets. It was brilliant. There were aura readings by artist Karen Finley (amazingly accurate and profound), and a “Truth Booth” by Hank Willis Thomas in the form of a white bouncy castle at various beach and park locations.

4. The Salon – The Good, The Obvious, and the Cute Artist from Neptune

Art Basel had an impressive list of speakers this year, and I was able thankfully to attend all but a few. They will become available on their web site if you are curious. While it was exciting to sit across from Klaus, Hans, Instagram CEO, Simon, etc  while they discussed the art of instagram, I wasn’t exactly moved or inspired. Much like football, instagram is a very neutral distraction that provides little benefit, only fleeting possibilities of excitement via byte-sized visual statements – which for artists can be massive if used properly.

The first lecture was by Lynda Benglis who has participatied in the art world for over 40 years. The talk was billed as her in conversation about her experience as a female artists over the years and how that has or has not changed. Sadly she mostly talked about her commissions (very, very large) in various public spaces. Luckily there were some true sparks of insight peppered throughout her talk. I admire her greatly.

The artist from Neptune is Ryan Mcnamara. While my brother and I sat thoroughly confused during the talk, it is only now in retrospect and upon digestion that I see how entirely authentic and spot on he was. As uncomfortable as it is to try to make sense of a “story ballet about the Internet and memes” as told by a handsome young gay man in brightly patterned tights, his admission that “our culture is run by 11-year old girls and pop artists”, and that the strangest thing he has seen in galleries is “people waiting in line for days to sit in front of someone” was incredibly poignant. Thank you Ryan.

5. BONUS!!!

After several days of being open – VIPs mingling, curators inspecting the art and art lovers perusing – I attended a breakfast reception at one of the collections (remaining nameless for a reason). I was in one of the rooms where a label on the wall listing an artist’s use of “scent”, along with other interesting materials, made me look hard in the room to find said piece. I looked at the walls, smelled the air, looked above, around and in between. There was nothing there, except for a giant and imposing sculpture by another artist. I went to the offices and asked where the piece was at, showing her the picture of the label I snapped with my cell phone. The administrator quickly got up and thanked me profusely – the label hadn’t been removed from the room from a previous installation. !!!!!!!!! Even after three days of milling about no one noticed it? Good lord.

This oversight coupled with a couple of unfortunate nights of our hotel pool being ambushed by “installation artists” and their [insert lux brand] sponsored party, made me very happy to be jumping on a plane and returning to a place where the volume is down low, and there are no visual assaults in the name of “art”. I’ve had my art gallery surge…onwards to more contemplative art visits (Ann Hamilton at the Henry Gallery in Seattle). xoxo

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