MacGregor Harp is a graphic designer for SaatchiNY (who did some awesome work on the most recent 7×7). Last weekend, he had the chance to attend Art Basel, a focal point of the global art world. Since the design & art worlds often overlap, we thought it would be interesting to share his thoughts on the experience, as well as his photos of some of the work he saw in Miami.
I just got back from Florida and the total-art-saturation that is Art Basel Miami. It was my first time attending, and it’s hard to make an over arching, definitive statement about the experience (it was good/bad), mostly because such a statement would almost certainly be in direct reaction to my personal tastes. The best I can do is talk about what affected me personally, and draw conclusions from there. So in that spirit, I’ll attempt to disseminate my personal experiences, and highlight some of the specific works that I found the most inspiring.
At Art Basel, the booth that stood out most was West gallery (Holland), exhibiting the work of Marius Lut. I almost missed it because they had Jasper Niens design the booth to have only an 18 inch-wide passageway as an entrance. The sharp contrast between outside space (the rest of the fair) and the inside of the booth was a welcome serenity; an eddy in the currents of foot traffic and visual stimulus. Upon entering (doing a sideways shuffle), you emerge in a small cubic room sprinkled with Lut’s paintings and sculptures. It’s a body of work that flirts with basic geometry without bothering to be constrained by it. Making these broad initial gestures while ignoring the finishing touches, lends it the expressive and relaxed quality of a sketch.
Basel was just the beginning. Some of the satellite fairs I visited included Scope, Ink Miami, Art Miami, and Aqua. While Scope and Art Miami took place in larger warehouse-style spaces that begin to approach the scale of Basel, others like Aqua and Ink Miami were hosted by small motels with their rooms converted into pop-up galleries. This smaller scale made it more comfortable to take the time to view, and even chat with dealers about the work.
At Aqua, I was taken by Vincent Romaniello’s sculptures of ephemera which, by drastically increasing the scale, re-frame mundane paper objects, and invite us to consider form in places where we normally wouldn’t. Reconsidering the definition of what we think of as art is always a useful exercise.
I spent several minutes with Jack Roth’s “Rope Dancer #33″ at Art Miami. It reminds me of a joke that you laugh at without really getting. Then you think about it later and realize that while it was clever, you probably shouldn’t have laughed.
We saw John Baldessari’s work in several booths across all of the fairs. As an artist who typically isn’t thought of as having a style, it seems like dealers and collectors have assigned one for him by focusing their collections almost exclusively on his photo collage’s: a series where he takes photographs and blocks out large forms with colorful shapes. I have always thought of these as “interventions” which remain consciously on top of the subject, demanding focus by using a blunt obstruction.
We were also fortunate enough to make it over the to the private Margulies collection, boasting some of the biggest and most coveted names in contemporary art. I found their sculptures to be particularly engaging.
Always a favorite of mine, Olafur Eliasson’s utopian sculptural forms effect the space around them by playing with (and many times deceiving) our expectations of reflection and shadow. These direct challenges suggest an “experience” beyond the object, and should command the more appropriate label of “installation”.
Kota Ezawa’s “The Simpson Verdict” was an animated film in which the artist interpreted the original video footage of the final minutes of the OJ Simpson trial. Ezawa literally traces the most basic forms from the footage in order to produce a drastically reduced account, comically exposing the emotional responses of all parties involved.
Also along the way, we visited the Locust Projects gallery in North Miami to learn about the “Billboard Project” which presents Liam Gillicks new work entitled La aparente union del cielo y la tierra on boards surrounding Miami’s Design District and Miami Beach. This work was part of the “Out of the Box” series designed to increase exposure to contemporary arts through sponsoring projects in public locations throughout the city.
Finally, Oceanfront Nights, curated by Creative Time, was held in a temporary outdoor area on the beach with talks and performances with artists from one of four selected cities each night. I stopped by the Berlin night to check out the artist collective AIDs 3-D’s performance piece. This turned out to be a typically unsettling yet mesmerizing performance leaving me (as they always do) with a sensation similar to not being able to look away from a horrible car accident as you drive past it.
Coverage image: Marcius Galan, “Isolante” 2006