Parades, Roller Skating, and Performances: Public Art at Art Basel Miami Beach
Public art and performance brought the art experience out of the fair halls and tents and into the streets, parks, and beach, shifting the focus from the market to creative fun.
Parade impresario Jeffrey Deitch, founder of the Art Parade in 2007, engaged Rashaad Newsome to kick-off his and Larry Gagosian‘s four-floor pop-up exhibition “Unrealism” with a street spectacular and celebration of car culture through Miami’s Design District. The “King of Arms Krew (Miami Chapter) Mass Processional Performance” was an all-black parade featuring the Florida Memorial Marching band playing an original score by Newsome, Miami Bike Life Crew performing stunts on bikes, The King of Arms Vogue Knights, and Newsome’s art-adorning cars with and locals holding “Black Lives Matter” signs. Fantastically dynamic on its own, the parade seemed in complete disconnect with the billion-dollar exhibition inside the Moore building (though, one of the best shows in Miami).
Faema celebrated the opening of its opulent hotel, designed by Norman Foster, with three art installations on its beachfront. Jim Denevan’s solar illuminated sand drawing appeared to float ethereally above the beach at night, and Almudena Lobera’s surreal, red-draped theater set created a frame for audiences to sit and view the ocean—the visual we should all be coming to see in Miami. Fellini emerging from the waves would not have seemed out of place here. In contrast to these meditative works, Assume Vivid Astro Focus (AVAF) brought together the energy of Rio and New York (where the project originated in Central Park with Public Art Fund in 2004 in conjunction with the Whitney Biennial) to the beach and disco roller skating culture of Miami. This third rendition of the project reconfigures the artists’ previous psychedelic art in a “reTRANSpective,” including imagery of Yoko Ono, Brazilian Tropicalia singer Rita Lee, and New York street art. Visitors were invited to take a spin on free roller skates to disco music provided by a range of DJs. The project is inspired by Eli Sudbrack’s early experiences on Ipanema Beach, Rio: “Having glimpses of the sand and the sea while skating felt very idyllic and iconic, and it was also very hypnotic for both the skaters and the people just watching. Like a roller skate version of the Sufi whirling dervishes dancers, a worship activity paying tribute to perfection and real experiences, is really what this project’s concept is about.”
Faena was also the site of Visionaires’ 25th anniversary celebration, with an installation of colored smoke and boxes containing art posters from the publications’ past collaborators including Marilyn Minter, Jack Pierson, Miley Cyrus, David Salle, Mickalene Thomas and more. “We imagined a ship sailing to Miami full of art for Art Basel and then the cargo fell off the boat and washed ashore for FREE ART ON THE BEACH. An epic, dramatic, and beautiful gift to Miami was the inspiration,” said Cecilia Dean, a founder of Visionaire.
Public art extended to the body with nails by Rita Pinto’s Vanity Projects, which recently expanded its New York salon to Miami. Jen Stark themed designs were the special Basel feature on the “Tropical” art manicure menu, or visitors were invited to create their own designs, all while watching curated videos poolside at the Thompson Hotel.
In the center of South Beach, New York-based Public Art Fund’s Director and Chief Curator, Nicholas Baume returned to curate PUBLIC in Collins Park with 26 works and opening performances related to the theme “Metaforms.” As Baume stated, “I was struck by how many artists have taken something familiar and built on its original significance through conceptual and form transformations.” One such transformation, and the most photographed work in the park, Tony Tasset’s Deer (2015) literally stood out, seeming to have drunk an Alice in Wonderland potion and grown to 12-feet talk in a commentary on the out of balance relationship with man and nature. Power was another focus of the exhibition, highlighted in Xavier Cha’s Supreme Ultimate Exercise (2105) for which muscle men performed feats of strength, while nearby a Tai Chi master demonstrated another form of body control. Hank Willlis Thomas encouraged another the power of thought in his Ernest and Ruth (2015) “speech bubble” seats.
At the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), the wrap around decks were animated by Ryan McNamara’s collaboration Dimensions with musician Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange). A series of small sculptural stages presented one musician paired with one dancer, dressed in brightly colored neoprene tights and gym socks. Seemingly oblivious to the audience, the dancers twirled, twisted and writhed. “Dystopian Miami” is a term McNamara used to sum up the performance created for a city doomed to someday be under water. It seemed like those days might arrive sooner rather than later with the unusual stormy weather that bookended the performance and continued to soak audiences during the final days of Art Basel Miami Beach 2015.
Assuming Miami will still be afloat in a few years, look out for new site-specific works by six international artists just announced as winners of the competition for the Miami Beach Convention Center—Franz Ackermann, Elmgreen & Dragset, Ellen Harvey, Joseph Kosuth, Sarah Morris, and Joep Van Lieshout.