From left, Larissa Bates, Lederhosen Boys Fire Séance, 2008 (from the exhibition Just Hustle and Muscle), Acryla gouache and ink on canvas, 12 by 9", Courtesy Monya Rowe Gallery, New York. Right, Larissa Bates, Distress Over a Low Gut-Wrench, 2008, Gouache on paper, 10.25 by 7.25", Courtesy Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.

Letter from the Gold Coast: Precious Moments at Art Basel Miami

Larissa Bates, MotherMen Wrestling in Washington Allston’s Desert Landscape, 2008 (from the exhibition Just Hustle and Muscle), acryla gouache on canvas, 12 by 9", Courtesy Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.

Katy Stone, Fall, 2008, Installation view, Boise Art Museum, Courtesy Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.

James Bonachea, Sonrisa infinita (Endless smile), Object, 8 cm Ø, 2007, Edition of 1 + AP.

Aganetha Dyck, Queen, Beework on figurine of Queen Elizabeth II, 2007, 15 x 10 x 8", Courtesy Michael Gibson Gallery, London, Ontario.

AES+F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes), Defile, from Russian Dreams.


Art Basel Miami
and Satellite Exhibitions
December 4-7, 2008


Art Basel Miami Art Fair and its trusty satellite exhibitionss are already gathering steam as I deplane to meet Alicia Eler. She is grinning ear to ear. All 24 years of her is locked in a struggle with horrible luggage, yet she glows with excitement, even in the bad light of Miami International Airport's baggage claim area. Her role as reporter for New City sets the pace for our dialogue and itinerary. She has convinced me to write for Art Tattler about the shows so we can “hang out.” We get to the Catalina Hotel on Collins Avenue, drop our luggage, and walk to the convention center for our media passes. Our busman's holiday view of Art Basel as we walk through the convention center is breathtaking. We look through glass down to the booths and take a moment to enjoy the careful unpacking and installing of objects.

Alicia I and return to the Catalina through double-parked trucks and massive crates. Familiar faces poke out of hotel room doorways and rivers of world languages pour from rooms. Michael Workman is seated in a white egg chair in the Maxim Hotel lobby talking on his cell phone. We smile as I prepare for whatever South Beach has waiting for me.

The next morning's media conference for Art Basel Miami is crisp and smart. All the players are introduced and identified as team members. The continued support and importance of art is elegantly presented and affirmed with snacks and champagne. I look through the lecture guide to decide who I want to hear and I am impressed. I make big circles around Project 1 from New Orleans and a talk by Jeremy Salz. The room of writers and photographers is bright and engaged. Brenda Schumaker, marketing director of Bridge, gives Alicia Eler's low-rise pants a teasing reprimand. Last year’s Proenza Schouler feels very last year in this room of well-dressed people.

Art Basel is for many a platform for monumental institutional art. Often the first work shown, seen, and scrutinized are the monolithic sculptures and photographs. The larger and more obvious work is tempting cocktail chatter. I traipse by Olaf Breuning’s hilarious sand-castle-Paul-Klee-faced lady with my new friend Johhny Morris, a London travel writer . I stand under David Lynch’s falling diamonds video in the Cartier Dome and feel like an extra on the set moments before the filming of a CSI scene in the security-guarded company of millions of dollars of jewelry. I lean in as Kris Martin’s For Whom, a huge bell cast in 1929, tolls silently on a hidden motor sans clapper.

I address my mortality in the luminous larger-than-life photographs from the series Defile, 2000-2007 by artists’ collective AES+F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes). Defile’s ravished corpses, digitally redressed in couture attire, float like religious icons on light boxes at the opening of Bass Museum’s Russian Dreams. Pressed between silk, leather, and linen surfaces of the crowd, the exposed feet and hands of these devastated bodies seem especially tragic.

I barely keep track of invitation cards allotted me by various patrons and curators to enhance my experience and drink liberally to keep up with Johnny Morris’s itinerary. Each VIP card seems to demagnetize the one before it. On the other hand, the wealth parade promenading down the main corridors contrasts with quieter moments on side streets and sincere conversations with engaged people.

