Critical Mass

A galaxy of art spins around Art Basel Miami Beach

It’s the big show.
The Major Leagues of art.
It’s the Alpha, the Omega and the by-all and end-all.
It’s Art Basel Miami Beach, and this week it grabs all of South Florida and of the entire global art world’s attention.

Most of South Florida knows the deal. Art Basel Miami Beach, December 2- 5, is the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas. As the sister event of Switzerland’s Art Basel, the most prestigious art show worldwide for the past 41 years, Art Basel Miami Beach combines an international selection of top galleries with an exciting program of special exhibitions, parties and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture and design. Exhibition sites are located in the city’s beautiful Art Deco District, within walking distance of the beach and many hotels. An exclusive selection of more than 250 leading art galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa will exhibit 20th and 21st century artworks by over 2,000 artists. The exhibiting galleries are among the world’s most respected art dealers, offering exceptional pieces by both renowned artists and cutting-edge newcomers. Special exhibition sections feature young galleries, performance art, public art projects and video art. The show will be a vital source for art lovers, allowing them to both discover new developments in contemporary art and experience rare museum-caliber artworks.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this, the ninth incarnation of Art Basel Miami Beach. While it is clearly and unequivocally the star attraction of what some now simple refer to as “Art Week” around Miami-Dade County, it’s a bright shining star that has pulled into its orbit a virtually uncountable number of art fairs, gallery exhibits, art projects and events.

While some of the attractions orbiting the ABMB star have an official affiliation with Art Basel Miami Beach, scores of others do not. The pained mixing of metaphors aside, ABMB has prompted the development of a critical mass of all things artistic during this one week in early December – and it keeps expanding every year.

If you love art then Miami is the place to be this week – and not just for Art Basel.” – Texas art enthusiast Corey Roarke

“This week, everyone puts their best foot forward, their best work out to show,” said Brook Dorsch, owner of Miami’s respected Dorsch Gallery. “Art Basel has influenced everyone in art because when you have this many collectors coming to town, you want to get your stuff in front of them.”
Dorsch said that nothing is too grandiose, too elaborate for this week’s massive regional art smorgasbord. But ABMB is working as well, as a magnet for local galleries and artists.

“The first few years have been phenomenal,” Dorsch said. “Collectors have come and sought us out every year. We’ve had people from the National Gallery and editors and publishers are coming in all the time. It’s been a huge boost for galleries. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward.”
The mélange of exhibits and fairs taking part around South Florida all week have definitely not gone unnoticed by collectors of all stripes as well.

“We get buyers from very serious collectors to guys who are getting married, want to buy something as a wedding gift but are on a budget.” – Well known Miami artist Miguel Paredes

“The first time we went, it was for Art Basel,” said Corey Roarke, a self-described “minor collector of emerging artists” from Dallas, Texas. “We started reading about all of the other things happening in that part of Florida at the same time, so the past couple of times we have gone, we’ve extended our stay and have gone to see a lot of other things outside the main show as well. Actually I have come across a lot of very good art at galleries and fairs, that I never would have known anything about if Art Basel hadn’t gotten us to go to Miami in the first place.

“If you love art then Miami is the place to be this week – and not just for Art Basel,” he added.

This year, despite being invited to participate in several fairs, Dorsch said his plan is to remain “low key,” as Dorsch Gallery has been the past couple of years during Art Basel.

“We wanted to really focus on the gallery and on our events,” Dorsch said.

Instead of exhibiting at one of the many fairs around town, the Dorsch Gallery (wee.dorschgallery.com) is presenting Clifton Childree: Orchestrated Gestures and Arnold Mesches: Weather Patterns and Paint – showings of highly innovative work.

In Orchestrated Gestures, Childree exhibits new sculptures, with film and audio components, in the form of old arcade machines. Each of these three machines conveys sketched-out narratives associated with musical pieces by composers Scott Joplin, Richard Wagner and Alexander Scriabin.
At age 87, Arnold Mesches’ extraordinary new paintings are torn from a full life and an in-depth examination of art history. In both series, Weather Patterns and Paint, the canvases are lush and vigorously painted, displaying the virtuosic, gestural strength and vivid color that has so often been Mesches’ signature.

