Photo Essays

Art Basel Miami in Pictures

by Hrag Vartanian on December 2, 2010

Karmelo Bermejo's "It (Most artworks devalue over time)" (2010) gives us a reality check.

There’s no point in giving you a “review” of the mothership of art fairs in Miami, Art Basel Miami Beach, so I thought a photo essay with some observations were more appropriate.

I admit that I got a little bored after three hours of wandering around. I found myself seeing the same thing and getting the same numbness I get during marathon holiday shopping trips or walks through ancient souks … there’s only so much merchandise you can see in one stop.

It was still refreshing to see some galleries display the prices of their wares freely, and examples of excellent abstraction by names mostly absent from the art history survey books, but I was most shocked to discover what must be the most awful Basquiat I have even seen in my life.

I plan to return to this fair another day but for now I had my fill of museum-ready blue-chip art and there was little to write about other than the fact that Larry Gagosian looked bored at his booth texting, Jeffrey Deitch may be a museum director but he was still pacing the aisles like a dealer, and Mira Rubell’s new purple hairdo just looks bad … what.the.hell.happened.?

The following are some of the highlights from my tour of Art Basel Miami Beach.

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Nothing says decadent art orgy like Gmurzynska gallery’s booth designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid with a Mark Rothko — “Saffron” (1957) — by the entrance. Honestly, the Hadid was alright but it was all decoration with no real structural changes (or any “rethinking”) to the booth.

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Laura Lima’s as yet untitled installation (it was created specifically for Art Basel Miami Beach, I was told) at this Brazilian gallery reminded me of Alexandre Singh’s “The School for Objects Criticized” (2010) at the New Museum’s Free exhibition. The objects, which were all having beers, were being attended to by a waiter with a silver tray and a bowtie.

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Thomas Zipp’s “Chamber of Timeparallel Clockwise Direction (A.B.: Aluminum (New England))” (2010) suffers from a really bad title. It feels like Hans Belmer meets Paul McCarthy … which is NOT a good thing.

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I would’ve never guessed this was by Takashi Murakami. Titled (another bad one) “Playful&Carefree/ A Leisurely Meander/On Puppy Island//My Response to Leonardo da Vinci” (2010), it made me miss his sappy cute figures that we’ve come to love.

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Eric Doeringer was manning the Flash Art booth and selling his “designer” bootlegs in the belly of the art market beast … how’s that for gangsta?

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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Please Empty Your Pockets” (2010) was definitely as conversation piece as you placed objects on the belt that were then reproduced temporarily on the surface (which I was told was made of the same material as cinema screens) but somehow it felt empty and not very insightful. It was like reducing issues of security and privacy to a parlor trick.

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I spotted this model from 2007 for Franz West’s public work in Central Park (July 2009 – July 2010), “The Ego and the Id” (2009).

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Gimhongsok’s “Canine Construction” (2010) is a bronze version of a poor-man’s Jeff Koons. Is it interesting? Kinda. Does it remind me of Koons’s ballon dog? Yes, totally.

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With all the good work at his disposal, I was disappointed to see that the Tony Shafrazi gallery brought oodles of Robert Williams to Miami. Sure, nothing says buy me more than a giant diamond in the ass of a donkey on a platter held by a formal-looking waiter type, but still … not very impressive.

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Another weird inclusion in the Shafrazi booth was this 2010 work by Dennis Hopper, “Self-Portrait with Rock and Cactus,” which looked out of place and era.

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Cosima Con Bonin’s far too literally titled “Red Dachshund, Beige Rabbit with Eyepatch, Beige Hermit Crab, Small Purple Crab” (2010) made me remember my childhood but didn’t make me look twice.

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The elegant Art/Video booth were a nice diversion from the frenzy of the art fair but the videos, curated by LAXART, were disappointing.

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Allora & Calzadilla’s “Petrified Petrol Pump” (2010) was a one-liner that may have some longevity.

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Works by Imi Knoebel (left to right): “Summer 4,” “Summer 5,” and “Summer 2” (all 2009).

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Works by Philippe Parreno, including (on the floor center) “ac/dc snakes November” (1995/2009) and (right) “Untitled” (2010).

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Jim Lambie’s sparkly “Bhangra Remix” (2010) at New York’s Anton Kern Gallery.

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Works by Mounir Fatmi, including on the back wall: “Father’s Carpet #6,” “Father’s Carpet #7,” and “Father’s Carpet #8” (all 2010).

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These Nick Cave soundsuits reminded me of a car wash.

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Sam Durant’s “Burn Baby Burn” (2010) felt like it was trying too hard in the art fair environment.

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A great example of the Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol collaboration is seen in this painting, “Fuck Yes, Dentures” (1985).

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Cardboard is in this year with Gagosian’s major Rauschenberg show in Chelsea, but Tadashi Kawamata’s “Favela Plan (Group)” (1994) is a breath of fresh air from a great Japanese talent who we haven’t heard a lot from in the past few years.

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Kenny Scharf, “Jungle Times” (1991) is classic Scharf zaniness.

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The Mitchell-Innes & Nash booth was classic high modernism with a display of Anthony Caro and Kenneth Noland’s works from the 1960s. In the center is Caro’s spectacular “Cadence” (1968-72).

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One of the major highlights of the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair is the classic works of modernism that you see at every turn like this Futurist screen by Giacomo Balla titled “Paravento con linea di velocità” (c. 1915) at Moeller New York/Berlin.

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The Balla screen was placed beside a related drawing by the artist, titled “Linea di velocità e paesaggio” (c. 1915)

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If Mary Boone’s booth looked mostly like a blast from the past with works by David Salle, Barbara Kruger, and Peter Halley, this piece by Ai Weiwei, “Table With Two Legs On the Wall” (2010), was a stand out.

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Sudarshan Shetty’s “No title (from the show ‘Leaving home’)” (2008) at Galerie Krinzinger Vienna wasn’t my favorite work but it did stand out from the crowd. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a bleeding television.

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There was a parental discretion advisory sign on this Art Kabinett room filled with works by Otto Muehl and others, including two works by Muehl titled “Astronaut” (both 1963) seen here on the far wall.

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Art Basel Miami Beach is located at the Miami Beach Convention Center in South Beach, Florida, and it will continue until Sunday, December 5, 2010. Check the website for times.

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