Sunday, December 6, 2009

What a difference a year makes

Sparkly Christmas tree at the Fountainebleau hotel, Miami Beach.

Just got back from ArtBasel Miami. I do miss the warmth of the south--did it really have to rain?

I skipped Miami last year, art fair weariness. I have no problems with the market. However, as a curator, I simply got tired of having to fight to talk to dealers who were so focused on selling to institutions, not necessarily helping to build a more firm artistic career. The market calming down is a good thing for curators and artists, but maybe not for the dealers.

This year I went to Miami in a different position and therefore my goals were different. I was able to meet with several members of my new International Advisory Committee (check Laumeier's website soon for details): Silvia Karman Cubina, director of the Bass Museum of Art, Beverly Adams, curator of the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection of Latin American art in Phoenix and Laurie Farrell, Director of Exhibitions, Savannah College of Art and Design. I had great conversations with all three of these experts who will be helping us work on outdoor temporary projects and collections-based exhibitions. I can't wait.

And of course I did see a lot of art.

The on-going rash of deer has not died down--I first started noticing this about five years ago in Miami (simultaneous with the storm of snowmen in art, and I've got the pictures to prove it).

Bambi and a big rack (titled by Beverly)

Bambi in the head / spot lights outside the convention center

The blizzard of snowmen several years ago was certainly a response to being in the lush tropics of Miami (just as the rash of genitalia in art was a symptom of hotel art fairs before that).

Gratitude towards junk culture at Nada Fair

The Taco Bell work was nicely ironic given the predominant influence of Latin American in Miami. Taco Bell is but a ploy of the fast food industry to sell a foreign culture's cuisine in a non-threatening (and non-spicy?) way to Americans. Right outside the convention center's doors is a polyglot range of food types rarely found in mainstream kitchens.

I moved rather quickly through the fairs with various friends and colleagues (hence my shocking lack of names for many of the works I am showing you). I ran into many colleagues whose own works or ideas will be great to bring to St. Louis--this is the biggest part of what I brought back with me from Miami.

I also got over to most of the private collector spaces--the Cisneros Foundation, the Margulies collection (needs some curatorial focus, a good architect might help snap that place together) and the new Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz space.

Inside the new De la Cruz exhibition space, with Allora & Calzadilla missile in foreground

Outside the De la Cruz space

The view outside this gorgeous new space brought home the inherent difficulties of selling, buying, making, presenting and loving art. With the obvious surrounding poverty of the area, the work of Allora & Calzadilla and Ana Mendieta became sharper, while the seductive work of Jim Hodges became softer. I look forward to seeing if they impose quasi-curatorial themes to their shows, a la Rubell, or toss things out choc-a-block like Marguelies.

Miami is really the wild west of the American art world, for good or bad, but they've really had an impact on how we see the arts in that city. The cabbie who returned me to my hotel had moved to Miami from Surinam about 25 years ago, and he said he's going to miss us art people because we are helping their economy.

Now that is the true shock of the current bad economy--that people are looking to the art world to help them.

What a difference a year makes.

all photos courtesy the author

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