Miami Art Basel 2nd time around

This was my 2nd visit to Art Basel Miami in 2 years, which I feel like is the true test.  Have you ever seen a movie and it rocked your world, and then you saw it again and it was still great?  I did not feel like Art Basel Miami was like that.  I was shocked by how it was almost the exact same experience the difference being what is trendy shifted some.  There always seems to be a few artists work that you see everywhere or themes.  So I feel like often once you go to one convention or tent all the other ones seem quite similar.

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This year I felt like sparkly/shiny things were everywhere.  Venues like Untitled and Aqua that had been really exciting for me last year, felt like nothing had changed this year.

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 The main Basel Convention is always a little amusing for me.  It feels no different that a comic book convention or craft trade show.  Instead of seeing people in $10,000 custom cosplay costumes, you see people in $10,000  unique couture fashion. Instead of buying 10,000 first addition comics, or authentic movie props, people are buying 1,000,000 dollar works of art.  Boat shows, bridalrama, gun shows – it’s all the same game, bringing together people with similar interests to spend money.  I guess I expect more from the art world. In my opinion, good art questions things, makes you think.  But Art Basel follows the same trade show protocols as any other.

I realized about half way through this trip that I was desperately seeking a quality experience with a work of art.  But I was in the wrong place because you are taking in such a large quantity of art you hardly have time to process what you are seeing, much less be moved by it.

I’d say out of everything I saw I found Scope, Nada, and Design Maimi to be most interesting.  I felt like I saw more unexpected and unusual things at Scope than any other show, which was a breath of fresh air after seeing a lot of the same thing over and over again at the other fairs.  What I liked about Nada and Design Miami was that they transformed their spaces, giving the view an experience instead of being overwhelmed by the white cube art experience.

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I did get my chance to have an art experience at Scope.  The piece was a performance by Einat Amir called Enough about you.  With the tag line of “when did you last have an intimate conversation with a complete stranger?” The performance was every 15 min and you were not allowed to document it.  They were herd about 20 people against a wall that were standing across from 3 Tardis Shaped, sound proofed, white boxes with plexi glass front so we could see inside.  Then they would personally invite people to participate in the performance.  They put two people in each box.  In my case each box had a male and a female.  At first you think they are just talking and you observe their mouths moving an gestures with each other.  Then you start to realize that all the boxes are receiving the same audio prompts when they all put their hands on their hips at the same time, then later cross their arms, hold hands and dance.  I could see that one woman was definitely stressed by this situation but mostly everyone seemed to smile through this whole performance, which lasted for 10 min.  It was fascinating to stand in silence and watch these social interactions unfold.  I thought about this piece all day.

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I also visited the newly opened Perez museum, but sadly I responded much more the crazy building, interior space and environment they have created and less to the work on display inside.

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I did get a chance to see Mickey Wolfson’s private collection while I was in town, which was really interesting.  It was exciting to see how passionate he was about each and every item, and his parameters for collecting were so interesting. He really liked work between 1880s-1990s focusing on art from times of conflict, buying a lot of work around ww2 and other difficult times.  This brought up a lot of dialogue around visual art’s ability to have a voice in the face of darkness.  I also spent a lot of time thinking about the difference between hoarding and collecting.

The weather in Miami was dream compared to the icey cold Chicago I came from and Miami was buzzing with things to do.  As much as I like being immersed in all things art, I think, for me, Art Basel Miami might need to be an every 5 years type of adventure.  Give the venues some time to shake things up a bit.

L Whittle

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