I don't know what you've been up to these past couple of days, Bush. I haven't seen the news, haven't read a newspaper. Haven't had the time. This place is amazing. it's not just the Basel/Miami Art fair. There are ten other, concurrent shows. We must have seen the work of a tousand artists yesterday, and we barely scratched the surface. Great names you would recognize, Bush, like Picasso, Matisse, Georges Braque--giants of the early twentieth century--along with those of only slightly lesser fame: Balthus, Duchamp, Max Ernst... Then, too, the prominent--now mainstream--artists of the second half of the twentieth century, many still alive and working: Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Wesselman, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol (hundreds of these, it seemed!) and countless others.
Okay, Bush, I know. A bit of a yawn, these chestnuts, at this point in time. We've seen a lot of them. But what's amazing is the sheer multiplicity and diversity of creative endeavor. There are the paintings, of course, and millions of them; and drawings and prints, and assemblages and collages, and relief works and sculptures; and then the films and the videos, the sound pieces, the performances... Massive works--so immense, you wonder however they got them in here--and tiny, erotic and bland, fascinating in the detail and starkly monochromatic. There's everything, Bush, that you could imagine... and more.
We started out the day at the renowned Rubell Collection, where they had installed an exhibition of current Los Angeles art, and were startled to find out how many L.A. artists we had no idea existed. Many of them we knew. John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy--these are the pioneers and the teachers, the ones whose work has opened doors for the younger generation. I was impressed with a huge Jason Rhoades "Chandelier"--a vast, ungainly, and yet strangely appealing arrangement of neon wordage, complete with all the cables and transformers; the words were all euphemisms for the feminine genitalia. Just what you'd need over your dining room table at the White House. A conversation piece.
All in all, a good show, and one which gave a good impression of the vitality and diversity of visual art in our home city. The crowds were uneblievable. The streets all around the warehouse building were jammed with traffic, and in the building itself there were places where it was simply impossible to move. Better, then, to walk from the Rubell's to our next destination, Pulse, one of the ten satellite fairs, where the artists were for the most part slightly less well known--and a tad less expensive. (I haven't talked about money yet, Bush, but you'd be amazed at the prices of some of these artworks; and amazed that people acutally vie with each other to pay them.)
Rather more interesting than Pulse was Nada, another satellite, where the galleries and their artists are supposedly more "cutting-edge" than the others. We travelled there, this time, by a kind of bicycle-propelled rickshaw, with a cheery driver who chatted with us happily along the way and accepted, at our destination, not a fare but a tip. Nada proved to be a much more approachable affair, with less crowded aisles and young dealers who were willing and eager to talk about their wares. We noted a couple of artists ourselves, whose work was interesting enough to consider affording. At least it was within our price range...
Back to the main fair toward mid-afternoon, where we found a pleasant spot in the adjacent Botanical Gardens for a chocolate (P) and pistachio (E) gelato. Delicious. The enthusiastic proprietor even insisted on bring us seonds. A couple of hours, then, in the fair, where we covered perhaps a quarter of the acreage of art--ranging from the aforementioned Picassos and Braques to the only slightly lesser known, and only slightly lower-priced major artists of our own time. Much to be happy about here. The creative spirit is still very much alive in our times, and it does feel good, Bush, to be in touch with that side of our human existence. So much more positive than the world of politics, in which we usually find ourselves engrossed.
A note of politics, though, here and there. Ellie and I were particularly attracted by an artist who works with books and paper, scraping and shaving the material into interesting transformations. The one that initially attracted my attention was a book, laid neatly on a pedestal, whose cover had been scratched to inscribe a new title: THE WAR HAS BEEN LOST. Oh, Bush, you would surely have been displeased by the clarity of this satire. For me, I have to say, it tickled my fancy.
A fine dinner at Talula's, and a pleasant walk back to our hotel through the bright, crowded streets of Miami Beach.
art, art fair, Basel/Miami Art Fair, bush, george w bush, miami, president, Rhoades