By Sandra Schulman
Miami has been buzzing with world-class art events since early this week, with museums and fairs getting the jump on the action.
The renovated Bass Museum held a swank brunch Tuesday morning to show off its new exhibitions. Fantastical creatures by the Haas Brothers animate two spaces on the ground floor with furry sci-fi critters that cross boundaries of taxidermy, ottomans and pets. Bizarre horns and twisted metal feet give these morphlings a whimsical life of their own.
Upstairs, Paola Pivi has replaced last year’s Clowns by Ugo Rondinone with neon-colored polar bears made with feathers. Climbing the walls, reclining on floors and hanging from swings, these bears are ready made for millennial selfies. Another room featured objects both heavy – a kind of open sandwich made from mattresses – and light – spinning wheels that sprouted exotic feathers. The artist invites people to climb into the mattress sandwich, which many did.
Over on the mainland the talk of the town – both good and questionable – was the sprawling Banksy exhibit in the new Magic City Studios space. Located in a hot new warehouse district, this well-curated show features 80 pieces from the mysterious British artist, many never before exhibited in the U.S. The work all belongs to collectors, properly signed and numbered, on loan and not for sale, so the fuss about “unauthorized” is a bit weak. (Secondary sales of street art phenomenon Shepard Fairey’s work is all over town and he has no problems with it.)
The show is very well done, with high end lighting, ambient music, videos throughout, and climaxes with some really stunning large wall-sized works. Exit through the gift shop and there are some interactive photo ops and a clever T-shirt gimmick – pick your Banksy design and they will screen it onto a shirt or tote bag for you then let you customize it with spray paint on the spot. A café with wine and cushy sofas lets you reflect on it all before heading back out into the fray.
Tuesday night, the hot ticket was the opening of the Pop Minimalism/Minimalist Pop show curated by Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian at the Moore Building in the gorgeous Design District. This year the dynamic duo pulled out the big guns with work by masters Ed Ruscha, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richard Prince, Dan Flavin, Yayoi Kusama and dozens more.
It’s a candy-colored neon-lit trip through the greatest hits of the 1960s and 1970s. My only issue was the wall labels were all bunched together at one end of the long wall, so you had to scurry back and forth to match up the work with the artist, but maybe that was part of the minimalism aesthetic.
The uber-stylish crowd included aforementioned artist Shepard Fairey and his wife Amanda, who were in town to support a pop-up shop and do a DJ stint at Wynwood Walls.
“It’s nice to be here this year without the pressure of a new mural,” Fairey told me. “For me [Art Week] is an opportunity to focus on seeing new work. I’m passionate about seeing new work but I’m always so absorbed in my own I don’t see as much as I’d like. A lot of molecules collide for me here. It’s also important for me to be here and shake hands with the people who’ve supported me.”
Over at Primary Project gallery, artist Carlos Betancourt unveiled his new show, Process Ritual Future Eternal, to a huge crowd that marveled at his glowing sculptural work made from vintage tree toppers. One new piece, called Mancini Curtain, features hundreds of cascading light strings from a black metal arch; other works have stars that twirl and twinkle in their wall-mounted frames. Bite-sized Cuban sandwiches and empanadas from collector loria Estefan’s nearby restaurant, Estefan Kitchen, kept the champagne- and cranberry cocktail-sipping hordes even happier.
Thursday morning, the NADA fair opened at the Ice Palace Studios. The hipster crowd was out here in full force to see cutting-edge work from newer dealers and their project spaces. Howl Happening’s booth brought some wild East Village art to town, with floor-to-ceiling paintings and collaborative work from Brett de Palma and Scooter LaForge. LaForge’s green sequin jacket, with “LUCIFER” stitched on the back, was a big hit, while de Palma told stories of his early NYC art career days hanging with Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and Keith Haring.
Stopping by the booth to ogle was artist, designer and drag queen performer Stephen Tashjian, also known as Tabboo, who exhibited with Howl last year and collaborated with designer Marc Jacobs on a stellar collection last year. Taking pictures of it all with six cameras dangling from his neck was fashion photog supreme Dustin Pittman. who got his start at Warhol’s factory and has a pop culture archive that is filled with decades worth of famous faces.
Cruising the streets and parking outside various venues was artist Kiki Valdes’s new art car. “The painting is titled ‘Cities Sprawl,’ a large-scale painting I did in 2016,” he says. “It was selected by upcoming Haitian rapper Hijak to be wrapped on his 1965 Chevy Chevelle. It’s mostly being parked and driven around this week. A moving canvas.
“When I originally painted ‘Cities Sprawl,’ I did it with the residency program at Miami-Dade Public Library Systems in downtown in 2016. I was so happy to be in back in the area that I wanted to capture the rawest energy of how the city feels. Some people say it has an Afro-Caribbean feel. To see it on a 1965 Chevy Chevelle with the rims takes the work further. It’s Miami culture with a cherry on top.”
Valdes is a true hometown boy who also launched his own coffee company this month with Abuela Miami Coffee. Cars, Cubans and coffee: doesn’t get much more Miami than that.