Friday, December 2, 2011

Can art be intoxicating?

About halfway through the visit at the Art Basel Miami Beach fair this year, I felt like intoxicated, it was not by alcohol, but art...and maybe lack of sleep to catch the airplane: more than 200 galleries, 2000 artists. Art fairs are taking a toll on the visitor. The American version of the well-established Swiss Art Basel is celebrating its 10Th anniversary. This year, the galleries have ample space and an area is available for the visitors to rest and even lay on artificial grass for a snooze.

Why visit Art Basel Miami Beach? Rub elbows with the rich and famous? Feel the thrill of power and money? Take a glance at million dollar works? One can come close to a painting from Jean-Michel Basquiat worth 2.8 millions, but it is not one of his iconic graffiti. Farther, a piece from Ai Weiwei is a reminder of the artist and his absence.

Visitors are wandering , groups following guides, taking pictures... no milliardaire in sight. Gatherings happen in front of catchy galleries like L&M with its wallpaper of blue and yellow cows heads or Tony Shafrazi decorated with an installation of stuffed animals (seen above). Some, like The Pace Gallery, stay subdued with a conservative content (as opposed to the display at the recent FIAC in Paris).

This year Kusama's dots are peppered around the fair. Is this sudden fad related to her ongoing exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris?
Chamberlains' small and big sculptures, Tom Wesselmann, Nikki de Saint-Phalle, Fernando Botero, risque works from Linda Benglis, few Joan Mitchell, a small de Kooning, very few Kandinski ... the list goes on. I relish the occasion to be emotionally overloaded by all these works displayed in close proximity. It is exhilarating.

The Beyeler Foundation has an entire booth dedicated to one work from Louise Bourgeois, the sculpture, about communication between individuals or lack of it, entices the visitor to interact with its mirrors and benches, but few take the leap into the sculpture.

I was surprised to see so few South American artists or galleries represent them as opposed to the recent Houston Fine Art Fair, very much in its infancy but inviting galleries from Cuba among others. It seems that the galleries were not taking any risk this year. Overall, the show was big by its size but deceiving by its content.
It feels like Art Basel Miami Beach is about making money, not about promoting artists. Could galleries do both?

photographs by the author:

installation Mike Kelly

"Mr. Kipper" Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983

Ai Weiwei, 2011


Jonathan Messe

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