When I moved back to Miami from New College in Sarasota in 2009, a new gallery opened on NW 7th Ave called OHWOW (Our House West of Wynwood). During that year’s edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, OHWOW mounted an exhibition called “It Ain’t Fair” which included a work by Aaron Young entitled “Locals Only.”
Nearby on 41st Street, Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz debuted their 3 story, 30,000 sq foot private museum space including an Ana Mendieta vault that had it’s own separate lock and was only open for viewing when Mrs. de la Cruz was in the building.
That same year the now shuttered Bar on 14th street opened as a facsimile of NYC’s Max Fish. I’m pretty sure that 2009 was also the year that Pharrell William’s debuted the chair he designed in partnership with Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin. I always thought the chair looked pretty coital. Looking back, maybe it was an omen of the celebrity clusterfuck to follow in the coming years as the rich slowly shed their post-crash modesty. At least William’s makes his home in Miami (Poor guy can’t leave, no one wants to buy his Brickell penthouse!).
Noting that 2009 was the first edition of the fair in the aftermath of the US economic depression, Karen Rosenberg described ABMB as a “delicate organism… [that] requires sunlight, optimism and an abundant supply of collectors with open wallets,” in her review for the New York Times.
Despite the tepid state of the economy, she noted that the fair and its sales weren’t affected too, too much. Aside from this, the most notable thing about the review is the fact that it is primarily ABOUT THE ART. She discusses Kehinde Wiley’s large scale painting of Michael Jackson and Tom Scicluna and Nicolas Lobo’s pirate radio station at NADA, which had just moved to Miami Beach’s Deauville Hotel from the Ice Palace on North Miami Ave.
Fast forward to 2014, and there is so much competing for your attention that the art itself gets lost and even Eva and Adele look routine.
Since 2009, the increasingly extensive coverage granted to the Miami art extravaganza in the Times is primarily confined to parties, celebrity, prices and failure. In light of the rampant societal problems plaguing our country, this year a troubled anxiety hung around the fair and it’s corresponding events. Trayvon Martin, Reefa, Mike Brown and Eric Garner were in everyone’s eyes, on their minds and protruding from their lips. While the general merriment and partying persevered, it certainly had an effect on the vibe. Or at least my experience of it (Linda Yablonsky seemed unfazed).
I actually read this sentence in a NYT Magazine recap of the week: “The most quintessentially South Floridian event must have been the island housewarming of the prominent Russian collector Maria Baibakova, who chartered VanDutch boats to speed guests though the twilight to the Spanish mansion formerly inhabited by Cher.”
I almost couldn’t think of anything less “quintessentially South Floridian” than a Russian collector’s housewarming party (gag me with a spoon). Also, isn’t it “Von Dutch”? Or maybe I just haven’t ascended quite yet. After this I probably never will. What do New Yorkers know about Miami anyway? Don’t worry y’all, I care about art and I’ll give it to you straight.
Personally, my nomination for “most South Floridian” would be for #ihaitibasel, or the Thursday night Kelela/ Future Brown performance at the Perez Art Museum Miami (formerly the Miami Art Museum, but at least the word Miami is still IN the name).
Knowing my hometown a little too well, I would also have to nominate the opening of a new “institution,” the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, as the most Miami thing possible. More on that elsewhere in this edition of the T.
#ihaitibasel was a week long event at various spaces [loosely] in the Little Haiti neighborhood that featured local and visiting artists alike. The front page of the #ihaitibasel website invites you to explore various venues on the mainland of Miami, as most ABMB visitors flock to the island of Miami Beach and never leave. For most Miami artists, the mainland is where the year round action is. It’s also where the majority of people live and work.
An online map pointed out venues like Swampspace, run by the delightful Oliver Sanchez, and Gucci Vitton, the artist run gallery on 82nd street that has received much deserved attention for their exhibition by Ida Eritsland, Geir Haraldseth and Agatha Wara (formerly of Bas Fisher Invitational) in collaboration with Bjørnar Pedersen.
