The Greatest Show: Miami's Art Week, Art Basel


Art Basel Miami is a week full of art hopping around the colorful oceanside city of Miami. It has been called a moveable feast and other less-savory things. Nonetheless, it has a become a tradition. This artful uprising can be considered an examination of east meets west, tech meets tactile, right brain collides and cooperates with left. If you don’t focus, all can be lost in the kaleidoscope of Art Basel, albeit fun.

If you attend (and you are lucky if you have the chance) try to find some bearings within this art mecca that spans South Beach to the Design District. It’s an amalgam of art creators, purveyors, collectors, A-listers and full gawkers who attend Art Basel, Art Miami, NADA, Aqua, Untitled, Spectrum, Fridge, Pulse, Scope, Design Miami and Red Dot to name just a few of the exhibitions held yearly during the first weeks of December. All the parts cast in this ‘Greatest Show’ matter. They are a mix of subtle and not so subtle ingredients of an artful hot pot.

While it may seem like a smoke and mirrors labyrinth both to those attending and others reading of the success and fallout in art columns worldwide and just trying to keep up with the action, pause, focus and remember the artist making the work. The artists and curators are consciously intending the dialogue. Go, if you go, with open eyes and heart.

Find a conversation that suits you, and a shoe that fits, whether in the hallowed halls of the VIP preview or dancing alongside Hirst’s gilded wooly mammoth “Gone but not Forgotten” at the Faena Hotel. One stunning crowd-pleaser was the installation of 300 lighted drones by Studio Drift which debuted nightly in the Faena District. The drones rose like a flock of iridescent birds in this cool, new hood, too hip for its own good.

The Faena District is a cool, new hood, too hip for its own good. Art reserves the right and when executed this well can effectively comment on the disco dance between man and nature, uplifting our hearts as it brings our hipness down to earth.

My first, focused conversation was with Jamal Cyrus (showing with Inman Gallery’s exhibition at Positions in the main convention of Art Basel Miami Beach). We talked about music as the great communicator and the cultural dream machine the art world can be. He chatted affably and accessibly about his installation of album covers: some actual, some altered, some fresh off his creative mind press. He is using his artistic license to create an apocryphal record company; selling a mix of these actual and imagined album covers from varying storefronts. This one is “Pride Record Findings- Tokyo”.

Mixing historical fact with cultural ritual; smashing the shared experience of our universal languages together (just like the crowds smashed together for these few days vying for a look). It’s a challenge to separate fact from fiction. Artists have the honor of reminding us we can venture into both of these realms: pragmatic and romantic, but warn us not to turn a blind eye and miss the lessons of audible, visual, spiritual and political stories. It’s a mishmash, of real and ephemeral, we live in that art mirrors.

Compressing cultures, compressing files, compressing environments like the dreamy bisections of blended material: part ocean, part fire of Dan Rees’ work at Galeria Murias Centeno in the Nova section. They are easy on the eyes but no less an overt commentary than the political hammers of Manuel Ocampo’s “Yes, Sir! No, Sir!, Right Away, Sir!” at Tyler Rollins Fine Art. ANTENNA SPACE works by XU Qu render chamber pots into a ceramic reliquary.

An apothecary-esque tribute of teal and green glazing backdropped by I-Ching covers give the viewer the feeling of stepping into a curio shop of ideologies “reshuffled”. The deeper connection to the Parkes incident and palace in flames- a contemporary nod to a previous mockery of conquerors worldwide. Artist Koichi Enomoto showcased by Taro Naso Gallery so blatantly and vibrantly displays the pressure cooker of humanity evolving with technology. There’s that mishmash again and it’s just as part stunning, part bland, part honest, part contrived as the crowd drawn to bow at its feet. The performance investigating sound and silence of Israel Martinez (Arredondo \ Arozarena gallery) quietly stops me in my tracks with its beauty, as much as Sanya Katarovsky’s and George McCracken’s “Infinitely Repeating Pattern I” a loud, limited edition installation of shirts for sale beckoning a look at the Western Male (Tanya Leighton gallery).

“Have artists stepped up to the plate? Has the audience?” Questions one interior designer attendee, “I have seen this all before… it is as blind as our politics.” Yuri Patterson’s digital, interior landscape at Mother’s tankstation limited, Natalie Czech, Matt Neuman, Jamal Cyrus, Kelly Reemsten, - all these artists and curators are in their own way trying to find the poetry in an ever-changing technological, spiritual and political landscape. They are attempting this oft-repeated conversation right now with eyes open. What a fitting Big Top Art Miami Week lends to host these voices amidst oysters and champagne, VIP green cards with BMW private driver access, DJs and Cristal freely flowing. It’s a part choreographed and part freeform dance, a fancy gift wrap around our universal fears and maybe that’s just the spot that needs filling right now. A kaleidoscopic portal like those by Haegue Yang (Kurimanzutto Kabinett project) to help us bear the frightening pace of our information age and the blatant repeating of historical mistakes too big for any Cinderella slipper whether designer, glass or clay. Chantal Crousel of Gallery Chantal Crousel took such care and time with me to explain the ephemeral beauty of Anri Sala’s film still, “Light Pushing #2” another laser view on coexistence. She’s a true eye and voice of art as a cultural necessity. She told me this article on “all of the art in Miami Dec 5-9” would be an “impossible task.” She said you, the reader will “finish the stew,” find the meanings, fathom the beautiful, the ugly, the nonsense and use it as you will. Has it all been done before? Perhaps. Here is a toast to it happening every year and us playing our part in the play. Every role counts in the reinvention of hope and our place in the infinite wheel of art and time.

Artist Natalie Czech takes the poem by Yvonne Ranier highlighting each word found with the lyrics on the John Lennon Imagine record sleeve. Backdropping the sleeve against floating clouds and blue sky, she manages to create a sun spot. A visually striking result to an intellectual and intuitive creative process. She yokes together modes of communication and melds mediums asking the viewer to find their place on the planet and their own humanity amidst the repeated chaos of human foibles.

Image Credits:

1) Stefan Brüggemann. Beats per Minute, 2017Vinyl lettering and acrylic paint on canvas (40 paintings)70 x 50 cm each

2) SCOTT ALARIO, The Sugar Awakens, 2017, Dye sublimation print, 32 x 24 in. (Framed dimensions: 33 x 25 in.), Courtesy of the Artist and Kristen Lorello, NY.

3) MATT NEUMAN. Lemniscate #7 Woodcut mono print on paper 14 x 14 inches 2017.

4) Stefan Brüggemann. Beats per Minute, 2017. Vinyl lettering and acrylic paint on canvas (40 paintings) 70 x 50 cm each.

5) JAMAL CYRUSPride Record findings—Tokyo, 2005-2017collage on paper, wood paneling, wood shelving, plastic bags97 1/4 x 97 1/4 x 2 5/8 in (247 x 247 x 6.7 cm)Courtesy of the artist and Inman Gallery, Houston

6) JAMAL CYRUSPride Record findings—Tokyo, 2005-2017collage on paper, wood paneling, wood shelving, plastic bags97 1/4 x 97 1/4 x 2 5/8 in (247 x 247 x 6.7 cm)Courtesy of the artist and Inman Gallery, Houston

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