Art Basel, Miami Beach

December 14th, 2007 § 0 comments

miami

On the surface Florida, not necessary Miami, seems a lot like California. It is warm, the sun is almost always out, the suburban ares have the same stores built in the same manner, but more than a quick glance around shows a place that is quite different. The relationship of the land to the people and their habits feels even more precarious and artificial, if that is possible, than in California. For example, the beach culture appears to be similar, when you walk into a drug store towels, sunscreen, and flip flops are the first thing one sees, and yet the beaches in Delray are different. There is a startling lack of young people, and the sand is imported from elsewhere as the beaches just erode. There is a sharp line where one can see where the real sand ends and the imported begins, when you brush it off it leaves scratches. While it is warm, South Florida lacks the lazy breezy quality I associate with beach culture on the west coast, we don’t have storm shutters, poisonous bugs, etc. Even Miami, which has a subculture similar to that of California, where English in many places is hard to come by, has an edge and sleaziness that I do not feel even in LA. Miami ended up reminding me of Las Vegas, where the non-beach side felt like old Vegas, with the run down original hotels and hookers with breasts down to their waists. Miami Beach reminds me of the strip, with the new hotels that are almost like malls for the upper middle class, but have a sleaze all unto themselves. Talking about Art Basel today with the vising artist, she said that the art world attracted a certain kind of sleaze. I am only comparing South Florida to California because it did at first really remind me of southern California, and the longer I stayed the more I noticed the differences and what they said about the people who live there and the place they inhabit, if inhabited carelessly and obliviously.

art basel

The visiting artist also asked me what I had “learned” by going to the art fairs, Basel and others, this last weekend. I am not sure I would say it was what I learned, but I found it interesting how the art at Basel seemed very clean, slick, and conceptual in a way that we have already been taught how to consume. The galleries there and the work they brought had all the appearance of showing “good” work, the work itself had all the makings of “good” work, and yet without its context I feel it could be completely passed over. Without someone there to tell you to look, admire, and buy, I could imagine a handful of wealthy older people looking, questioning, and dismissing works as “art” in the worst sense of the word. Outside of Art Basel the vibe got more interesting, the energy rose to a higher and more youthful level, and yet as I have stated before, the work shown fell into the category of-what I call-carefully crafted grunge. I found the sloppy aesthetic as annoying and distasteful as that of the carefully clean makeshift walls of Basel. The people again were quite a different story, they all pretended to have a purpose in being there, and yet I am not sure what that purpose really was. Not everyone was buying, and I for one felt oddly out of place. As a maker and viewer of art, it should have been like the candy store. It seemed like art reaching out to the public, and yet the public it reaches to is even more exclusive than that of museums.

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As far as Art Basel and the 23 surrounding art shows go, I wonder if I would even need to go back. Can the work ever really change? It seems not, because the reasons and choices that bring it to Miami will never deviate from their monetarily driven course.

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