The large thin reified internet banners hanging in Monday night’s Luxury Face opening commented on contemporary culture and trends through digitally collaged images and non sequitur text about babies and consumerism. I caught up with friends and spotted someone in a “Bad at Sports” t-shirt. Monday night and we were already in full swing.
Monday night also saw the semi-local opening at Emerson Dorsch Gallery, featuring Miami artists Hugo Montoya and Brandon Opalka, as well as the NY gallery Regina Rex’s “Cemeterium,” a sprawling sculpture/ performance garden in the Dorsch’s back yard.
The title of the exhibition, “BACK ON EARTH, a tragicomedy in two parts,” fits the rambunctious Montoya to a T. At the opening, Montoya toured me through his show, relating his epic journey to retrieve the negative for a large print of the artist as an adolescent in headgear from his mom’s house. Then he turned off the lights in the gallery to bask in his backlight metallic fountains on mirrored plinths.
Despite the fact that I still can’t help but call it the Miami Art Museum, I thought the Thursday night PAMM first anniversary party was pretty boss, and I didn’t even find DIS Magazine THAT obnoxious. Miami should be the focus of these types of events and I was pleased to see my city and its major new museum in such flattering light (I did think the water jetpacks were a little much, though).
T around Town
The Weatherman Report
Everyone was there and looking real cute. I ran into Nicholas Frank outside under the H&VM fern trellises and toured the museum’s exhibitions with him. I nearly freaked out at a man who was touching my favorite Thomas Hirschhorn gold CNN piece, but otherwise enjoyed seeing the work on display and checking out all the new collection gifts PAMM has received in the past year (many of which I recognized from my work with the Craig Robins Collection in the Design District). The GPS exhibition was impressive, though not over hung (like everything else everywhere— looking at you Bass Museum, Peter Marino).
I LOVED the Leonor Antunes room in the front entrance (check my B@S interview with the artist about her PAMM opening at MACO last February). Beatriz Milhazes’ paintings aren’t my thing, but big selfie draw so I guess that’s OK. The upstairs room featuring Mark Handforth’s Western Sun light installation and work by various other Miami artists, including Loriel Beltran and Glexis Novoa was the bees knees. Unlike my friend and fellow asocial mediator, I wasn’t super into the Let’s Make the Water Black animatronic room thingy.
Right outside PAMM in front of Biscayne Bay, Kelela’s performance was entrancing to say the least, and she was totally a trooper. As the audience ran for cover in the face of a tiny Miami drizzle she just kept singing, working the fog machine rain combo like a genie in a flowy blue dress. I spotted Dev Hynes of Blood Orange in the crowd along with Miami artists Dylan Romer, Lazaro Rodriguez and Dana Goldstein. Just before I had to leave to see Clams Casino and FKA Twigs with my friends at Young Arts, we were kicked out for taking off our wristbands too soon. ¯\_(?)_/¯
FKA Twigs was chill. You can read Rob’s review of the performance, and I am 100% in agreement with his take. Also, maybe a good time to note that WTF!? Gigi’s in Midtown was owning Basel events on the mainland.
Other highlights included the opening of Design Miami, and specifically the presence of two booths in the back corner of the fair (near the bathrooms): the Gallery Diet solo booth by Emmett Moore, and Coral Morphologic’s booth complete with a sea anemone Oculus Rift and ceiling projection. Moore, a native of Miami, continues to impress with his artistic design work. His quirky, modular pieces had everyone in Miami talking and beaming with pride. I would take the whole booth (including that sweet printed packing blanket). Days after the opening we heard that other galleries (including Chicago’s own Volume Gallery) were clamoring for meetings with the young designer.