Michael Gibson Gallery, London, Ontario, is in the Bridge satellite exhibition at Catalina Hotel for which I packed and unpacked my work the year before. I enter the Michael Gibson show and take my time falling in love with a small sculpture by an artist I never heard of named Aganetha Dyck. A porcelain figurine of a woman in a pink dress seemed to have grown an organic layer. The dealers explained the artist and her process. Dyck, a Mennonite beekeeper in her 70s, paints bee hormones on different portions of kitschy porcelain collectables. These hormones alternately promote and deter the making of hive cells when she places them in bee hives during honey-making season. Her choices in collaboration with the bees produces an intense conceptual layer that reduces the concept of each piece to golden veils of wax.

Dyck’s work is a trap for ideas of accessibility and authorship. Familiar underlying figurines weave in and out of view from behind honeycombs: dime-store fairytales and grandma luxury. A tiny colonial courting ritual The Whisper is so thickly honeycombed that the two lovers seem infected by lace goiters. Dyck’s work incorporates nature and science with a quiet and beautiful hand.

At Nada, I am drawn to a limited-edition sculpture by James Bonachea from Myto, a gallery out of Mexico. Infinite Smile is a perfect circle of cast resin teeth sunk into an upper palate of pink plastic. Larissa Bates, Manya Rowe Gallery, New York, is truly talented. Her paintings of idyllic scenes gone wrong are elegant, dark, and small. The scenes of cloaked and lederhosened German boys rollicking through miniature Persian landscapes were nearly sold out. The dealer was polite and enthusiastic and I was glad to hear the work had been sold during the fair, not in advance. Bates is young and an earlier solo show in New York also sold out. For those who enjoy robbing the cradle to make a collection, this is your baby.

Nada, the satellite exhibition furthest from Art Basel Miami in the convention center, continues to amaze. Maybe it impresses because of its gritty location, far from Ocean Drive, the hotbed of browned, baked, and enhanced boomers, so closely associated with South Beach. The art, the galleries, the location, the infrastructure and layout engage on a professional level with quality performances in an outdoor hammock setting. The trek of taking three shuttles to Nada only make the show seem more worthwhile. I meet up with Alicia and eat a sandwich in the warm fading light of a South Florida evening while we watch several performances. The hammocks and palm trees seem like props in the grittier environs and the cab back to South Beach feels as long as it is expensive. Keeping track of shuttle schedules becomes difficult when you’re having a good time.

It was at Navy Pier in Chicago that I first saw the work of Katy Stone of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.. Her installations of painted, cut, and layered mylar create an illusion of liquid fluttering that shadow the walls with natural tenderness and confident craft. Playing with spattered blood, pond surfaces, waves, and other organic moments, I was delighted to see her newest piece at Art Aqua. A quiet trail of smoke drifted up the wall from a perfect orange source. I could smell nicotine and an invisible face behind the light was cinematic. Stone’s ability to factor in tragedy and violence lent the piece de resistance to the spontaneous moment.

Leaving Miami: there are many canceled flights and the tourism board forgets to inform my airline that a locust-like swarm of international art collectors, artists, and dealers are chomping at the bit to leave South Beach. It takes 14 hours to get home as opposed to last year’s ice storm that offered my companions and I a 24-hour excuse to hang out in Ft. Lauderdale.

The next morning I sit down to coffee in Kansas City, slightly tanned and glowing with ideas. Someone asks me what I had been up to and I reply. “Art fairs are weird,” he says. "They are soulless and not the way you should look at art." I agree to an extent, but defend my stance and experiences, and ask what art fairs he’s been to. He pauses briefly and answers, “None, but my friend worked at one once.”

Peregrine Honig is an artist and is resident artist coordinator for Art Tattler.

From left, Katy Stone, Smoke I and Smoke I detail, 2008, Acrylic on Duralar and pins, 67 x 8 x 2", Courtesy Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.