Mike Kelley
Animation 2
Animation, color/sound, continuous loop, 20 minutes
22 x 14 x 3 in.
Edition 5/1 copy and A/P
Jablonka Galerie

What does it mean to be a socially responsible gallerist in a global art market where many artists have to rely on food stamps in a depressed economy ? Companies like Whole Foods and Starbuck’s have addressed these Fair Trade issues but the art world lags behind. This was a question posed by several artists at Art Basel through art. One monumental sculpture made of melting wax reminded me of the presence of Balthus, a sculpture at Moma that looms over a visitor in NYC. The sculpture is a literal meltdown. It is hard to tell what it was in its former life. It reminded me of the candle wax that melts onto the side of a Chianti bottle found in many Italian restaurants. These socially responsible works were made by mostly younger emerging artists from places like the lower eastside of NYC in Chinatown or those living beside the homeless in the Wynwood area of Miami. They are the quiet conscience of the art market.

I attended one adjunct artist led event, Art Burn:2009, since it used language that is typically used by Burning Man Festival participants but this event was an intimate affair, less dramatic than the art seen at Burning Man but filled with pathos, real. The plight of homeless people cooking on an open fire on the street amidst rubble in an urban area like Wynwood made its point. A barbecue was placed next to a teepee made of a collection of artwork by invited artists. The teepee, a temporary sculpture became a reminder of what has happened to indiginous people in the United States. A reminder that reservation life can be substandard and that discrimination against one class or race leads to poverty. This work will stay with me.

I attended Art Basel as a member of the press. I spent the entire day looking at art inside the Miami Beach Convention Center. I decided to spend my time on one show and one adjunct event rather than become an overwhelmed art zombie by trying to take in too much at once . I was stopped three times by the same guard when I attempted to document the work I liked with my iPhone so I could write about it. Nearly everyone there had one and all were taking snapshots of artwork left and right. This is a new era of sharing but it seems Miami has not caught up. Things have changed with Twitter and Facebook. A new generation knows how to share, make connections to expand its world. Exclusivity seems an old and outdated concept.

I had to get a press badge to gather info using a camera. The Calder exhibit was totally off limits to photography. I was also prevented from taking shots of other exceptional work in a gallery that will remain nameless. The dealer did not seem interested in talking with me. Instead she shot me an inquisitive aristocratic look seemingly meant to shame me for trying to learn about her artists works. Mike Kelly’s giggling animated jar is more in tune with the new generation. It is unguarded , engaging and friendly.

We can no longer act as if one class exists in the world as some of the world’s people starve and are living in war zones or are homeless in the streets of Miami.

This was my first Basel although I’ve worked other art fairs as a gallerist and also in operations teams as a Team Leader. This year Art Basel was invested in consumer comfort and allowed us to move freely through a redesigned space that allowed each individual the privacy and luxury of personal space. It hearkened back to the days of museums when one could be a sole viewer, although Basel was packed with people. This year Basel was an oasis.

I spent the whole day looking at art. The following is a selected list of works of art or artists that have staying power, are memorable and worth a second look.

Highlights and Memorable Works-Blue Ribbon-BUY

Mike Kelley-Pop inspired friendly animation of a giggling and expanding and contracting jar with what looks like Dubai trapped inside. (BEST OF SHOW-BUY )

Louise Bourgeois-found in several galleries throughout the fair-the human touch is celebrated in her work.(BUY any of it!)

Marilyn Minter-wallpaper-sexy uninhibited club stuff-wallpaper-great for a Gentleman’s Club or disco environment-a tongue dripping in gold. An interior designer’s dream!

Damian Hirst-Sanctum: This is a series of large colored etchings that need to be made into stained glass. They are spiritually informed mandalas or kaleidoscopic views of nature’s changes; butterfly bits, wings and such.

Jahanguir-represented by Galerie Jamileh Weber-impeccable surfaces, minimal design, elegant, spiritually based. BUY

Tomio Koyama Gallery, Inc.-Any art in this gallery is a BUY.

Peter Blum Gallery: John Beech sculpture-BUY


Art Basel is located in The Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach, Florida, USA.It runs through December 6th.