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The Exceeding Art Excess of Miami

Text and Photos by Janet Bellotto

Before the year had passed, art took over Miami’s beach and warehouse districts with at least 13 fairs plus sideshows. Miami Beach is now firmly established as the hot spot for art collectors, dealers, curators, artists, and art afficionados. They party and hang out, while subjected to every kind of artmaking, from video on the beach to gallery shows in quaint hotel rooms. As usual Art Basel Miami Beach was in the Miami Beach Convention Center with their shipping container projects on the beach. Smaller fairs have sprung up, either in hotels along Collins Ave and Ocean Drive, or in warehouses and tents on the mainland across the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

Now in its fifth year, the Queen of the fair, Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB), cuts a dashing figure with its VIP BMW chauffeured vehicles and art for everything and everyone. The fair hosted some 200 galleries from around the world, exhibiting over 1,500 artists, a record 40,000 visitors, and reportedly fabulous sales. Four days was not enough to take it all in. ABMB alone had Art Positions, Art Projects, Art Perform, Art Video Lounge, Art Sound Lounge, Art Basel Conversations and Art Salon. There were enough cross-over events to keep the creativity flowing. With art at every corner, it begs the question – is there too much art – and should someone draw the line?

The Art Salon was the place to scoop up-and-coming events and biennials. With media buzz on Dubai, the Sharjah Biennial should be one to watch. Curators Mohammed Kazem, Eva Scharrer and Jonathan Watkins will bring together some of biennial regulars – Mona Hatoum, Alfredo Jaar, Rikrit Tiravanija – as well as regional representatives. The focus will be the relationship of nature with environment through social, political and cultural concerns.

Moving along, all seemed well with the fairs on the other side of the bridge at first, but after an hour’s wait for the Scope Shuttle, I gave up and shared a cab with artists Eldon Garnet, Nick and Sheila Pye. The problem persisted through the day, with some visitors having to wait for hours.

However, Scope’s 40,000 square foot tent with its 84 exhibitors, bustled. Toronto was well represented with Angell Gallery, Greener Pastures, Christopher Cutts, Katherine Mulherin, and Clint Roenisch. Clint showed the intricate paintings of Martin Bennett. All were impressed with the response.

The highlight at Christopher Cutts was the photographic works of Carlos and Jason Sanchez’s, who had also transported their installation Between Life and Death outdoors. It featured a crashed bus with a holographic video that portrayed moments of interwoven lives – a technological feat that left me wanting something more.

Curated by Kóan Jeff Baysa, Rodney Dickson’s Queen Bee Snake Bar and Tea Room combined installation and performance. The artist recreated a Saigon snake bar – a place used by US Soldiers during the war to seek Vietnamese women. It was Dickson’s reference to a friend’s experience after the war of moving into one of these spaces once abandoned. Throughout the day alcohol was served to your heart’s content – free, and Rodney encouraged patrons to hang out until the closing hours. After a heady day of soaking up the art with its events, Rodney’s installation seemed even more appropriate. His neon- lit snake bar spoke of throw-away consumption, leaving an eerie, empty feeling, as one might have at a city center on a Sunday morning.

A few blocks away, with a nice buzz of collectors and exceeding Scope in ambiance, was PULSE art fair. Torch dealer Adriaan Van de Have from Amsterdam was situated in a prime location by the entrance, and was more than content with his sales on the first day. His artists, Eldon Garnet and his text works being one of them, received a great response. Heather Marx and Ethan Cohen were equally pleased. Ethan, however, was already busy with meetings about the upcoming biennial in Russia.

Mary Temple’s installation Extended Afternoon 2006, in the Mixed Greens booth, was deceptive. A static shadow glow captured branches in front of a window, forcing viewers to search for the natural source or projection, and having to endure the frustration of finding neither. Yet it did perplex some collectors enough to want to take the booth home.

Juan Puntes, director of White Box in Chelsea, treated me to an espresso in the VIP lounge before taking me through a whirlwind tour of some of his favorite works. We bumped into Executive Vice President Brian McConville of, who was making his way through the various fairs. Artnet’s presence will be even greater in the future having partnered with Art Basel. An interactive floor plan of Art 38 Basel placed on will allow visitors to revisit the fair’s booths and selected artworks. Magnan Projects at Pulse presented Duke Riley’s Paul Piers Collection for Chanel, first shown at White Box. Art met fashion, when items taken from a burned down apartment were washed, stitched with the initials PP, and then put up for sale.

