AN friend Ken Saylor, of saylor+sirola, reports from Art|Basel|Miami Beach:
For the seventh year in a row, the international art world descended upon Miami Beach to instantly transform the city into a galaxy of cultural production, salesmanship, and hopefully, with this year's delicate economy, elite consumption. If you add cars, champagne, mojitos, and cigars, provided by the current corporate sponsors, one's experience of Art|Basel|Miami Beach
was a decadently over-the-top trip to the beach.
With 24 auxiliary fairs attaching themselves to the main event, it is impossible to see everything, although everyone runs around the city in frantic abandon—entourages in tow—to openings, parties, parties, and, yes, more parties.
Despite the mood of abandon, many New York City gallery owners and directors were either somber or pragmatic in their assessment of the current art market, stating that they were either prepared for the recent economic crisis and had downsized their presentations and sales expectations, or chose to show work that was sure to sell. As one prominent dealer put it, "The conversation is finally about art again, not about money."
If one was blind to the current state of world affairs and entered the world of excess, however, Miami was awesome!
Art Positions, an exhibition by young galleries that presented their wares in shipping containers converted to public art spaces, was one of the highlights of the Miami trip. Twenty containers surround a central plaza where Art|Basel|Miami Beach and WPS1.org Art Radio
created an immersive futuristic environment, featuring an architectural installation by Federico Díaz and E-Area. Surround-sound audio, video projections, mood lighting, food, drink, and live radio broadcasts provided the ultimate art world beach lounge, a welcome spot to chill out after the visual intensity and economic jitters of the fair.
The escapist theme was, of course, intentional. According to the press release, "The themes celebrated in this environment are a retro-futuristic vision first explored by artists, architects, filmmakers, designers, and musicians of the '50s and '60s. Some of their organic shapes, space-age materials, hallucinogenic visions, dreamscapes and soundscapes, and early computer-assisted design have been integrated into the project."
As for the design itself: "A deformed topography of polyethylene layers cut by CNC robotic technology blankets the courtyard of Art Positions. The lounge, cafe, and Art Radio broadcast booth were transformed by undulating waves, extrusions, and futuristic furniture all awash in a bed of soothing psychedelic sound, light, and video." Just lovely.
For a different sort of surreality, located within the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, Cartier presented "Diamonds, Gold and Dreams," an immersive audio-visual environment conceived by filmmaker and visual artist David Lynch. The interior of the dome was designed as an ornate and gilded event space, complete with Cartier jewel cases around the perimeter where you could try on jewelery. The domed ceiling was used as a giant planetarium-esque projection surface using state of the art projection technology.
The seven-minute show begins with an impressive Pantheon dome structure of floating jewels carefully arranged around a small oculus. Then the Lynch magic begins, as the ceiling begins to undulate and graphically transform into a variety of shapes using the clusters of jewels. Finally, the jewels come crashing down on the spectators below.
Most of the VIP visitors in the space didn't seem to realize the show's obvious irony: the sky was falling!