Also this week, the Live at Dorsch Series presents image and sound performances featuring Fugue State D by Chavez/Liu (New York) and Otto Von Schirach (Miami), 9pm – Midnight, on Saturday.

Virtually countless other galleries and studios will also be contributing to the week’s extravaganza.

KIWI

The KIWI Gallery (www.kiwiartsgroup.com), located at 1680 Michigan Avenue, will bow Thursday, December 2, with the extraordinary body of work and groundbreaking images of fine art photographer William John Kennedy of internationally famed artists Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana. Kennedy is a Miami Beach resident.

The photographs, taken in the early 1960?s at a time when Kennedy forged a friendship with both Indiana and Warhol, capture the two artists and their soon-to-be iconic works at the seminal point of their careers, before the birth of Pop Art. Photographed at the artists’ studios and on location, the images consist of both formal and informal sittings of Warhol and Indiana with their works, the only such images known in existence. After almost half a century in storage, first at Kennedy’s New York studio and later at his Miami Beach home, a select number of the nearly forgotten negatives were carefully chosen to be published for the first time as a collection.

The collection of silver gelatin fine art prints have been individually printed by hand directly from the original negative on fiber paper and consists of 50 fine art prints in a limited numbered edition of 60, each signed by the photographer. Included in the collection are photographs taken of Warhol and Indiana at work in their studios and a set of images photographed during the Museum of Modern Art’s ‘”Americans 1963? exhibition featuring attending art notables Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol, Marisol Escobar, James Rosenquist, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, Mario Amaya, Dorothy Miller, Henry Geldzahler, Eleanor Ward and others.

Complemented by the world premiere of the documentary film, “Full Circle: Before They Were Famous,” on hand to recall that pivotal period of the early 60’s which launched the worldwide phenomenon of the pop art movement, will be Warhol Superstar Ultra Violet. The documentary chronicles the images’ journey from the days they were taken to the present and is full of personal anecdotes and remembrances by many of the principals of the story, including appearances by Warhol Superstars Ultra Violet and Taylor Mead, as well as a reunion between Kennedy and Indiana at the latter’s Victorian home in Vinalhaven, off the coast of Maine.

Art is really universal, whatever your background. Maybe you won’t understand it or appreciate it the same way. But you will understand it.” – Rod Kukurudz, co-founder, Arts For a Better World

Not to be outdone when it comes to global celebrity during Art Basel week, the Adrienne Arsht Center is presenting Timeless, an exhibit of classic and contemporary photography by none other than recording artist Julian Lennon, son of the late, beloved John Lennon. The free exhibit is open December 1-5 at the Arsht Center (www.arshtcenter.org).

MIA CIELO

Showings of the work of local artists abound both in solo and group exhibitions this year, and numerous local artists are included in the expansive MIA/MI CIELO Fine Art Exhibition. This curated exhibition strives to become a leading venue to discover work of emerging contemporary artists. Conceived as a more intimate experience at its serene and accessible bay-front location, the MIA/ MI CIELO will bring the visitor closer to the artworks and artists at the creative forefront of their generation. MI CIELO (www.davidtamargo.com) will be presented on the 4th floor of the Cielo on the Bay luxury condominium, a high-end residential building located on Harbor Island just north of the Art Deco District and the Miami Beach Convention Center.

As a special feature to this event, internationally renowned New York street artist, Dan Witz will be signing limited edition, hand painted covers of his monograph, “IN PLAIN VIEW: 30 Years of Artworks Illegal and Otherwise” on Friday, December 3rd from 6pm to 8pm. An exhibition of Dan Witz’s fine art works will also be on view.

