There are certain exhibitions in which some or many of the works on display are so interesting, provocative or well-made that they somehow manage to surmount whatever restrictive or overwrought critical-theoretical trappings their organizers have erected around them, defying the analytical filters through which they are meant to be considered and understood.
MIAMI — There are many stories about the origins of art: ancient Greek historian Pliny suggested art was born when a Corinthian maiden traced the outline of her lover’s shadow on a wall, while an Asian legend tells of a young man who could not paint the Buddha because of his enlightened glow, and so was forced to paint his reflection in a pool of water. What these two stories share is the emphasis on the rendering of people as a foundational element of art. Fast-forward many millenia, when the story of high-priced contemporary art is vastly different from those origin stories, and walking through the latest incarnation of Art Basel Miami Beach, I was struck by the marginalization of the human form in the blue-chip work on display. What happened?