Want value for your money? Then collect new art by emerging artists from new and emerging galleries. This was the stuff at Artpoint, Dec. 5-8, 2002, a fair of 13 artist-run and nonprofit spaces organized by Janet Phelps (she did last year's Fast Fwd: Miami hotel fair; see www.janetphelps.com) on two floors of a commercial building at 17th Street and Meridian Avenue in Miami Beach, space that was donated by Urban Investments Advisors of Washington, D.C.
Several things tempted this observer, who is dismayingly cheap when it comes to spending money to buy artworks. Among them were a toy-sized sculpture of the Magneto-like Ryklos Conquers Earth made entirely of aluminum foil by Gary Smith at Lump Gallery/Projects from Raleigh, N.C., which was priced at $500. The seven-year-old gallery is run by artist Bill Thelen, who exhibits his own work under the moniker of Lump Lipschitz. At Artpoint he had a blunt little readymade sculpture of a cobra sitting on a painted cinder block, which was marked "sold" at $500.
Still another $500 treasure was an obsessively painted double-portrait of those one-time adversaries, Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, done by Jay Norton and on view at Dirt from Kansas City, Mo. The picture has one hell of a lot of character. Norton is a part-time painter who earns his living as a lawyer, doing things like making bail for single-mom strippers busted for DUI, according to Dirt-gallery founder David Watne.
Among the other interesting works on view were doll-sized figures of movie lynchings (like Clint Eastwood in Hang 'Em High), done in painted polymer-resin, by Jon Haddock at Studio LoDo from Phoenix, Ariz., and a kind of Buckminster Fuller-inspired inflatable geometric sculpture done made draw-string kitchen trash bags and a shop-vac by Dan Steinhilber at Gallery Four, Baltimore.
Other Artpoint exhibitors were Boom and the Suburban from Oak Park, Ill.; Midway Contemporary Art from St. Paul, Minn., the Soap Factory from Minneapolis; the California College of Arts & Crafts, Wattis Institute, from San Francisco; and Spaceboat.tv from Seattle.
It's worth noting Art Basel Miami Beach had not one spin-off fair but two -- Artpoint and the Scope Miami art fair at the Townhouse hotel.
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How were sales at Art Basel Miami Beach? "We sold more art in the last 24 hours than we did in the first two years of the gallery's existence," said Tim Blum of the Santa Monica gallery Blum & Poe. In addition to much-in-demand works of Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara, who made early U.S. appearances there, Blum & Poe has a quirky, young program. On view in the booth were several gnarly monochrome abstractions by Mark Grotjahn in which the artist seems to have mucked on the paint in thick but obsessively careful layers, alternating vertical stripes with "rising sun" centripetal rays. Some of the canvases are signed at the bottom with a runic "m 02 g" -- the artist's initials and the date, of course. Other works on hand included a huge lightbox sign that read "Like, man, I'm tired of waiting" by Sam Durant and some expressionist gouache portraits by Julian Hoeber of people who, it turns out, are slated to be characters in his new film.
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Probably the hottest VIP ticket at the art fair was to a special "Art Loves Fashion" evening with Karl Lagerfeld, the famed designer who in recent years has taken to exhibiting his fashion photographs at Galerie Gmurzynska in Cologne. On view at the Gmurzynska booth, in fact, were large blowups of Hollywood stars (originally done for Interview magazine) as well as moody dye-transfer prints of models in fashions inspired by Lyonel Feininger and Oskar Schlemmer. The price for these last is $5,500.
Lagerfeld, who as every fashion maven knows has become dramatically thinner, was spotted tooling around the fair in white cowboy boots and an exquisitely tailored blue jacket, accompanied by two large bodyguards. The VIP evening, limited to 300 people and held in the relatively small space of the Mynt cocktail bar on Collins Avenue, was something of a bust, since it consisted largely of a 40-minute videotaped chat with Lagerfeld and Interview editor Ingrid Sischy -- especially disappointing, since the crowd had been expecting a fashion show.
A better fashion frisson was available at one of the many surf shops that line Collins, where an enterprising Atlanta manufacturer was selling black t-shirts festooned with portraits of art-world superstars like Vanessa Beecroft and Matthew Barney. The $10 price was attractive -- but a critic can hardly wear a shirt like that (curators on the other hand. . .).
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Two of the top contemporary galleries in Miami, Fredric Snitzer Gallery and Diana Lowenstein Gallery share a building in the southwest section of the city, and hosted a Saturday morning breakfast reception for their current shows. Lowenstein, who moved her gallery to Miami from Buenos Aires three years ago, is featuring abstract paintings and a mazelike glass labyrinth by Mauro Machado, an Argentinian artist who is having his first U.S. solo show. "The energy and opportunity from Art Basel Miami Beach have been incredible," said Lowenstein. "Now it is up to us to capitalize on it!" Machado's large Pasaje axiomatico, which combines the glass maze with a wall installation of perhaps a dozen round, lime-colored abstractions, is $50,000.
Next door at Fredric Snitzer is the second solo show of gouaches, drawings and photographs by Hernan Bas, a 20-something grad of the New World School of the Art in Miami. Bas' work has a cultish, Goth feel, combining images of sulky young men, bloody paint splatters and cut pentacles in works with titles like Hellhounds,The Bad Seed and Ebony-eyed Erik. The prices range from $1,100 for a small drawing to $3,500 to a larger photo piece -- and Snitzer says he has sold about 50 of them so far. Snitzer also represents Naomi Fischer, whose "jungle girl" color photos and drawings are similarly popular; several striking large photos, on view by the gallery stacks, are $5,000 each in an edition of three.
The New York artist David Humphrey had several works in Schnitzer's project room, including an engaging large painting that the artist joked was a self-portrait as Richard Chamberlain and sculptures made of carved Styrofoam covered with paper pulp and painted in pastel hues. One tall piece, titled Sentinel (2002), partakes of a certain poodle biomorphism; it is a maquette for a commission, to be done in concrete and placed in a Palm Beach collector's front yard.
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Hungry visitors at the Art Basel Miami Beach café were treated to a guerilla art performance by Tara Subkoff, the actress (The Last Days of Disco, American Pie) and Imitation of Christ fashion avatar, who let loose several rabbits with signs taped to their backs that read "Jeffrey Deitch says we are not artists." Apparently, the SoHo superdealer has been quoted claiming that Imitation of Christ is not art. In any case, according to Colin De Land of American Fine Arts gallery, who had something to do with the event, several of the rabbits have already found good homes. The edition is unlimited, of course.