Far and away the best exhibition I encountered last week was Guaynabichean Odyssey by José Lerma, curated by Kristin Korolowicz at David Castillo’s new permanent space on Lincoln Road. Unfortunately, Castillo’s strange and unfortunately flat “pop-up” on the ground level distracted from Lerma’s show, as many people I spoke to had visited the raw and defunct club space chocked full art, but missed the new space on the 4th floor.
Upstairs, Korolowicz took me on a wonderful tour of the exhibition, discussing Lerma’s interest in Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth. The triangulation of Lerma being from Puerto Rico and mounting the exhibition in Miami was just too perfect. There was also a large scale shower curtain depicting a baroque recreation of the Fountain. All of the figures had characteristic Lerma double eyes, I couldn’t help but sympathize.
Lerma’s coup de grâce was presented in the back of the exhibition space where the artist had created a mind bending hyper colorful light installation with paintings (a visual timeline starting with Ponce de Leon and ending close to present day, as the paintings became increasingly smaller). It was really amazing, but hard to explain without seeing— check out the video of the installation above. Just before leaving I ran into Miami celebs Otto Von Schirach and Monica Lopez De Victoria of the TM Sisters (who had a very cool palm tree installation in the weird club). As always, they looked ready for their close up so I made them take a photo in front of Lerma’s work.
Agustina Woodgate’s radio broadcast from Spinello’s AUTO BODY exhibition on the beach was also among my favorite offerings. While I unfortunately missed the performances (I really really wanted to see Kembra, Naama and Cheryl, but I could only take so much beach commotion and traffic), it was delightful to listen to Woodgate’s deep voice and adorable diction as I braved what felt like every single inch of Florida highway from Ives Dairy Road to the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Agustina invited a cadre of female movers and shakers that included personal faves, Lauren “Lolo” Reskin of Sweat Records (voted by me as obviously the best record store in Miami) and musician/ stylist Sarah Attias. On the way to visit my cousins in Davie, I got really into trying to understand the engrossing conversation between Woodgate and Karla Damian, from Miami Dade Transport about public transit in Miami en español.
Saturday night, after stopping in to see AUTO BODY, I headed down to Vizcaya for the worst named exhibition at pretty much the best place in the city. If you don’t know what Vizcaya is, educate yourself. It’s totally worth visiting outside of Art Basel, and it’s what elementary school field trips are made of. I just love it there. Even better, the outdoor sculpture exhibition was a showcase of Miami’s best and brightest including Felecia Carlisle, Adler Guerrier, Brookhart Jonquil, Jillian Mayer, Emmett Moore, Christina Peterson and Magnus Sigurdarson (with Domingo Castillo).
I ran into the entire Newberry family, and was delighted to make the acquaintance of the Moore family as well. I had a lovely chat with Misael Soto waiting in line for a glass of wine where we discussed his killer performance series, this is happening, at Dorsch and his own work as an artist. I was surprised to happen upon Siebren Versteeg in the hedge maze, where he mentioned how enchanted he was by visiting the baroque Italian-style gardens and mansion last year that he made a point to return for 2014’s opening.
Late Sunday night, outside of the 71st street warehouse, as I watched a squarish blonde girl with her tits out scream at a crowd of what I was told were “a bunch of Bushwick hipsters who hadn’t been hugged enough by their parents,” the goings on of the last week swirled in my head. I wish I had time to ruminate more, maybe write many pieces instead of this near stream of consciousness. I couldn’t stop thinking about Young’s “Local’s Only” and how annoyed I was with the whole affair, the back and forth, the distractions.
There was so much going on I started to feel bad for not feeling bad about missing many of the cool things and people I was in close proximity to. (Sidenote: I am pleased, though, that I missed the instagram panel in favor of Dan Duray’s snarky coverage.) Thankfully, I ran into Ibett and Juan from the de la Cruz Collection and their candid company put me at ease.
OP-ED: WTF is going on with the ICA?