Well-known Miami artist Miguel Paredes is going to be on the busiest people in the city this week. The Miguel Paredes National Gallery is scheduled to take place during Art Basel Miami Beach 2010 beginning Wednesday, December 1 through Sunday, December 5, 2010. The notable pop and multi-media artist, sculptor and urban realist is once again partnering with The National Hotel for the endeavor — the artist’s largest exhibition to date — as his noteworthy, multi-colored and vibrant works are set to completely cover the hotel’s outdoor façade as well as its indoor walls and chic pool garden area. In addition to Wednesday and Thursday night receptions, Paredes is showing with famed rock photographer Danny Clinch in celebration of the duo’s collaborative works featuring musicians such as crooner Jack Johnson. Also showcasing his works alongside Paredes is pictorial realist Hernan Miranda, whose pieces will be available for viewing in the lobby of the hotel during the festivities.

Paredes’ Wynwood Arts District solo gallery space, Paredes Fine Arts Studio (www.miguelparedes.com), will also host an Art Basel launch event on Friday, December 3. The gallery, usually only open during the neighborhood’s “2nd Saturdays Art Walk” and by appointment, will be open to the public through Art Basel. The artist’s 18 X 26 mosaic mural “Pulgha World” found on NW 2nd Ave. will also be on view. Paredes will be present at both of his exhibition locations.

The marketing-savvy Paredes said that the Art Basel Miami Beach has utterly changed the cultural landscape of South Florida.

“It’s like night and day,” he said. “The whole city prepares itself because it brings so much money into town. Every artist wants to be shown. It’s a great opportunity for artists to get into galleries and shown, but it takes a lot of advance preparation. I will start planning for next year’s show the first of the year.”

This week, though, Paredes is mightily pleased to be debuting new works never before shown, including oil paintings and sculpture and more. He said it is important to have offerings of work amenable to all types of collectors.

“I try to have everything from journals with my work in them for $25 to paintings for $20,000,” said the accomplished creator of urban fantasy pieces in which the inspiration of pop artists like Keith Haring is celebrated.

Diversity in his work is important because of the types of collectors who will be looking for acquisitions this week all over South Florida.
“We get buyers from very serious collectors to guys who are getting married, want to buy something as a wedding gift but are on a budget,” Paredes said. “It’s good to have that range of collectors and it’s smart to be ready for them.”

Paredes said he feels like he is at the stage in his already acclaimed career where he is ready to take the next step.

“I’m looking for people to really enjoy my work and for serious collectors and curators to realize I am a good artist,” he said. “I am so anxious to keep growing. I have been kicking ass for the past five years and it’s time to be taken serious.”

An art form that itself has become taken more seriously in recent years is graffiti/street art and they too are celebrated during this busy Art Week.
For one of the first times in South Florida a collection of some of the world’s most famous “Graffiti Artists” will come together to show their work and even create their newest images at “Trilogy” during Art Basel 2010.  Presented by So Cool Events (www.socoolevents.com) and Scion, it will be the first gallery during Art Basel dedicated solely to Graffiti Art, showcasing the work or artists from New York, New Jersey, LA and Miami.  So Cool e-Venue, located at 2585 NW 21st Terrace in Miami, FL, will host the two day event on Friday and Saturday December 3rd and 4th.

Primary Flight (www.primaryflight.com) teams up with Miami’s cycling culture leaders, EMERGE, to present Street.Art.Cycles: Art Basel Edition – a guided exploration through the main streets and back roads of Wynwood Arts District.  Street.Art.Cycles will offer bike tours visiting more than 50 significant murals sites by established local and international artists. Guided by Dario Gonzalez and Olga Cano of EMERGE Miami, this initiative offers bikers a curated encounter, providing information about how the outdoor mural movement has taken shape in South Florida over recent years, and with commentary about the featured artists and sites.

Since 2007, Primary Flight has been dedicated to developing the largest, multi-site, street mural installation in the country.  Joined by independent artists, gallerists and developers, Miami’s street movement has rapidly grown into a picturesque collection of outdoor masterpieces.  Giving residents and visitors of the Wynwood area a visual experience beyond Art Basel, the innovation behind graffiti culture and urban beautification has become an integral part of the city’s artistic identity.

Tours will be held daily December 2 to 4, 2010, beginning at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., on a three-mile route  originating from Primary Flight base at Cafeina (297 NW 23 Street, Miami).  The Green Mobility Network will provide complimentary bicycle valet at Panther Coffee (2390 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami), and bike-checks are a quick, convenient and inexpensive solution to urban mobility.

