Even when it’s sunny, it feels as if there’s a dark cloud over Miami Beach this year. I’m not sure if this is the result of the election, concerns over ever-increasing costs, or just general fatigue. But almost everywhere we’ve gone, people seem stressed or listless. There’s not a lot of programming at the big fairs anyone has been excited about.
So I’m happy to report from Satellite Art Show, where we’ve re-staged our Strange Genitals exhibition, the one place where people seem to be equally excited about art and actually enjoying themselves. We were a little worried that the move to South Beach’s Parisian Hotel (and associated higher booth fees) would hamper the anything-goes, inclusive, DIY ethos of last year’s successful Artist-Run Show. Thus far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Granted, there’s been some complaints that artists have a little less freedom to change the space than we had last year at the derelict hotel in North Beach. Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw have been locked in a comically absurd dance with city inspectors over their installation—a kiddie pool turned oversized bowl of cereal—that’s had to move from the outside of the hotel to an exotic car rental area in the lobby, and then away from electrical outlets. Apparently the City of Miami Beach had some concerns about the pool’s legality.
Overall, though, Satellite is keeping it weird and wonderful. It’s the only art fair I can think of that offers tattoos and lap dances alongside virtual reality cinema. Returning galleries (and quite a few new ones) have continued the tradition of impressive booth makeovers. Platform, for example, has turned their hotel room into a blindingly-white space complete with flooring tiles laser-engraved with motifs from each of the exhibiting artist’s work. That includes Esther Ruiz’s crystals, abstractions from Alex Ebstein’s yoga mat collages, and the oversized flip-flop-like sculpture by Amanda Martinez. It’s a tight, cheery show.
A new plush carpet spills out of Lounge Corp’s booth, creating a new surface for works to be displayed in, from a modified Roomba robot to embedded screens displaying videos. This was the most popular room with dogs, and the curators admitted “We’re actually thinking a lot about doing more art shows that dogs can enjoy.” That’s the best takeaway of the week.
Both GRIN Gallery and AWOL used their rooms for semi-narrative installations. At GRIN, Fantasia Colorado’s Belleau + Churchill traced the history/legend of wild camels in North America through a mixed-media series of works, including a giant dead camel in the middle of the room. It’s likely one of the biggest crowd-pleasers I’ve witnessed. At AWOL’s The Hut at Cape Royds, works about early explorers and pioneers by Jim Ovelmen, Mehran Ayati, Michael Dee, Lisa Diane Wedgeworth, and Terri Philips were arranged in an immersive theatrical shack. It was a pretty remarkable transformation that left little indication we were standing in a shabby hotel room—save for a clever use of the bathroom as a submarine periscope that live streams the view from the gallery. We were told the thrust of this installation was comparing the false sense of accomplishment explorers in previous centuries felt with contemporary “pioneers” of gentrifying neighborhoods. It felt like a big stretch conceptually, but the visuals are impressive.
Among all the flashier, immersive installations, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the quieter works. Whit Forrester’s solo project at C.C. McKee features houseplants alongside gorgeous photographic portraits of plants. We’re used to seeing plants pretty much everywhere these days, but here they felt like living individuals rather than a symbol or stand-in for nature. The show’s tucked away on the top floor in the back, and it’s a nice, thoughtful conclusion to a fair of wondrous sensory overloads.
A few more of those highlights below: