February 7, 2008

Miami Beach: Swimming in pigment

Here's an excerpt from my report on the Art Basel Miami Beach experience in the recently released February issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

"To feed Two Coats of Paint, my daily blog about painting, I comb the Internet for art reviews and commentary from all over the world. It’s an enriching process but not very tactile: online, the artwork, galleries and museums remain distant and two-dimensional. Joanne Mattera, an artist and blogosphere pal who maintains several art blogs, urged me to go to the annual Miami art fairs–headlined by Art Basel Miami Beach, the original, biggest, and most highbrow, situated in Miami Beach’s huge convention center off Collins Avenue–which she argued was an efficient and potentially edifying way to make real contact with a good number of theretofore virtual entities. She was right on both counts. Yet the Miami fairs do not play merely like a compressed series of quaintly distinct gallery visits during a brisk walk through Chelsea. The experience is unlike any other....Purged of the customary organizing principles of art exhibition—artist, school, epoch, theme—the Miami art fairs deprive the viewer of the filters through which art is ordinarily apprehended. Because of the fairs’ inclusivity and the sheer volume of their offerings, they squelch depth, reflection, and deliberation, and compel speed, efficiency, and snap decisions. These are not generally seen as constructive modes of behavior in viewing, making, or buying art. Yet, the same features also focus an immense amount of popular as well as critical energy and attention on an impressive sampling of art and only art. So, if one key aim of the broader artistic endeavor is to develop and sustain art as a unifying social force, the growth of the annual Miami enterprise audaciously represents progress..." Read more.

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