Miami Highlights 2011

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It was that time of year again. Thousands of galleries, collectors, artists, consultants, and passersby rubbed fashionable shoulders in Miami for art fair season. While the largest fair of all is Miami Basel (it is also amongst the largest in the world with 260 international galleries represented), there are officially nineteen unique fairs that take place over the weekend, ranging from Pulse, Scope, NADA, Aqua, Design Miami. It's a lot to take in, and felt, for this artist, both encouraging and demoralizing; the art world is thriving, but only for those who can afford its cost. I have attempted to sum up a few of the highlights of the experience.

1. The Alligator Park. Miami is only forty-five minutes from the Everglades National Park; contrary to popular belief, the water is not a swamp, but a very, very slow moving river which feeds into the Atlantic ocean. More famously, the everglades are home to Florida alligators. I took an airboat ride through the water, led by a man named Bubba, who later wrestled an alligator and held a scorpion a foot from my face. It may have been under an hour from downtown Miami, but it was a world away from Miami's reality.

Silverman Gallery

2. San Francisco Galleries. San Francisco galleries were represented at various fairs, including Mark Wolfe and Triple Base at Aqua, Altman Siegel, Silverman Gallery and Ratio 3 at NADA. Of the booths, all of which looked strong, Silverman and Altman Siegel were the real stand-outs, with perfectly curated selections. Silverman elected to show only one artist, the Toronto-based Hugh Scott-Douglass, while Altman Siegel went with several (a Trevor Paglen print was amongst the largest and most stunning in the group). Regardless of my Bay Area affinities, I would have found both booths among the most considered, and least cluttered, of the fair.

Collage by Kader Attia

3. Collage. I was delighted to see the amount of collage up on the walls, across all kinds of fairs. Vince Roark at Jack Hanley, Nicole Eisenman at Leo Koenig, Michelle Di Menna at Galerie Kamm (Berlin), Kader Attia,/a> at Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna), and Amanda Ross-Ho at Mitchell-Innes and Nash, were a few of a varied and impressive collage selection.


4.The NADA party. Half of the appeal of Miami art weekend is the wild socializing, in which outsiders can indulge in full-on Miami-style hedonism. The weather is warm, the outfits are outlandish (see number 7) and, after the sun sets, people really get down to business. While partying with fellow art folk can be a chance to rub shoulders with the "right" people, it can also be a chance to blow off art-fair steam. This party, one of many that night, was held around the pool of a South Beach hotel, and featured a performance artist who pulled scarves out of her vagina and a renegade who swam naked in the pool, then hid from the authorities behind a large, freestanding painting. It was weird.

Works by Will Rogan

5. Will Rogan. The Bay Area-based artist was represented at the NADA fair by both Altman Siegel and Laurel Gitlin gallery (NY), which where in fact just feet away from one another. Both booths showed smaller works of Rogan's, in which the artist delicately erased the majority of the content away (most of which are sourced from old magic magazines). The results are ghostly and spare, a kind of anti-collage craft. Amongst the larger and more bombastic pieces in the fair, these erasure pieces where a welcome point of entry.

6. Smaller Galleries and Independents. While their booths are the size of small walk-in closets, they make the most of what they've got. Rawson Projects, run by Chris Lawson, featured small abstract paintings and photographs; Regina Rex showed a beautiful wooden sculpture; and Toomer Labzda's whole booth was filled with an interactive colored plastic installation by Mia Taylor. All three spaces are in New York City, and likely adept at making smaller spaces work in their favor.

7. The Outfits. I know this post is in danger of veering too far from the art itself, but at points, it appeared that attendees' outfits were bettering the displays. No matter how people were dressed -- shockingly sexy or just plain weird -- no one threw on their outfit during the weekend by accident. Highlights included: a mother dressed in a leather bodice and red netting, pushing her toddler-aged daughter wearing the same outfit in a stroller, and a male/female couple with identical shaved heads and red dresses. At the very least, everyone put effort into their style. It can be hard to look at the spectacle on the wall with all this spectacle roaming the floors.

8. Carol Bove. The artist, who has come into prominence since 2005's Greater New York exhibition, had half of a booth dedicated to her work, and she hit just the right tone within it. A combination of intricate chain-link paintings on the wall, and installation based sculpture (small objects carefully curated on a shelf and a table, linked by a single gold chain) was cryptic, cold and also strangely emotive.