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Brent Burket on Miami 2008, Part I

Howard Hodgkin at Hackett-Freedman, ArtMiami 2008.
Howard Hodgkin at Hackett-Freedman, ArtMiami 2008.

Among the dozens of international art fairs dotting the map today, the quality of the art might vary, but one song remains the same at each: the sound of rich people who want you to overhear their declarations. In other words, when attending, there will certainly be entertainment included in the price of admission. The first art I came across in my recent trip down to Miami was outside SCOPE, an elegantly painful performance by artist Madeline Stillwell. About 15 seconds after I stopped to watch, a veteran X-Ray Woman beside me intoned, "I believe it's articulated. Is it articulated?" Huh? Curiosity and social courtesy led me to interrogate her: "Excuse me? Articulated?" She was ready. "Is it a robot?" Awesome. It was as if she was unable to conceive of a piece of art that wasn't an object, that couldn't be bought. Welcome to Miami, dude.

On entering SCOPE I was greeted by a towering, um, tower of fabric by artist Derick Melander. Just around the corner I found a friendly face in John Pollard of ada Gallery from Richmond who informed me that Melander was one of ada's artists. A second mighty ada find was a few works from a tire series by artist Shannon Wright, a sort of totem on a roll. Overall, the Miami version of the fair was much more consistent than its NYC incarnations. My favorite booth in the fair was easily Glowlab's which had been taken over by Spanish artist Roberto Mollá. This series of paintings and drawings deploys a strong formalism in the anime style.

Mollá's Japan connection reminded me: let's not forget the SCOPE-affiliated Art Asia Fair. Actually, let's.

Across the street from SCOPE/ArtAsia was the very fine ArtMiami. Many probably peg this fair as a little stodgy, but I'll take stodgy and solid over just plain bad any day. It's always wonderful to see the great art and sweet people of Pace Prints, and it was an especially nice surprise to see them here. I'll say the same thing about Silverstein Photography as well, and add that the prints they had from Shinichi Maruyama were some of the most exciting works in the fair. The photographer captures the drama of the moment, recording his calligraphy-based action photographs with a super high-speed camera. Another highlight of the fair was Caren Golden Fine Art. They're always a highlight in Chelsea so I would expect it to be the same in Miami.But frankly, ArtMiami could have been a total disaster and it would have been worth the trip to see this big-hearted Howard Hodgkin painting at Hackett-Freedman. Jesus.

Ellis G. at Aqua Fair, Miami 2008
Ellis G. at Aqua Fair, Miami 2008

Friday got off to a fun start when I was walking down Collins Avenue to the Aqua Fair and came upon the chalk outlines of my neighborhood hero Ellis G. I've said it elsewhere, and as I'll repeat here: it's easy to think of Ellis G. as a one-trick pony, but it's one hell of a trick and the dude has an unstoppable hand.

I had a relatively negative view of what a hotel fair could be, but Aqua absolutely reversed that. No darkly lit hallways to walk down and tentatively peak into the rooms to see if entrance is wise. Instead what I found were two floors and an open courtyard with the best vibe of all the fairs. It all felt like a small town. The first gallery I came across there was Black & White sporting it's soon-to-be mergihood with 31 Grand. Bucheon Gallery from San Francisco always utilizes their space well when they're in a hotel fair, and this time was no exception. They totally tricked out their bed with a sculpture covering and hanging over it. Staying on the left coast, I think that I can officially say that I'm a huge fan of Western Project from Culver City in LA. I knew it was them before I even looked at their placard, after seeing Jason Adkins' color-on-fire pallet sculpture. I hadn't realized until then that one of the gallery's artists is Eric Freeman. I've been a huge fan of his work since seeing it at Mary Boone. I'm always thrilled to see his paintings, and with this one he splits up the visual work for the viewer. It's an exhilarating challenge for the eye, heart, and mind. That's how Aqua rolled this year. There weren't too many rooms I didn't want to enter. This is how you raise the bar for hotel fairs.

Next up? The mother of all art fairs, Art Basel, to be covered in Part 2.

Eric Freeman at Aqua, Miami 2008.
Eric Freeman at Aqua