Katerina Simonova, the Editor in Chief of CREEM magazine, shares her experience at Art Basel Miami Beach. The photos featured in this guest blog post were all taken by Morgan Miller using the Leica X Vario and the Leica C cameras.
The question I was asked most often while at Art Basel Miami is why I was at Art Basel Miami. Certainly some people were curious and it is a good way to make conversation, but mostly it seemed they wanted to know how they might benefit. VIPs get treated differently than press and the general public sits comfortably on the lowest tier of this unspoken caste system. Nevertheless, we all came and we all discussed why we all came.
Aside from the unbeatable people watching in Miami in general and the variety of colorful characters drawn to the fairs, events, and parties in particular, my reason was threefold:
1) Catching up with past contributors (artists, curators, writers, etc.) — seeing what they’re up to now and how their work has developed. Much like Fashion Week this is often a reunion of sorts and some of the social mores are indeed reminiscent of high school.
2) Discovering new artists. In addition to finding potential future contributors, it helps to stay on top of who is doing what as well as where, how and for how much. As with fashion, while some stuck to the safety of standbys, many of us were on the hunt for the new and novel — often seeking it out from the hordes of the derivative and done. The SCOPE Art Show was aptly named.
3) General inspiration — whether it is for future issues, specific stories, or just to keep a finger on the constantly beating pulse of the art world zeitgeist. Trends are discovered on the temporary walls of fair booths just as they are on the temporary runways of fashion shows and are just as likely to be cemented by the most confident of bloggers and press who proudly proclaim them before the others are quite sure. Soon enough it’s an epidemic.
Sadly, the one thing I wasn’t there to do is the one thing most central to the whole spectacle: buy art. This mere fact separates the press from the VIPs. Luckily, our roles in facilitating the rest of it are usually recognized and often we too get Champagne. My guess is the bubbly is offered to aid in fighting those blank page (or most likely blank screen) jitters and finding the courage to be the first to back a certain artist/gallery/movement/trend. You can almost hear the fizzing in the glass … can you hear the PR buzz?
With an overwhelming number of pieces in an unmanageable amount of booths at an endless array of fairs you better know what you’re looking for (or at least not looking for). I must confess that I am typically drawn to work that makes me think, makes me laugh, or both. Regardless of the current fad I will always shamelessly enjoy lights and words. I also know ahead of time what garners a good response on social media: guns, crosses, phrases, and anything referencing pop culture. However, this time around I specifically kept an eye out for work incorporating the most intriguing and intricate materials and/or process. This helped me navigate my way towards the pieces and artists I knew would have the most interesting stories to tell.
Those of us with OCD may enjoy popping bubble wrap as a stress reliever (there’s even an app for it), but Toronto-based artist Bradley Hart actually utilizes this every day material as the canvas for his “injection” art and it is absolutely integral to the process. The end pieces are pixelated photo-realistic pictures that tempt you to ignore etiquette and “do not touch the art” signs alike.
The paint drips down the back of the bubble wrap after it’s been injected and the images above are separate pieces presented alongside the others – the results of surgically removing the drippings. Bradley refers to these as “impressions” and mentions in his artist statement that when “viewed together, the pieces each seem to engage the other and the viewer becomes an observer of a relationship created between the two.”
A lot of art strikes up the question of how it is actually accomplished, but especially so in the case of Nick Veasey’s x-ray art. On his website Veasey states, “creating beautiful pieces of art comes with a risk — working with x-rays is dangerous.” Nevertheless, I hope he keeps it up.
Artist Javier Martin from Mallorca, Spain touches on the very serious subjects of consumerism, materialism, money, greed and violence with quite a bit of whimsy and often a touch of gold. This is an obviously intentional choice as well as a signature element throughout his multi-disciplinary oeuvre that is reminiscent of the very mass branding he seems to be criticizing. This particular piece as well as the rest of the weapons series it is part of is made from a genuine Louis Vuitton bag – a rather pricey material that some would arguably kill for.
David Datuna’s presence was seen and felt throughout several fairs. The glasses pieces certainly got a lot of eyes (pun intended) and attention, but the most dynamic of them was tucked away in a small pop up gallery space in the Miami Design District. “Viewpoint Of Millions” – Datuna’s collaboration with Google Glass invites visitors to actually put on a pair and take part in an interactive experience that consistently feeds into and off of the ever-evolving work of art and science. Over sharers and web geeks even have the option to have their experience recorded and posted. Lucky New Yorkers who missed it can catch its next stop at Lincoln Center December 16 to 18.
This brings me to Jason Salavon’s innovative media art. Salavon’s work is comprised entirely of images captured and transformed using software of his own design. While he typically employs images sourced from mass media, popular culture, and art history, the above color wheel consists of the highest ranked results of Google searches for each respective color. Upon closer inspection you will find that the section for blue violet is not actually the color itself but an apparently very popular porn star of the same name.
Lastly, we come to possibly my favorite of the week. Liu Bolin actually uses himself as a material in his work and relies on a team of assistants and some very detailed costumes. However, rather than being the central character a la Cindy Sherman, Bolin blends into the background of his politically and socially charged work whose subject matter ranges from weapons to toys to Chinese junk food, proving that inspiration and material is everywhere and nothing is off limits in the art world.
While the week was one long whirlwind and some of the evenings were a bit blurry, these particular artists and pieces managed to stick out to me. Needless to say, this is just a tease of a taste of what was seen and my most humble of opinions on the matter. That said, I will certainly be back next year to check up on these artists and many others. Hopefully with Champagne in hand and perhaps even a pair of designer Google Glasses in tow.
– Katerina Simonova
Katerina Simonova is the Editor In Chief of CREEM – a quarterly art and fashion print publication based in New York. For more CREEM coverage of Art Basel, click here.