Takashi Murakami at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
I'll admit it. I was sure I'd hate Art Basel. The Armory Fair in New York seemed to be the closest thing to it (both being the biggest fairs of the season), so I was anticipating a similar “wall of money” upon entering the fair and some very fancy carpeting and/or flooring. Thankfully, unlike the Armory, Basel doesn't lay the fair out like an airplane, with all its first class passengers up at the front, and everyone else behind. In addition to this, while Art Basel claims to be an international fair, as does the Armory, Basel actually lives up to the claim. Want to see all kinds of art you've seen all year in New York contemporary galleries? Good. Go the Armory. Want to see something different? Go to Art Basel Miami.
Urs Fischer, Gavin Brown Enterprises
Yes, I know this picture sucks, Photo: AFC
I never thought I'd be saying this, but you'll also see some very serious risk taking. Gavin Brown Enterprises (Booth D1) provides the best example of this, as their booth is completely empty (even of gallery desks), but for one work. Urs Fischer's motorized crane rotates far above the gallery booth, dragging a box of camel cigarettes in a circle across the floor, speaks to how the ravages of addiction will make even the best of us chase a soiled and ragged vice across the floor if it means we will have a small moment of release. I suppose you could say that the gallery's decision to empty out their space for one piece illustrates how addictions can make us take all kinds of risks we wouldn't normally, but this thought has the feel of confusing ballsy business decisions with the art itself. And let's be clear here: it is the ballsiest move I have ever seen at an art fair. Gavin Brown's decision to show only a cigarette box on string in the largest size booth the fair has available means the gallery believes the sale of the sculpture will not only pay for the booth, but generate enough press that the gallery stable as a whole will benefit. I overheard Bloomberg news gushing over the piece to the staff this afternoon, so I suspect their gamble has already paid off.
While Gavin Brown's booth stands out from the crowd, I'm not convinced it is the strongest, (though it is certainly a contender.) Nobody is reinventing the wheel here or showing artists we don't already know about, but Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin (Booth C1), has simply found the best work amongst these artists. Jin Meyerson, Takashi Murakami, Christina Lei Rodriguez have all made great work which is on display, and worth the price of admission alone. The booth also doesn't have that “art fair” look to it, and by this I mean it isn't hung with the “if-it-isn't-on-the-wall-you-can't-sell-it” aesthetic. I mean, I understand the logic behind this kind of hanging, but it really doesn’t make for a great viewing experience.
Bhakti Baxter at Fredric Snitzer
Other galleries of note are Gagosian (Booth E14), mostly because they at Basel and not at the Armory, (as opposed to Damien Hirst's work being so interesting that it needs to be evaluated for the five hundredth time — the vetrined cigarette butts aren't bad though), Miro Gallery in London (Booth B2), which is showing an excellent spinning wooden sculpture by Conrad Shawcross and finally, Fredric Snitzer (Booth B6), a local Miami gallery which is showing a number of works with very seductive surfaces, including a wall sculpture work by Bhakti Baxter. I seem to recall having seen this artist’s work recently at either the MoMA or Dia, but can not seem to find this information online and am lacking the time or an intern to get to the bottom of this mystery. Assuming this artist's work is currently installed at one of these institutions, those who feel like they are missing out in Miami, might find some consolation in the fact that art in this vein can be seen at major venues in New York. That is, if you are a New York reader — those from located elsewhere are, unfortunately on their own on this one.