Other eclectic artforms and artist backgrounds are widely on display this week as well. Calix Gustav Gallery (www,calixgustav.com), for example, is presenting the unveiling of its newest exhibit FLASH by internationally acclaimed fashion illustrator Barbara Hulanicki. In celebration of Hulanicki’s first state-side exhibit, an opening reception will be held on Saturday, December 4, 2010 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with complimentary cocktails and music by DJ Lazaro Amaral, followed by an after party with a screening of Beyond BIBA: A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki.

FLASH, a solo exhibit featuring a series of colorfully infused digital prints, is a reflection of Hulanicki’s wild and free imagination. Inspired by experiences ranging from her early years into the new century, Hulanicki explores joy, mystery, magic, youth and mortality, while staying true to her signature style yet incorporating new and unexpected twists.

Even artistic oriented students are part of the visual arts bacchanalia. Collaborating Artists from Design and Architecture Senior High School (www.dashschool.org) are creating a series of site-specific, multimedia installations revamping the classic tales from the Brothers Grimm. Their works will be presented in the display windows at Las Tias during Art Basel week.

Of course, the massive number of individual and group exhibits are just part of the incomparable scene rotating around Art Basel Miami Beach.

 

At one time it was a faux fair, but now it is as real as any other!” – Anthony Spinello, founder of the Littlest Sister art fair

Art Basel isn’t the only art fair taking this place. But Art Basel was the inspiration for the Littlest Sister art fair, hosted by the Miami Design District’s Spinello Gallery (www.spinellogallery.com).  “Littlest Sister started in 2007,” said founder Anthony Spinello. “No one was coming to Miami for galleries then during Art Basel week – they were coming for art fairs. So the solution seemed simple enough. I created an art fair!”

Art Basel is billed as the sister event to the original European Art Basel, so, playing on that, Spinello decided to create “the smallest art fair in town.”
“The concept for the fair was to conceptualize how Art Basel affected Miami in general, and about concepts like scale, cosumerism and branding,” Spinello said. “All of these concepts go hand in hand with all art fairs, not just Art Basel.”

At first it might have been a lark, but as the idea took shape, that changed. “At one time it was a faux fair, but now it is as real as any other!”
The art fair consists of 8 booths, all 4? x 8? in size. The scaled down booths uniquely house over 40 of today’s most provocative artists ranging from unknown artists, up-and-coming art stars, to seasoned veterans, curated by Spinello and juried by the gallery’s stable of artists.

Littlest Sister

This year Littlest Sister will house a VIP Project Room featuring a solo project, “Observations,” by master painter Marc Dennis. Dennis’ hypernaturalistic, highly detailed and obsessively delineated paintings address the changing relationship between natural and unnatural phenomena. In this show he explores the subversive potential of beauty, referencing traditional still life painting while distilling something otherworldly from within nature’s beneficence.

Whether by content or clever marketing, Littlest Sister has achieved Spinello’s goals. The timing in conjunction with Art Basel has attracted many visitors.

“It’s impossible to even compare how much more attendance there is here now,” Spinello said. “We have thousands of people come through here and who anticipate coming. A lot of the work we have is smaller scale and affordable, but this year we have some much larger pieces addressing scale, and video work, as well.”

Sure to be another popular “art fair,” the Bakehouse Art Complex will transform itself through December 5th 2010 to coincide with Art Basel, Miami Beach.

Comprised of over 70 studios of Miami’s own emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, as well as two finished galleries and 33,000 square feet of exhibition space, the Bakehouse Art Complex is well worth the attention of visiting and local ‘Baselites’. With free admission and extended hours, guests are encouraged to visit the studios and speak directly with resident artists. Currently in its 25th year, the Bakehouse continues to maintain its roots in the Wynwood Arts District while serving the community and its local artists as the premiere institution for visual arts in Miami.  All artworks in the galleries and studios are for sale. This is the only “fair” in town that guests can receive a rare glimpse into the process of making art rather than just encountering the final product.

It isn’t all about money and glamour.

