Art Basel in Miami

Louise Fishman's "Dartmouth Quartet I" at New York's Cheim & Read

large detail of Xu Zhen's "ShangART Supermarket" at Shanghai's ShangART Gallery

Ann Craven's "Stripe" at New York's Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert

large detail of still from Miguel Ángel Rojas's "Caquetá" at Bogota's Alcuadrado

Juan Uslé's "Mardi Gras I" at Cheim & Read

detail of Carol Bove's installation at New York's Maccarone

Charles Goldman's "Scrapwood Sculpture" at Toronto's Birch Libralato

Zilvinas Landzbergas's 4-part installation, "JPG 3", at Amsterdam's Fons Welters

Two years ago Barry and I missed Art Basel Miami altogether (car rental problems during the vernissage), even though it was the first of what has morphed into a virtual circus of annual trade shows, er . . . art fairs throughout the Miami area (there were dozens this year, and they came in all sizes). We ended up having a great time visiting and looking at so much else that year.

We skipped last year's excitement, but returned this year seduced by a friend's generous offer of a part of his beautiful South Beach apartment, and by the prospect of meeting people around this country and beyond with whom we'd only communicated on line.

We did make the Basel vernissage this time, arriving only minutes after the doors opened. Of course the big-deal collectors had already had their preview earlier in the day and by the time we arrived they were probably sprucing up for the a large private dinner party scheduled for that night. While we were boarding the plane at Newark we had spotted Paul Miller and learned that he (aka DJ Spooky) would be showing one of his latest projects, "Rebirth of a Nation" to 150 invited guests at the Rubell Family Collection across the water. Now that would definitely have been worth a detour had we been offered the opportunity.

Meanwhile the aisles and the gallery booths at the fair were crowded with both press people like ourselves and "ordinary" guests, including many artists. Many of these folks, including some of the exhibitors, were our friends. With that kind of stimulation, plus the lively mosaic of individual works which competed for our attention, it was pretty difficult to focus on a single piece, even a single gallery set up. We had three hours, but in that time we were able to get through little more than the booths on the periphery and two special rooms.

We made one sortie through the center of the Convention Center to check out Cheim & Read, since we were told they would be showing Louise Fishman's first work in acrylic, done this past summer in New Hampshire. Only near the end of our tour did we realize we had actually lucked out in our chosen route around the edge, since it was to the spaces on the outside walls that the less mainstream galleries new to Basel Miami were assigned - galleries more in tune with our normal appetites.

The images at the top describe only a few of the more interesting pieces I encountered along the way:

Louise Fishman's 66" canvas turned out to be pretty spectacular.

Xu Zhen's convenience store was a huge hit, and many visitors couldn't resist purchasing samples of its (totally empty) containers and wrappings.

Ann Craven's birds had really gotten to me several years ago and since then I've watched her move into even more conceptual work. This "Stripe" painting opens up very new territory.

I'd been attracted to Juan Uslé's work when I had seen it in group shows before, but this vivid painting really stood out even in the rich company of both its gallery colleagues and those in the larger show itself.

Carol Bove's peacock blanket had been covered in the media, but nothing had prepared me for the unearthly beauty of the thing itself.

Miguel Ángel Rojas was our first "discovery" in Miami. The fact that Barry and I hadn't known this artist's work before probably demonstrates our New York provincialism. The Columbian gallery, Elcuadrado, showed nothing other than work by this wonderful, mature artist, and I thought it was awesome, the video and photography-based installations in particular.

The video cited here shows a 21-year-old lieutenant who lost the lower part of both arms in the Columbian government's war against the peasants in Caqueta province. It's a continuous loop which begins with his face covered in grease paint camouflage and it continues as it records the labored process of the young man washing it off from a basin of water.

We've seen and loved Charles Goldman's work for years, and eventually came to know and love the artist as well. At Basel he was represented, in this wonderful piece and another not shown above, by Torontos' Birch Libralato.

Zilvinas Landzbergas's work was pretty special, for its very ordinariness, a pile of things so easy to overlook beside a partition, as well as the non-ordinary choice of subject, the extraordinary skill of its execution (in cardboard and plastic) and its surprising beauty.

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Published on December 15, 2007 12:05 PM.

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