Before we get started a short recap: Bonnie Clearwater failed to secure the money to expand the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), left for Fort Lauderdale, a 26 year old curator named Alex Gartenfeld became the interim director, the board wanted to merge with the Bass Museum on South Beach, but, after a bitter battle against the city of North Miami ultimately ended up splitting off, creating a new museum in the posh Design District, taking collection objects and digital assets with them.
For a longer, more in-depth recap check the Art News piece. At what cost indeed.
Ok, now that we’re all up to speed: About that newly minted ICA. I was impressed with their, and seemingly everyone else’s, ability to gloss over the brutal and ugly debacle between the ICA and MOCA during the effervescence of last week. I’ve been watching the story develop from afar since Rosa de la Cruz first spilled the beans in an interview in the Miami New Times.
Now that I’ve had the chance to discuss its opening with Miamians and see the space for myself, I have a few questions and things to put down in digital ink. I grew up attending MOCA and formative parts of my art education took place in the museum. To this day, I think that Ruba Katrib’s stint at the museum brought some of the best and most thoughtful solo surveys I’ve ever seen (Ceal Floyer, Ryan Trecartin, Claire Fontaine & Katrib is now at the Sculpture Center to boot).
The behind the scenes stories I’ve heard about the gutting of MOCA make me physically ill. It’s seriously some Vice City shit. For example, how did the ICA get away with stealing all of MOCA’s computers?! It’s totally loca. I haven’t met Alex Gartenfeld, but it seems like the entire city (minus his sleepover buddy, Irma) thinks he’s a jerk, and the fact that he declined to apply for grants which MOCA depends on seems to support that opinion. Seriously not cute.
Speaking of grants, I also can’t quite wrap my head around WHY the Knight Foundation felt it necessary or appropriate to fund the ICA, when the vanity institution clearly has the advantage of a strong and wealthy board, as well as extremely wealthy supporters. Meanwhile, they pulled a 5 million dollar grant from the MOCA for lack of confidence.
Finally, I just don’t understand why the Brahman’s couldn’t put up the money for the North Miami expansion when it ends up that now they are building a whole new museum out of pocket! That is of course, unless the board just felt that North Miami was too poor and the demographic too black to host a world class museum, or be worth the investment. It certainly wouldn’t be as brag-worthy as a shiny new space in an up and coming area of town valued at 1.4 billion dollars. And if that is the case then I guess I have to admit, it all makes sense.
I know a lot of people have been passing around this article on the internet in the wake of Basel. So here is my version of Is Art a Mere Luxury Good? by Georges Didi-Huberman, Giorgio Agamben and Pierre Alferi et al., modified to reflect my feelings about the ICA:
It seems urgent to us in this moment to demand that public institutions cease to serve the interests of individual collectors through adherence to their ‘artistic’ choices and real estate whims. We don’t have a moral lesson to give. We only want to open a long-deferred debate and say why we do not see the inauguration of the Institute for Contemporary Art Miami as any cause for celebration.
Based on the opinions of my colleagues, the future of the MOCA is grim to say the least. Especially with a shiny new ICA on the horizon in the Design District. And where is Bonnie Clearwater in all of this!?
And another thing. The underhanded dealings of the ICA may not be surprising to most, and something about blaming “TINA” as an excuse for local artists and patrons supporting the museum. Others are staying silent on the matter, probably in order to keep their options open and not bristle the omnipotent Knight Foundation. But I am surprised that in all of the discussions of #BlackLivesMatter and Art Basel that this situation and its impact on the community of North Miami wasn’t picked up in any big way by the media (I suspect that the issue is too complicated and the major players too rich to affiliate spuriously with the murder of black men across the country).
When I read that Mykki Blanco got up on a table to say that “[Klaus] Biesenbach doesn’t care about black people unless they’re famous” at a MOMA party on the beach I, for once, wished I had been on the island. Based on rumors and conversations, it seems like Blanco is on point when it comes to the German curator and Director of MoMA PS1. I felt a kinship with the ArtForum diary writer, Sarah Nicole Prickett (in contrast to the party whining of most coverage). The moon was really that enormous.
