Art Public at the 2011 Art Basel Miami Beach

The Art Newspaper

November 30, 2011

For the tenth anniversary of Art Basel Miami Beach, the organisers have teamed up with the Bass Museum of Art to rethink the fair’s presentation of public art.  Art Public, centred for the first time in the newly landscaped Collins Park by the Bass Museum, will exhibit 24 works – a record number – selected by guest curator Christine Y. Kim.

Eduardo Sarabia's snakeskin boots refer to Mexico's cultural history and its violent drug war

The park will “spring to life” this evening with the multi-sensory opening of Art Public, featuring performances by Theaster Gates (Kavi Gupta Galleery, P16) and the Black Monks of Mississippi, and by New York artist Sanford Biggers.  The Brazilian collective Alalâo will present Ronald Duarte’s performance Nimbo Oxalà, in which a chemical cloud is formed as multiple fire extinguishers are discharged for 90 seconds.  Other performance-based pieces due to be staged during the fair include Glenn Kaino’s Levitating the Fair (Marlborough Gallery, P5) and Jen DeNike’s ceremonial lemanjá, 2011 (Mendes Wood, P1).

Kim, who is the associate curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the co-founder of the non-profit public art initiative Los Angeles Nomadic Division, has shifted the traditional sculpture park model towards the conceptual, the performative and the temporal.  “Christine [was chosen] because she has curated many great site- and situation- specific contemporary art projects.  Her Los Angeles perspective was also a plus,” says Marc Spiegler, the fair’s co-director.  For Kim, the involvement of the Bass Museum was a big part of the attraction.  “There [are differences] in curating for a museum or for an art fair.  This triangulation between Art Basel Miami Beach, the Bass Museum of Art and myself was very exciting,” she says..

This  summer, fair exhibitors were invited to submit proposals for Art Public.  Kim accepted around a third and arranged the rest herself, seeking out young artists represented by smaller galleries that might not be in a position to propose projects.  These include Darren Bader (Andrew Kreps Gallery, J5), Andrea Bowers and Olga Koumoundouros (Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles, C22), Kate Costello (Wallspace N26), Anthony Pearson (David Kordansky Gallery, M2) and Eduardo Sarabia (Proyectos Monclova, N6).

Kim says the display is less about an overarching theme and more about a “matrix” of discussions.  “Tehre are 24 projects that reflect a variety of artistic practices today [that are] suited to outdoor spaces,” she says.  “I’m interested in the range of artists and projects creating conversations or visual types of conversations.”  As a result, Bowers and Koumoundouros, who often focus on the environment, share the space with Alalâo’s chemical-gushing performance piece.

Although many of the work are for sale, a number are no t geared toward the market-oriented setting of a fair.  Silvia Karman Cubiñá, the executive director and chief curator of the Bass Museum, asks: “How do we make this a good exhibition while being part of a commercial venture?”  Kim says: “I needed to convince [some] galleries that this was an important project that represents the artist in an incredible way.  Some projects aren’t sellable, but it’s about their interaction with other works.

Highlights of the Art Public park – dragons, drug lords and an Occupy-style kiosk

Chakaia Booker, Holla, 2008.

[Marlborough Gallery, New York, F5]

Booker’s imposing stainless steel and rubber tyre sculpture, which is over eight feet high, resembles a fearsome dragon ready to attack.  Christine Y. Kim, Art Public’s guest curator, was familiar with Booker’s work at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York.

Andrea Bowers and Olga Koumoundouros, Transformer Display of Community Information and Activiation, 2011

[Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles, C22]

This installations is the third in a series that Bowers and Koumoundouros have been working on for two years.  They created a “kiosk” made of materials found or bought in the Miami area.  With sections dedicated to local non-profit organisations such as the Florida Immigrant Coalitions.  The artists will host activities throughout the fair.  “It’s like a fair inside the fair – we’re going to look like Occupy Wall Street,” Bowers says.

Thomas Houseago, Rattlesnake Figure, 2011

[L&M Arts, New York, F7]

This bronze sculpture (edition of two, one artist’s proof), which is almost 12 feet high, was case from the LA-based artist’s largest carved wood sculpture to date.

Glenn Kaino, Levitating the Fair (The Flying Merchant Ship), 2011

[Marlborough Gallery, New York, F5]

Volunteers will use 80 planks to help Kaino keep aloft his 20ft by 20ft replica of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  Kaino asks: “How can you still take a positive cultural meaning in that [art fair] landscape? Is that possible? How does the audience engage?”

Eduardo Sarabia, Snake Skin Boots with Snake Head.  White Quarry Stone 21st Century, Northern Mexico, 2011

[Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City, N6]

Sarabia’s sculpture of snakeskin cowboy boots, which are often associated with Mexican drug lords, is made of a white quarry stone local to Guadalajara.  The work is more than six feet high and weights two tonnes.  “I imagined walking in the jungle and finding a giant stone snake skin and head, reflecting a pre-Colombian civilisation” Sarabia says.

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