For Rod Kukurudz, it is about taking advantage of the energy generated by Art Basel to make a difference. The French-born marketing and events professional could not help but notice how much all of South Florida changed during Art Basel.

“The whole city changes – even physically,” Kukurudz said. “You see installations and temporary galleries, men in suits walking the streets. Art Basel creates drastic changes.”

Arts for a Better World

After a year of consideration and planning, Kukurudz and his wife have co-founded Arts for a Better World (www.artsforabetterworld.com). Its inaugural edition December 1 to 5 takes significant steps away from the typical art fair paradigm. The elegantly designed 40,000-square-foot space at SoHo Studios (NW 22 Street at First Avenue), showcases 45 artists with more than 400 works, representing 13 countries.  A unique partnership with four keynote charities — Save the Children, Water.org, American Red Cross and American Cancer Society — lends access to artistic presentations, such as drawings by kids undergoing cancer treatment, shown alongside acclaimed professional artists. The egalitarian approach in which the curators designed the show reinforces its collective message, and in addition to receiving proceeds from their artwork sales, partner charities will benefit from 5 percent of sales generated by the entire venture.

Kukurudz said that when he contacted artists around the world, he found real interest.

“I could tell by talking to them for five minutes if they were a good match for what we are doing,” he said. “At the end of the day, all of these artists believe art can foster a better world. But they also have incorporated that into their lives.”

Setting the tone for AFABW is the 672-square-foot black-cloaked pavilion situated at the show’s entrance, where environmental activist Joe Zammit-Lucia will share “Expression, Personality, Emotion.” This touring collection of animal photography portraits is presented in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (www.icun.org), landing in Miami after its debut at the Palais des Nations – the United Nations’ European headquarters – in Geneva, Switzerland.  With powerful photographs of endangered species, the artist investigates issues related to animal individuality and the human-animal rapport.

Brandon Opalka, breakout artist of Miami’s contemporary art scene, joins this initiative in offering a new view of familiar objects.  Opalka’s landmark mural in Wynwood depicts a tree on its side, representative of an eco-system in distress. For AFABW, the artist instead takes a bubbling, prophetic approach in painting, and creates an illusion in which the viewer can believe he has seen a new, real place in his series of amoeba-like shapes with vibrant colors on canvas.

Inspiration eclipses tragedy, as AFABW with American Red Cross bring the International Committee of Red Cross’ (“ICRC”) roving exhibit to Miami, making its Florida debut during Art Basel Miami Beach.  This series was created in conjunction with VII photo agency to capture the individual stories of loss and suffering in war by award-winning war photographers James Nachtwey, Franco Pagetti, Antonin Kratochvil, Ron Haviv and Christopher Morris.  Sending them to eight countries that were either at war or living through its aftermath – Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Lebanon, Liberia, Haiti and the Philippines – their arresting images expose the remnants of armed conflicts and other situations of violence, while touching upon ideals of hope, redemption and progress.

“All of these works collectively are an exhibit – it isn’t different booths or installations,” Kukurudz said. “The exhibit floor is beautiful.”
More beautiful art abounds at the Haiti Art Expo 2010, a creative collaboration between Beach uber-promoter Michael Capponi, Haiti’s leading art curator Michele Frisch and SCOPE (among others) – and hosted by Venus Williams. Taking place this week, the Expo features works of some of Haiti’s leading artists as well as works donated by other artists, and is intended to raise relief funds for Haitians still devastated by the January 12 Port-au-Prince earthquake.

Haiti Expo

The star power behind the Expo, including Capponi, who has long been very personally involved in Haitian relief efforts, illustrates a point that AFABW’s Rod Kukurudz made.

“Art is really universal, whatever your background,” Kukurudz said. “Maybe you won’t understand it or appreciate it the same way. But you will understand it.”

This week, whether for the aesthetic or a cause, or some combination of the two, South Florida becomes the most “understanding” place in the country.
That’s some accomplishment for Art Basel Miami Beach after less than a decade.

The exhibits, fairs and events mentioned in this article are just a handful of those taking place around South Florida this week. Much more information is available from ABDM’s official website, www.artbasel.com and from venue websites.

 

About Michael W Sasser

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