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MIAMI MEMORIES 2008
by Walter Robinson
 
We’re done with Art Basel Miami Beach 2008, not to mention the dozen or so satellite fairs. Finished. It’s over. We’re moving forward, looking ahead. Ahead to the frigid winters in New York, England, Germany, that is. But some fond memories linger. However you feel about art fairs, you got to admit that December in South Beach is beautiful and balmy. Plus, a few other things.

The waiting room as artwork
A desk, a wall clock, a closed door, three chairs with people waiting -- the waiting room as artwork, in the Daniel Reich Gallery shipping container at Art Basel Miami Beach’s "Art Positions," courtesy artist Sean Raspet. People walk in, look around, think "what is this crap" and leave, but you, sitting, waiting, know what’s going on, you’re in on it! Also part of the work, a confidentiality agreement that you have to sign, promising not to discuss the seven-minute-long video that’s playing behind the door, an amazing Parallax View or Clockwork Orange-style brainwashing montage that just might convince you that your life is like water going down the drain. Watch out, this video contains flashing lights!

Art as decor
Nothing like hanging some hardcore studio-practice paintings on the walls of a beautiful residence to turn the stuff into artful home decor. In the gallery, the works are alien, perplexing, outrageous. In the living room, they’re discreet, elegant, designed. Here, the luxurious Key Biscayne digs of Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, decorated with works by Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker. Rosa, who guessed she has 1,000 works in all, said she is building a new museum for her holdings, scheduled to open in time for Art Basel Miami Beach 2009.

Sculpture post-9/11
Joel Shapiro was charming, witty, and fascinating in his off-the-cuff remarks at the dedication for two of his bronzes at the new Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in Miami, both on long-term loan from PaceWildenstein Gallery. "My sculpture is more about touching down on the ground than building up from the ground," he said. Also, provocatively: "After 9/11, I began to think my flirtation with capricious, collapsing form was jive -- that it wasn’t comparable to collapse itself." Visitors to London can look out for a new commission at 23 Saville Row, done for a massive new office block built by D2 Private (Deirdre Foley and David Arnold).

Perrotin Miami to close
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Miami, a two-story, 13,000-square-foot facility around the corner from the Rubell Family Collection, plans to suspend operations for an indefinite period at the end of the month. In the meantime, check out the two rideable sculptures by the Austrian collaborative Gelitin - formerly Gelatin, until a Chinese printer misspelled their name on an announcement card -- Henry Moore for the Poor (2008) and Back to the ‘90s and Back Again (2008). The gallery opened at the beginning of 2006 in a stylish 1950s showroom renovated by Miami architect Chad Oppenheim, and quickly became an important addition to the local art scene.

History painting for our time
At the Fountain art fair in Miami, a tiny painting of a scene that must exist, even though suppressed: the surveillance-camera view of Bill Clinton receiving a blow job from Monica Lewinsky. As an example of contemporary history painting, you’d think there would be more of this kind of thing. The picture is by Wayne Coe, whose many other subjects include Dick Cheney’s hunting mishap. The gallery is the Jonathan Shorr Gallery on Crosby Street in SoHo; the price is $2,600.

Art in the yard
Founded in 2003 by test-prep guru Lin Lougheed, CasaLin is an "urban garden" (i.e., someone’s tropical backyard) located a block away from the Rubell Family Collection in Miami. Each year CasaLin organizes an outdoor art exhibition to correspond with Art Basel Miami Beach. The 2008 installment featured works by six Miami artists, including an inverted Pushmi-pullyu made with two John Deere tractors by Robert Chambers, an oversized web of woven manila rope by Julie Davidow, a garden shack covered with Miami moss and air plants by Mette Tommerup, plus works by Ralph Provisero, Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly. A pleasant, low-key alternative to the typical Miami art hullaballoo. For more info, see www.casalin.org

"30 Americans"
For ABMB, the Rubell Family Collection mounted an exhibition titled "30 Americans" that promises to be a milestone in the definition of the African-American avant-garde. "Nationality is a statement of fact," the Rubells say, "while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all." Here, we illustrate Rashid Johnson paintings-as-pitch-black-shelves holding an assortment of runic items. The Rubell collection continues to grow -- in fact, the show includes 31 artists, rather than 30. For more info, see www.30americans.com

The poem store
Sitting on the edge of the jacuzzi in the atrium of the Aqua Art Miami, Bay Area artist Zach Houston was operating his one-man "Poem Store," using a portable manual typewriter, pounding out poems for pay, or for donations, anyway. You give Houston a single word for inspiration, he composes the poem around it. Credit for recommending that I hunt Houston down goes to Liz Parks, of Parks Fine Art in New York.

A sculptor’s idea of a painting
Robert Chambers has a machine that flings a saucer, daubed with paint, straight at a wooden panel at supersonic speeds, embedding it with shards of crockery and splattering it with streams of pigment. It’s nothing less than a sculptor’s idea of painting, a deliciously physical marriage of Lucio Fontana, Jackson Pollock and Julian Schnabel. Works from the series were on view at the artist’s open studio in Coconut Grove.

The We Try Harder art fair
It’s always a good idea to spoon-feed the press. This year, the Pulse Art Fair, which incorporated KaiKai Kiki’s Geisai Art Fair, sent out daily email reports to art writers, detailing the sales for the day. Jean Pigozzi snapped up a work by Toshihiko Wakasugi for $1,700, Torch Gallery sold a Terry Rodgers orgy painting for $65,000, marble "smörf" sculptures by Venske & Spänle sold at Margaret Thatcher Projects for prices in the $3,500-$20,000 range, and more. Here, a set of three Takashi Murakami Gigantic Plush Flowerballs that were bought for $78,000 by hiphop star Pharell Williams.

Schmagoo Paintings
The painter Joe Bradley had a good thing going last year, as collectors snapped up his curious hybrid figurative-abstract paintings, made by combining various monochromatic canvases into typically robot-like configurations. For his latest show at Canada on Christie Street in Manhattan, Bradley discarded his signature style, and made an entire suite of works by scrawling graffiti-type figures on raw canvas with a grease pencil -- all done in the days before the opening. The show sold out. Here, at the NADA art fair, two works that include color, both sold for $10,000 each.

Sand-castle sculpture
What’s an art show at the beach without a sand castle or two? Olaf Breuning’s cabana-sized sand sculpture of a reclining bikini-clad beachgoer with a round Paul Klee face was sited on the beach in front of the Sagamore Hotel at 18th Street, courtesy Metro Pictures, made with sand trucked in by the swanky hotel. As of Sunday morning, the eminently temporary and site-specific work was still in pristine shape. Waiting for the next tidal wave?

The secret of enjoying an art fair
Forget about trolling the aisles, visiting the booths, talking to art dealers and looking for new art. The secret of enjoying an art fair is found in the lounges, where you can sit and relax, get something to eat and drink, and gossip with your friends. Here, the light-filled lounge at Scope, at a table assembled by the irrepressible dealer Ethan Cohen, organizer of Scope’s Art Asia fair, with Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Society’s Asian Contemporary Art Week, and Hu Fang, director of Vitamin Creative Space in Guangzhou.


WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.