Monday, December 9, 2013

A $2 million display down a Wynwood sidestreet and other Basel 2013 moments

Critic's Choices

 By John Dorschner

     With the heart of an amateur afficionado, this intrepid surveyor set out to see as much Art Basel that he could take without paying for admission or valet parking. This meant occasionally using a bus to get to and from Wynwood, which worked just fine. Let others complain about skimpy hors d'oeuvres, crowded streets, too many out-of-towners or slow valets. I had a great time.
    Here are my highlights for a fabulous week of art.
    Most unexpected moment:  The Now Contemporary Art, down a little side street in Wynwood. A friend and I peeked in near the end of a tiring day of a lot of walking, and got a huge surprise: A large installation by the Colombian artist Federico Uribe. Old briefcases made into a boat. A chandelier made of forks. Legs and shopping bags hanging from the ceiling, trees made out of baby suckers.
    It was so good I made a two-minute video of it, which you can watch here. In the video, with narration by assistant director Eliana Baddour, I called the work magical realism, but since the title of the show is The Realm of the Unreal, perhaps magical unrealism is a better title. The whole thing can be  yours for $2 million -- and I think it'd look great in a museum, though maybe it's too much fun and not enough captions. (See Why?WhyNot below.)
    More about Uribe here. More on the Now gallery here.

Eliana Baddour at Now
Kate Clark's zebra
     Made me look twice, then three times: A human-like face on a zebra. I saw this at Art Miami (which required a $25 ticket, but somehow I got a VIP card free in the mail). It's by Kate Clark, represented by the Muriel Guepin Gallery in New York. I think the rep said it goes for about  $38,000. Her work is a great mixture that shows how humans and non-humans are to each other.

   Photography -- The Taiwanese photographer Shen Chao-Liang riveting work is at the Dina Mitrani Gallery, 2620 NW 2nd. Ave. A lot of good stuff. I particularly liked his Stages series -- colorful, portable Taiwanese stages that are unfolded on site. These photos were shot at twilight, with 30- or 90-second exposures.

     Video -- A sometimes funny, sometimes disconcerting three panels at the Rubell that kept my attention, particularly the center one which showed two geese tied together at the neck.

      Why? Why Not? Well, I still don't stand around admiring a Warhol Campbell soup can or Brillo box, even if it's now worth tons of money. And being a fearless curmudgeon, I'm not shy in wondering about Ai Weiwei. He may be a great dissident and showman, but if you have to read the caption to appreciate the art, then the caption is the art, right?
    Prime examples this year: A Ton of Tea at the Rubell. So Weiwei (or more likely his helpers) compressed tea into a cube that's brown, which is near a concrete slab that consists (supposedly) of individual layers of Chinese government sayings piled on top of each other (so you can't see them).
    And then at the taxpayer-subsidized Perez we get two Weiwei Bowls of Pearls. They are large ... bowls ... of ... pearls. That's it. I didn't read the caption.     One of the defining points for rich art collectors is that gallery reps explain to them how wonderful something is because it signifies the cosmic crisis of  xxxx  -- the caption! It's really a plus to the collectors and sales people that philistines (like me) grumble about it.  Then it must be art!
If these were Biblical pearls, then I guess I'd be the swine.
 Oh, and I almost forgot. In the land where caption is king, I walked quickly past a piece of unfolded paper until my companion brought me back, insisting that I read explainer: The point was that this paper -- with a few silly words on it -- had been pulled from the artist's vagina. Aha! Now it's art.

       Supporting Local -- Worth a visit whenever you get a chance. The Purvis Young Art Museum at 255 NW 23rd Street -- the home of the art of the celebrated Overtown-Liberty City artist, with views ranging from the serious to the Daffy.

The Purvis Young Art Museum