Even the usually upbeat Theaster Gates couldn’t help but voice his own discomfort at the lack of race discourse during the art fair while sitting on a panel with Paula Crown for the artist’s TRANSPOSITION installation. The Mykki Blanco incident cast Jeffery Dietch’s mistakenly calling P. Diddy “Kanye West” at an art fair last year in a different light. Does he not care about Black people either? Maybe it’s just a rich people thing.
#ihaitibasel Creates Safe Space for Weary Miami Art Crowd
More effecting and impressive than the demonstrations that shut down I-195 (and certainly more poignant than getting arrested for the sake of publicity) was the unmistakable presence of #ihaitibasel.
Showing up late at night after art hopping across the city, I knew I’d see at least a familiar face or two. #ihaitibasel felt insulated from the foreign invasion east of the bay. It just felt real real, like General Practice, or La Cueva on a better than good night. Being in a warehouse on 71st Street, or at the Thrift Store/ Concert Hall on 59th street eased the tension and strangeness I and everyone else [with a heart] felt as complicit participators in the extreme hedonism of the week.
The collective organization of the event was a welcome anecdote to the celebrity hosted parties on the beach, favoring content and substance over ego. The producers, Tara Long (Miami), Kathryn Chadason (NYC), Sarah MK Moody (Miami), Ariella Mostkoff, Emily Singer (NYC), Elizabeth Kenney (NYC), Deon Rubi (Miami) and Tatiana Devere (Miami) were approached by the owners of the Little Haiti Thrift Store, Mimi and Schiller Sabon-Jules, after a ‘Little Haiti Small Business Association’ meeting at the Caribbean Marketplace just six weeks before the event was scheduled to take place.
The media’s conflation of killer cops and Art Basel Miami Beach caused me to wonder if Black lives will matter through the next news cycle or not. Especially now that we have a new distraction to worry about in the CIA torture briefs. While our peers across the country demonstrated and hosted conversations about race politics in the United States, attendees at #ihaitibasel came together, shared culture (and this unmarked passion fruit “beverage” that was pretty off the chain) and tried to get along.
One of the most affecting moments of the entire trip was the procession during #ihaitibasel’s opening night on Wednesday, December 3rd. The evening featured the release of the Strangeways zine with a performance by Richard Kennedy of Hercules and the Love Affair. I managed to buy myself a fur muff for Chicago from Mimi Sabon-Jules, who owns the store with her husband, Schiller. (The thrift store is a freaking goldmine for fur and other winter accessories that are irrelevant in Miami.)
I actually ran into Melena Ryzik interviewing Schiller. When I inquired, Ryzik cagily responded that she wrote for the New York Times. Cool. Whatever, at least she seemed to be into it. Afterwards the Haitian music group, Kriz Rara, led a parade that traveled all the way from 59th street to the satellite space on 71st street where another local, Rainer Davies and his band performed spotless instrumental covers of Sade songs for the audience. It sounded and felt like magic.
There were certainly lots of young hip New Yorkers (see: anyone from outside of Miami) around #ihaitibasel (most likely due to the presence of performers like Prince Rama, Zebra Katz and Mykki Blanco), but there were also a ton of local Haitian people from the area and a good sampling of Miami artists.
#ihaitibasel gave me a great excuse to avoid the traffic and excess of the beach. It felt fresh and was something I’d want to do outside of art week (I still can’t get over that whole Miley Cyrus thing. Straight up just don’t get why people want to see her perform so badly. I saw the VMA’s and that was enough.).
Shout out to the powerful women who put the festivities together. I’m looking forward to seeing more from the group in the months and years to come.
Header image is a detail of work by Glexis Novoa titled Luz Permanente (Ivan Shadr), 2013, Graphite on canvas, 6 x 12 feet, on view at the Perez Art Museum Miami.