December – Week 1 2011. Art Basel-Miami gleefully celebrated its first decade as decidedly the world’s most jubilant and fresh gathering of contemporary art, “in lower case” found anywhere on this planet. Que la fete commence!
Now in its 10th year Art Basel is feeling the push and pull of the new globalization. At its inception Art Basel filled a small muted corner of the Miami Beach Convention Center. A staid and hushed affaire. Miami was the obvious location; as America’s Gateway. The bridge between Latin and North America, where obscene gobs of Venezuelan petrol and white gold were looking to buy into (or at least underwrite) the elusive American Dream. What better way than drop a cool mil on an Enrique Grau or a zaftig Botero?
Countless artists, collectors, curators and the paint-by-numbers curious make an annual pilgrimage to SoFla in early December. The local canvas is transformed into a maelstrom of exhibit tents, lavish cocktails and unbridled hoopla. Permeated with the intoxicating aroma of turpentine, rampant commercialism, horn blaring grid lock and eateries jammed like clown cars; let there be no mistake, ‘a cultural roadshow has come to town’.
The USA and Art Basel as its cultural harbinger; embrace the ‘Novo’ globalization. With its hold on pop culture the event is in the cross hairs of emerging nations everywhere. As a nation the United States continues to exert enormous power over opinion to steadily diminishing returns. The world is a Globe as round as a spinning top …it turns and turns. It’s not one way any longer. Art Basel is a world in micro with la crème of every continent represented.
The event is a more sophisticated version of ‘Burning Man’ than TEFAF Maastricht-Netherlands. Recognized as the world’s leading art and antiques fair; Art Basel evidences the kind of Globalization that could be mistaken for a souk in Khartoum, a high style brocante in Paris or the proverbial Persian Market place.
The influence of European, Asian, Mediterranean and all the Americas is prevalent. Cultural distinctions were linear, from high brow to street cred. The conflag is euphemistically referred to by the New York Times as the “Art Cosco for Billionaires”. One discovers a growth industry that has outgrown its early elitism in the most wonderful ways. If you are attending Art Basel in its many postures and poses, you are “meant to be here”. Galleries were exhibiting not from Hong Kong but free wheeling Beijing. Case in point, the ironically named Long March Space, Curated and Director David Tung. The Asian influence reflected not only the calibur of the reemerging availability of the art but one more push pin in the planetary culture map.
With 260 Galleries represented from China to Tierra del Fuego, video and sculpture installations and impromptu performances, combined attest to a world class revitalization of Miami’s art scene. In evidence, Miami Beach is Back. Recovering from a self inflicted bout of over hype in the 90’s there is a new wisdom that comes with hindsight. From North Miami’s Moca, the burgeoning Winwood District and pop up galleries and vibrant street art mushrooming throughout the 4 day confab, the lines are blurred between ‘art appreciation and ‘”art, as an excuse to party”.
South Beach with its sun dappled watercolor hues beckons. Art Basel satisfies both the craving for Art to indulge in a jubilant celebration of museum quality art satisfies one item on the bucket list; that is to experience all the finer things in life.
Two prevailing influences distinguising this year’s Art Basel over prior editions. One, the marriage between Typography and Art. Words on canvas create a duality in expression.
I listen to the ocean and all I hear is you”
was twisted in white neon by Tracey Emia. Conversely the insignificance of the written word may be the unintentional statement by sculptural artist Marco Roundtree. Of Mexican and Irish descent he alters books from their original structure, where text and type are incidental and form supercedes content to great effect. Marco Roundtree signals the end of books, civilization as we know it a death by a 1000 cuts.
The blue chip selections available within the price range of the vilified 1% bookend the show. A cache of Calder’s and Miro Sculptures at Helly Nahmad and swan necked Modigliani’s made those attending imagine they were miraculously transplanted to the Met, the Louvre or Prado all in a setting that is part luxurating Botanical Garden and sugar sand beachfront.
And to appease the other 99% was Mary Boone opining in a blaring billboard “Money Makes Money”. The show’s standout performance was created by Paulo Nazareth in turban and workman’s cinched pantaloons. Both brought Social Realism (read disparity) up short and in your face.
His broken and rusty van held festoons of ripe bananas for “Banana Market/Art Market”. He embodied the role of a disenfranchised street vendor who for a dollar would submit to a soul searching photo by what ever stranger passing by. A van, a man and a bounty of fresh bananas, a sweet little play was set in motion. Language, ideas, actions and objects converged with Nazareth teasing the bonds between people and their surroundings. Especially the clash of the ‘have’s too much’ with the ‘have not’s’.
Nazareth depicts human nature in all its glory: revealing its creations, inner architecture and pathos – he creates a portrait of extraordinary people. What makes one rich? A nickel over what they need. Smile.
Zarko Milijasevic would not answer to “conceptual artist” more likened to a man recording history in the making. He exhibited recently at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. He is a man of extraordinary eye sight, he walks and creates a presence no unlike a halo where ever he goes. He described another socially relevant undertaking. He admitted to burying sculptures at Ground Zero for many years and with plans to excavate them soon.
Sublime in its simplicity.