Dec 13, 200606:25 PMThe Life
POSTCARD FROM MIAMI
Mary F Silverman
Dec 13, 2006 - 06:25 PMBy Steven Biller
A cubist Picasso painting, a standing figure by Giacometti, a wild drawing by Cy Twombly. I didn't worry about touching the art (although I rubbed sculptures by Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick, and Antony Gormley ). My concern was drooling on the pieces.
Art Basel Miami Beach is no place for a junkie. But the fun of what's become the largest contemporary art gathering in the United States is discovering artists who have received limited, if any, exposure in the United States. For me, it was Monica Bonvicini, whose feminist and politically charged drawings and sculptures stopped collectors in their tracks at Galleria Emi Fontana of Milan, Italy (www.galleriaemifontana.com). It was at this gallery's booth that I ran into Veronica Fernandez, a Santa Monica-based independent curator and former associate at Imago Galleries in Palm Desert.
California artists were well represented at Art Basel, but none more than Ed Ruscha, clearly the torchbearer for the Los Angeles scene and the Pop Art of the West Coast. I lost count of the number of galleries with his photography, drawings, and limited-edition lithographs, but Andy Warhol (at least 20 galleries) was the most represented artist at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
The East Coast had a bumper crop of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Andy Warhol protege who OD'd in Jim Morrison fashion. But excellent examples of his work were sparse. Warhol enthusiasts found a wonderful, albeit small, pink Electric Chair painting, a row of Marilyn paintings, and many drawings.
The San Francisco gallery Hackett-Freedman served up many of my favorites, including a deft mark by Franz Kline, a plaster figure by Manuel Neri, and an oil painting by Giorgio Cavallon. The Neri reminds me of Thomas Houseago's Sitting Nude (2006), a headless figure in Tuf-cal, hemp, and iron at the David Kordansky Gallery booth.
I spotted the Alberto Giacometti bronze, Woman of Venice I (1956), at Richard Gray Gallery of Chicago and New York. Here, I saw another Kline mark and works by David Hockney, Jasper Johns, and Twombly.
Surprising was the large volume of photography exhibited by the 200 galleries in this year's edition of Art Basel Miami Beach - the fifth and largest of Basel's U.S. fairs.
The traffic was heavy, and gaining space to view work often proved difficult - especially when well-known collectors, including celebrities such as Calvin Klein, Dennis Hopper, and Keanu Reeves had hordes of hangers-on snapping pictures and blocking the art!
I enjoyed some of the politically charged works, such as Mark Wallinger's US at London dealer Anthony Reynolds' booth. The giant American flag has a 51st star in the bottom right-hand corner - the artist's expression of disgust over British Prime Minister Tony Blair's "lapdoggery” to President Bush's fumbled military initiatives in Iraq.
Politics is environmental, too, as demonstrated by L.A. artist Mark Bradford, who showed his multilayered, grid-like collages at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Bradford's work also was represented in the Rubell Familily Collection's exhibition, "Red Eye: LA Artists from the Rubell Family Collection,” on view in Miami's Wynwood art district during Miami Basel, as locals call the big show.
In Wynwood and on the beach, satellite shows such as Scope, Pulse, Photo Miami, Aqua Art, Bridge, the New Art Dealers Alliance fair, and many other exhibitions unfolded with great success. Scope ballooned to 99 established and emerging dealers from 44 countries, including 26 from the United States; Germany was the next-best represented with 17 galleries.
The smaller Pulse event, in its sophomore year, showcased 66 galleries from 13 countries, including some that have graced the Basel floor in previous years. One bright example was Charles Cowles Gallery of New York. It showed a dynamic new gauche on paper by Charles Arnoldi (who will appear in a group show at Imago Galleries in March), photographs by John Divola (who will show desert landscape images in March at Edenhurst Gallery in Palm Desert), and a pleasing sculpture by James Surls.
Among Basel's new programs, Art Positions consisted of 22 gallery showings housed in shipping containers at Collins Park.
Glass-art icon Dale Chihuly was the main attraction at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, which also exhibited sculptures by Franz West, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Daisy Youngblood, and several other hot artists.
Design Miami '06 drew some of the Basel crowd to the Design District and two show houses, in particular. The show emphasized that decorative arts can be collectible, especially as the line between art and design continues to blur.
Some galleries rented warehouse spaces in Miami's Wynwood art district to give themselves more exhibition space. One makeshift gallery was an amalgamation of several Brooklyn, N.Y. dealers of emerging artists. With work reasonably priced and the eyes of collectors who spent into the hundreds of millions of dollars on art over five days in Miami, several up-and-comers - such as the improbably optimistic artist David Tree, who reacts to absurdities of current events - gained the well-earned attention they craved.