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Miami Basel 2010 Proves Market is Back!?

The vibes being sent up North from Miami to the now-snowy climes of New York City over the past week have carried with them a message: the contemporary art market may just be back into something like its previous swing.

Gleaned from tweets, news pieces written from flashy parties and a newfound sense of optimism, is this intuition of market return reality, or just self-fulfilling prophecy? Check out a collection of picks, pics, links and insights into Art Basel Miami Beach 2010 below.

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Hyperallergic T-Shirts Now Available

Remember that little contest we had back in October to determine which design would be chosen for Hyperallergic’s very first t-shirt? Well, Duncan Alexander’s “T-shirts are the new galleries” took first prize, and now it’s for sale! The t-shirt, made out of a comfy 100% cotton (I can attest, I’m wearing one now), features Alexander’s slogan in our signature Hyperallergic font, and is made for those self-deprecating situations when a snarky dig at the contemporary art world is just what you need.

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Two Kinds Of Abstraction At On Stellar Rays

An exhibition of LA-educated artists Brody Condon and Jen Liu at Lower East Side gallery On Stellar Rays showcases two different methods of abstraction. Beyond abstracting painting to an ever-flatter surface, artists use their work to flatten visual and symbolic content as well. In the work of Condon and Liu, the emotional and social connotations of material and subject matter are altered and re-used into sculptures that question fixed meanings. Where Condon goes for the jugular in his video work with abstractions of luscious color and light, Liu plays with symbolism in her work, appropriating images and then abstracting from their literal meanings.

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Taking Notice of Scope Miami

SCOPE is the art fair that many people like to disparage but this year’s installment was quite good and worth a trip.

Housed in a large tent near the Art Miami and Red Dot art fairs and, as always, attached to Art Asia, the greater prominence ensured more foot traffic than last year (two gallerists told me sales and traffic were better this year) and the lofty space made it much more conducive to looking at art.

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Nada is Miami Beach’s Lower East Side

Tired of all the chatter about Nada being the next big thing, I decided to see if this year’s display would be everything the PR and press promised it would be.

Honestly, it was. Even if the solo artist booths in Richelieu hall were generally a little dull and pedantic, the Napoleon hall was filled with a diverse range of work from galleries that obviously loved what they do.

I found the painting at Nada particularly strong and it was nice to see a love of color in so many that ranged from large-ish-scale abstractions to small intimate pieces with rich surfaces. The tread for most of these paintings is that they tended to be done in a gestural mode of representation veering towards the abstract, but I can live with that.

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Not Drinking the Kool-aid at Wynwood Walls

I really don’t know what happened to Wynwood Walls, but this year’s event was a major let down after last year’s fun-filled festivities. If last year’s evening bash was an unexpected mix of murals, Sissy Bounce, and bold-faced art names, all organized by Jeffrey Deitch, the current director of LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, this year’s event is reputedly the work of Deitch’s “ghost” dealer, Kathy Grayson, whose The Hole Gallery has been trying to fill the gap left by Deitch. This was opening night and it felt like a casual block party. Maybe it was the new restaurant that sits on the corner of the property that reigned in the freak antics, but the energy was unfortunately more subdued than I expected.

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Aqua Returns to Miami Beach

After a stint in what felt like rather cramped quarters in Wynwood last year, the Aqua art fair returned to Miami Beach in a more relaxed setting — that even had a water feature — but the whole affair did feel a little underwhelming. I’m not a big fan of looking at art in hotel rooms since their low ceilings make everything feel cramped but that’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of good things to see on both levels of the complex.

While Aqua is normally known to be heavy with West Coast names, there were galleries from all over in the mix, including — from what I could tell — quite a few from Canada. Here is a selection of what I saw.

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By Self-Censoring, Smithsonian Betrays Art’s Integrity

When I saw that the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery chose to remove David Wojnarowicz’ “A Fire in My Belly” from its Hide/Seek exhibition following Republican political pressure, I was embarrassed and a little confused for the museum. Isn’t it the job of the art world to stand up to those who essentialize art as “offensive” or “degenerate,” and represent the minority who find little voice in the mainstream outside of art? By choosing to self-censor rather than bear out a media storm that has now turned against the museum, the Smithsonian sets a precedent by which art exhibitions can be compromised piece by piece simply because their imagery may be disagreeable to some.

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Rawson Projects Takes Root on Bedford Avenue

On November 11, a small gallery opened its doors on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and caused a ripple of excitement in local art circles. Not only was this one of the first galleries to open on Bedford for ages but many people are taking it as hopeful sign that some energy was returning to a neighborhood that used to be a central part of New York’s art world dialogue.

Named Rawson Projects, the small gallery consists of Christopher Rawson, Julian Calero, and James Morrill. Their first exhibition, Fingers in the Sun, features the work of local painter Sam Martineau and it is a smart show filled with works that are nuanced and almost impossible to capture in photographs.

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Art Basel Miami in Pictures

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.

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Marc Horowitz Crowdsources Life/Art From Strangers

On November 1, one of People Magazine‘s Top 50 Hottest Bachelors, conceptual artist and Internet start Marc Horowitz, took a line from Subservient Chicken and let the Internet tell him what to do. He agreed to bound by these decisions, no matter how absurd, and to broadcast the results online for the wider world to see.

For the entire month, with the backing of the New York-based public art organization Creative Time, Marc has been crowdsourcing his life. Everything from what he should wear to how he should celebrate Thanksgiving becomes open to the masses. The piece continues in the tradition of Marc’s extensive body of enormously popular Internet-based works, from “Talkshow 247,” where he broadcast his life continuously for three months, and the “Google Maps Roadtrip,” a journey across the country using only Google Streetview.

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Miami’s Seven Art Fair Goes Indie

The buzz before Miami was that Seven Art Fair was going to be one to watch and that is certainly the case.

This indie fair of seven galleries with solid programs — and some art stars among them — have created a wonderful little side fair that has a well-organized area for video works (which is both inviting and well spaced), a space for the #Rank event (which we’ve mentioned before), rooms for work by various artists to talk to one another (some better than others), but most importantly an attempt to collide gallery stables to see what they could come up with together (most notably on one wall covered salon style with pieces from the whole constellation of “Seven” artists).

Did all the artists fit perfectly together? No, but this is an art fair and not a curated exhibition. It was good to see some galleries try something that felt interesting and less commercial than the run-of-the-mill art fairs.