Art Basel: NADA Art Fair 2012 Miami Beach
In Art Market | Articles | Installation Art | Painting | Performance Art | Photography | Sculpture
By Sara Blazej19 December 2012
etween all the fairs, exhibitions, concerts, opening receptions, celebrities, performances, pop-ups, parties, drinking, drugs, heat, humidity, and traffic, Art Basel Miami is the definition of spectacle. Basel (by which I mean Miami Art Week, not the literal fair Art Basel Miami Beach) has been growing and building on itself in Wynwood and Miami Beach for the last decade, and is now known to the art world and beyond as a wildly popular tropical extravaganza of art and culture.
The week is expected to be a spectacle, in fact it was designed to be a spectacle, but the chaotic environment that occurs makes it difficult to both display and view the art. Galleries and works struggle to compete amongst themselves for press and visitor attention, and this year’s record total of 18 contending fairs made it that much easier for presenters to get lost or overlooked in the sea of attention-grabbing displays.
As a Miami native and a long time Basel visitor, I have learned to recognize the impossibility of experiencing all that the week has to offer. With only five days to explore, its clear that there is too much to cover, both on foot and in any written review. So, in keeping with the competitive spirit generated by Art Basel, I am willing to name a fair winner. NADA, The New Art Dealers Alliance, held at the luxurious beach side Deauville Hotel and Resort in North Beach, hands down, had the most dynamic and interesting fair experience.
The “outdoor functional objects by contemporary artists” at the Nathalie Karg / Cumulus Studios booth adapted surprisingly well to an indoor setting. Three chrome benches spanned the floor-space, spelling out the functional pseudo-acronym IOU while offering guests and exhibitors a place to sit and examine the witty patterns on the gallery’s hanging wall pieces, or gaze out from the veranda onto the buzzing hotel lobby.
London’s Seventeen Gallery adorned their main wall with large panels appliquéd with overlapping rows of small iridescent stickers. A nostalgic nod to the holographic craze of 90’s toys like pogs and Pokemon cards, these familiar, silvery 3D surfaces resonated with the knowing Millennials in the crowd, myself included.
As passersby snapped photos of the shimmering works, a mid-size light-box sat facing out from a corner playing a moving image piece. Reflecting the New Aesthetic trend with CGI animations and bizarre adaptations of virtual reality, the work takes the form of a first-person shooter video game. The player, in this case substituted by the passive viewer, is represented as a male soldier who hides out and traipses with stealth through several scenic natural landscapes, regularly enjoying dazzling 360 degree perspectives of surrounding wildlife. Great White Herons perch majestically beside the shooter as he bobs eyes-deep in swampy waters and peers through lush shrubbery, armed to the teeth yet never opening fire on whatever unseen dangers lurk in his gorgeously aestheticised virtual world. By focusing on the artfulness of rendering these digital realities rather than the violent combat the games promote, the piece succeeds in disarming the stress and suspense inherent in militant activity, even as it’s packaged as “play”.
It may have been an overload of “fine art,” my disappointment in NADA’s Video section, or South Florida’s heavy heat, but by Saturday afternoon the NADA Pool Party was a more than welcome refresher. Performances by members of NYC collective Chez Deep—including San Francisco nightlife fixture Alexis Blair Penney, Sam Banks, and Colin Self among others—as well as Dia Dear, Lauren Devine and boychild, ended up being the the highlight of the fair for me. All the ladies gave fantastic performances, ranging from nouveau 90’s teen drag to unsettling but evocative stationary gesturing. Chez Deep’s Hari Nef stole the show with a demented lip-synched rendition of Lana del Rey’s pop hit “Born to Die.” Fake blood dripping from his mouth, his theatrical and hysterical interpretation was nothing short of a riveting performance. The audience laughed, gasped, became a little concerned, and eagerly followed him around in an Instagramming frenzy.
In the midst of the lawless Art Basel international sensation, Hari and the rest of Chez Deep had no problem standing out or making an impression. Combining art, music and performance with their own NYC brand of queer culture, they served the crowd just the right amount of spectacle realness to remind us why we were engaging with the beautiful beast that is Art Basel in the first place: to be entertained and wowed, to think a little, feel a little, get freaked out, and pretty much have a ton of fun.
Writing Credits: Sara Blazej is a recent graduate of Pratt Institute and holds a Bachelor of Fine Art in Theory, Criticism and History of Art, Architecture and Design. Originally hailing from Miami, Florida, she has worked in a number of galleries and museums located in both Miami and New York City. In addition to writing art criticism, she is a visual artist whose work spans several disciplines including video, performance, printmaking and music. She is currently based in New York.
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