A welcome surprise to curator Paco Barragan, was Photo Miami, one of this year’s newest contenders. Exhibitors Zack Pospieszynski of Peak Gallery and Stephen Bulger Gallery of Toronto, as well as Emily Barnett of Skew Gallery in Calgary, weren’t hesitant about wanting to return to Miami. Thanks to the curatorial selection committee, a site that housed 50 exhibitors or so, had a lot of breathing room for great works. Robert Polidori’s New Orleans series was simultaneously beautiful and daunting. The photographic works of Andres Serrano and Orlan, who was there in person, bear mentioning.

Here, a person on a minimal budget could at least bring home experiences. One the most enjoyable was my escorted ride from Scope to a beach-front condo where local Jim Budman was preparing a day exhibition of various emerging artists. Ben Moon and Francesco Civetta (aka Izzy Rock) drove the little entourage consisting of myself, Kóan Jeff Baysa and Lisa Mordhorst back to Miami Beach in a borrowed Jeep. The vehicle was equipped with instant air conditioning as the vehicle had no roof – and of course, natural mist, but it had enough spunk to get us from A to B.

In the Wynwood Art District, the Rubell Family Collection and their L.A. artists received mixed responses. Due to fire department capacity regulations, a group of dART friends and I were unable to get into the opening party, as well as others on the guest list. Down the street however, was the Fountain fair and beautifully designed Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, where we enjoyed live music, a nice buffet spread and an exhibition of Wim Delvoye’s tattooed pigskins.

While many drove out to Coral Gables to enjoy the Latin party by Art Nexus magazine at the Biltmore Hotel, there was still a lot going on along the beaches. I went to a collector’s party in a condo overlooking the beach on Ocean Drive, that included a room for dancing, bar, a lounge with wonderful desserts, plus a fresh-air balcony with a gravity-defying wind. I saw artist Eli Langer, MOCA CHINA representatives artistic director Szewan Leung, Executive Director Jeffrey du Vallier d’Aragon Aranita, and International Curatorial advisors Lisa Mordhorst and Kóan Jeff Baysa.

In a hotel on Collins Ave, was Aqua with a great mix of art and lounge spaces. A combination of curators, galleries and self- represented artists made up other Miami Beach hotel fairs such as Bridge, flow, INK and Pool.

The world-famous Art Deco district of South Beach was host to still other fairs. In its first year, the Digital and Video Art Fair took to creating a cozy village of galleries in shipping containers on the beach. Galleries Chi-Wen Gallery, Taipei; Walsh Gallery, Chicago; NT Art Gallery, Bologna and Art Moving Projects, New York. Every day at dusk Raul Zamudio invited curators to present work of selected video artists. The final evening had a program to keep the audience glued to their seats instead of running from the bitter wind. Juan Puntes presented Out of the Box, programming with MOCCA assistant director/ curator Camilla Singh’s selection of hits such as Jubal Brown, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsey and Paulette Phillips.

We headed to a favorite Cuban restaurant for a dinner with presenters, gallerists and guests that included Stéphan Aquin, Curator, Montreal Museum of Fine Art, MOCCA Director/Curator David Liss, which was hosted by White Box board member Martin C. Liu. And what would a fair or biennial be without Eva and Adele glowing in their matching pink outfits. Before heading to another hotel party to end the evening, New York-based artist Eric Payson belted out a little speech about the fair, “I like to look and sometimes I buy.” It was cheeky and a hilarious tout of the scene in Miami.

On the final day of the fair I enjoyed some time out in the VIP lounge at ABMB and continued the Color Match Tournament with artists Civetta and Moon (see p. 44). On the way to the beach, I was more entertained by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm’s future car prototype UFO in Collins Park than by Art Positions. Seasonal Miami weather didn’t help the 22 gallery exhibitions in the converted shipping containers. Although still well attended, and accentuated by the Art Perform stage, the most interesting was the glowing models of architect Zaha Hadid and an oversized hourglass sand mound by Aaron Young of San Francisco. Glistening sand funneled into the container from some virtual space, creating two conical mounds of sand. However, with a step backward the illusion revealed itself as laborers on the roof shoveling sand in through a drilled hole.

Art was everywhere. Yet visual overload aside, it was the opportune time for making deals and connections. Curators and directors courted collectors well into the evening at VIP parties. In four days of looking at thousands of pieces of art, there was no hint that the art market would take a back seat anytime soon.

dart international magazine. contemporary art review and criticism. ©2004-2017. all rights reserved.

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