The Miami Art Fairs are Decadent and Depraved

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Translators, Nigel Cooke, 2013, oil on linen backed with sailcloth
  • "Translators," Nigel Cooke, 2013, oil on linen backed with sailcloth

[Editor's note: Nashville-based artist Mary Addison Hackett has agreed to be Country Life's correspondent at this year's Art Basel and Art Miami, and she'll be supplying us with her notes and photos throughout the fairs' duration. This is her first entry.]

Day one. I arrive in Miami on Thursday — way too early to be cognizant — and thoroughly familiarize myself with the Miami airport while trying to locate a colleague. We finally find each other and head to our first stop, the Pulse Art Fair. There's a VIP brunch. Free food for the well-heeled and tan. I am carrying a backpack stuffed with electronics that will fail me and clothes I will regret bringing.

Within minutes I run into Mark Scala, curator of the Frist. He's on the phone looking cool and collected. We exchange hellos. There's a 1968 Shasta Compact travel trailer parked on the lawn with an artist giving manicures as social practice. Nails Across America is a mobile salon performed by artist Breanne Tremmel of Wassaic, NY. She had stepped out to use the loo. I don't travel well and feel frazzled. I decide a manicure would set the pace for the next few days, but quickly rationalize I wasn't ready to walk about with my fingers fully extended as though I were channeling an imaginary Ouija board. We take the shuttle to Art Basel.

Alcazar, Jim Lambie, 2012 (Mirror, enamel, photogenic, print quality, 74 x 98 1/4 x 3 5/8 in.)
  • "Alcazar," Jim Lambie, 2012 (Mirror, enamel, photogenic, print quality, 74 x 98 1/4 x 3 5/8 in.)

After a rigorous press-cred shakedown, I'm in. My iPhone is now 2-percent charged. I slam a Keurig in the media office and change out of my crumpled clothes into something less appropriate while I juice up.

Art Basel turned out to be predictably predictable. I was prepared to be wowed, but as an artist I felt jaded. The abstraction was easy and slick, and I spotted only a few paintings I would call "new casualist" — a term Sharon Butler of the blog Two Coats of Paint coined to describe the "studied, passive-aggressive incompleteness" that hit stride among abstract painters around 2011 and continues today.

I did, however, notice that new casualism had made its way into the hands of object-makers rather successfully, though not enough to warrant expediting the precious battery charge. Not surprisingly, Doug Aiken's shiny work about excess caught my eye.

More (X4), Doug Aiken (Mirrored glass and white glass, 128 x 96 x 6 inches)
  • "More (X4)," Doug Aiken (Mirrored glass and white glass, 128 x 96 x 6 inches)

Paintings by Melora Kuhn, sculpture by Martin Eder
  • Paintings by Melora Kuhn, sculpture by Martin Eder

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