Two Days in Miami
by Janet Bruesselbach Back in October, Steve Cannon called me up at work and told me he wanted to send me to Art Basel Miami. I had no idea what form that would take, and said as much, and then didn't fully take him up on the offer until three weeks beforehand. Since I figured I didn't have a gallery to show with, I figured I'd do a curatorial wander, make connections, and plan for future visits, or not.
What allowed Steve to send me down was, in fact, the sale of the David Hammons installation that is truly incomplete without him. The original buyer, Jeanne Greenberg, gave him a percentage of the proceeds. Jeanne's gallery, and the gallery of another of Steve's art patrons, Jack Tilton, would be showing there, which is also, probably, how he heard about it. On Thursday, stopping by Salon 94's booth, I didn't know if I wanted to remind its proprietor that her largesse sent artists to hound her. I suppose it's better to be briefly bothered by artists than aggressively pursued by the sort of charity organizations that spend all your money to get more of your money. Anyway, consider this a ninja gonzo report. During and after the trip I read Sarah Thornton's 7 Days in the Art World, which colored my perceptions a bit and turned up the dial on my five different kinds of status anxiety (as artist, as dealer, as curator, as some kind of reporter, as politically aware, or rather not very) with its outsider viewpoint. In her chapter on art fairs she quotes John Baldessari saying that an artist at an art fair is like a child walking in on his parents fucking. It's more like a child walking in oh her father making sausage with a high-class escort. Also the sausage is made of poor people. Then the father says "I'M DOING THIS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEN THOUSAND OVEREDUCATED SIBLINGS", and then your older brother gets to give the escort a wedgie. Where was I? On a plane, sitting next to Rickshaw Spiderman, who called everyone he didn't like a "nitwit" on the phone. I did my best to make it onto his nitwit list. We shared a cab driven by a Jamaican woman who didn't know where anything was. I stayed with someone I may or may not have ever met before, besides on Facebook, who moved down there from NYC to earn scary money through one of those companies that advertises skin cream and tooth whitener on the internet. I was frozen for an hour or two Wednesday morning, and not just because of the air conditioning. Ha ha. Whoa, deja vu. Eventually I headed over to the mainland on a city bus. I sat next to a couple of dudes who were supposed to help install David Lynch's show at O.H.W.O.W. and tried to pretend I didn't exist, and then tried to lose me. Then I went to Pulse Art Fair being set up nearby at the Ice Palace film studio. Ninja'd in there very easily, wandered around avoiding dealers and their minions setting up (although it's likely most wouldn't have cared). It was probably the best fair there. By ninja what I mean is that if you're dressed well enough, as long as you're neither giving or getting money out of this superfair, you are invisible. Thornton's first chapter does not state, but implies, genders to buying and selling art, amongst collectors. By extension, everyone selling their labor is in a femme role, and the few buyers are the only butches. So perhaps it's a very dystopian gender structure. Androgyne symbiotes like myself may still be in the majority. I walked up Miami and ran into a warehouse that Brooklyn's Pierogi had rented out. They had a pretty terrific show there, with some rooms dedicated to individual artists and larger rooms with multiple pieces, working well with the space. It had a recurring Urban Studies feel. I know I'm being unspecific about things I like and specific about things I don't like. Good people, anyway. Next were the conjoined twins of Scope Art Fair and the Asia Art Fair. Together they were nearly as large and busier than Art Basel. I believe I overheard a few collectors enthusing about seeking out Asian art specifically, in the manner of stock traders. BUY. I like Scope because they had an opening party while I was there with free rum and Cuban food. I knew there was another party at Art Miami but I did not make it in time. I'm not sure what sidelined me - I was supposed to meet my host back in South Beach for dinner, and there were yet more galleries along the way. There were at least three satellite fairs I missed (Red Dot, Aqua, Nada). Art Miami kind of felt like the resold art that only a collector could love. It took me two hours to get back to South Beach because they'd stopped running shuttles, all the cabs seemed to be taken, and the bus I needed left from and dropped me off half a mile north of both my origin and destination. But I took the opportunity to walk along the boardwalk and take a dip in the ocean. I ran into a couple art pro girls with a joint and they didn't share. We had dinner at a Peruvian diner, where I discovered that the very best Telenovela is Victorinos. Then caught the end of the Ebony Bones concert on the beach, and found that alcohol increases in price over the course of the day. We managed to join one of those outnumber-the-guard sneak-ins to some swanky hotel's party where Santigold was playing. The chess pieces in the hotel's lounge could not play traditional chess, but we imagined some kind of Democratic Chess with too many pawns and only bishops and knights. The goal could be to kill one's own bishops. Thursday I figured would be a rushed day, taking in all of Art Basel and the remaining fairs. It turned out to be pretty leisurely. Sneaking in was easy through the front and not so easy through the back, I discovered after returning from a two-mojito lunch. Basel was clearly on a grander scale but, as many have been saying this year, quantity beat quality. Still, there was plenty worth seeing in person, like Evan Penny's hyperreal optically stretched sculptures.
I could sense that this was a deliberately staged battle in the class war, and that a reaction to the sorts of parties that are more work than work was coming, but possibly only in the form of more parties.
I didn't take note of who made this. Oops.
As an artist, especially one traveling as someone else's ends, I am declaring this whole thing's teleology (art itself) unsacred. No, I do not have to report on the art. At least not yet. I have a pile of cards. I'm sorting through them. Looking at all the websites induces nearly as much aesthetic fatigue as the fairs, and makes me glad I went only as long as I knew I would be able to.