I Went To Vice and Tried to “Get” Hipster Posturing

ART_Basel_2009-06-10

It’s understandable: feeling intimidated, or shy, or as if your somehow out of the loop when first visiting art galleries or fairs is common.  I’ve felt the feeling of “not getting it”.

A recent Vice article, though (as well as its preceding piece) seemed to be not so much a sincere admittance of “not getting” art and more of hipster posturing under the “You Smelled It, You Dealt It” principle.  That is, no one hates on hipsters more than other hipsters.  I suspect something similar is going on in these Vice articles.  Below are some personal responses to the most recent article’s three main lines of faulty reasoning.

ART BASEL MIGHT BE THE WORST PLACE TO TRY TO “GET” ART

If you are sincerely trying to “get” art, is there a better place to do it than Art Basel? Yes.  It’s called “anywhere else.”  If you are seeking to make a last-ditch effort toward a deeper understanding of art within an art world context and you chose Art Basel and its satellite craziness, I would know at least one of two things about you: (1) You are insincere about your effort, or (2) You put poor forethought into your decision.

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on Art Basel or any of the other fairs – I had an amazing time this year.  However, it sounds like our Vice writer went to the Zach Morris of the art world when he needed Screech.  We don’t go to Basel to get art.  We go there to just get it…as in buy it.  Thus, we don’t treat art fairs like art museums.

Typically, the work at Basel lacks artist and curator statements.  There is a lot of art; you can either give most of the work very little time (as in “I’ll slow down as I walk past that booth”) or you can give an appropriate amount of time to a small fraction of the art.  Few people have time to have meaningful conversation on what art “means” – had you found me, I’d have been able to give little more than a bon mot, far short of meaningful critical discourse.

If you want to “get” art, perhaps the common sense thing to do is spend a long time alone with it, have a serious conversation about it, do some honest introspection on how it does or doesn’t affect you.

SO YOU DON’T “GET” THE ART MARKET.  NOBODY DOES.

Our Vice writer seems to be the victim of an important (and annoying) mix-up: he’s confusing art with the art market.  It’s vital and bears repeating bolded, underlined and italicized: Art and the art market are not the same thing.  There is a lot confusing and morally ambiguous about the way art is bought and sold.  However, it shouldn’t have much of a bearing on “getting” art (except, of course, for art that comments on the market).  That said, if you don’t entirely understand the art market, it’s alright – nobody does.  Accordingly, people who supposedly “get” art, level the same complaints at the way its bought and sold and admit a similar confusion with the forces behind it.

MAYBE THERE ISN’T ANYTHING TO “GET”

Finally, we arrive at the reason I keep surrounding the word “get” in quotation marks: it makes no sense.  Using the word “get” in this sense reminds me of jokes – you either get them or you don’t.  There is a punchline with a singular interpretation that makes the joke funny.  I’m thankful that this is not at all how contemporary art works.

I understand the feeling of being the only one not laughing at a joke, and can see how this feeling could crop up at a gallery reception or art fair.  However, unlike a joke, meaning is not pulled out of contemporary art as much as meaning is put into it.  In today’s art, a viewer’s interpretation is just as valid and relevant as the artist’s.  To a large degree, the artist and their work exist independent of each other; when an artist releases art into the world they also relinquish control of its interpretation.  Whereas Modernist art may have had specific messages, contemporary art is more of a setting for conversation – perhaps, akin to the difference between books and video games.

Admittedly, artists have intentions behind their work and often articulate them in horribly convoluted jargon-filled artist statements.  Still, this is no reason to shy away from making any critical connection with the work.  If you don’t understand the artist/curator statement, it’s likely not your fault and definitely not your problem.  Give the artwork due consideration and find out what it does or doesn’t mean to you personally.

*  *  *

There is a lot wrong with the art world – wages, compensation, racism, sexism, elitism, and the list extends ad nauseam.  At times, complaining about the art world seems to be what the art world does best.  But to write off contemporary art completely is either shortsighted, myopic, histrionic, or just naive.  If you’re looking to raise your hipster hit points, blanket hating is often the most efficient way doing it.

If you are sincerely looking for the value in contemporary art and haven’t yet found it, keep looking with an open mind – I promise it’s there.

Art at Bay’s Basel Guide 2013

MIAMI 2013

Overwhelming, I know.  The early days of December seem to bring to Miami countless exhibitors in countless fairs and just a week to check it out.  Personally, I’m even finding the abundance of guides to the Miami Art Fairs staggering.  Thus, rather than burden you with another guide we thought we’d just give you a peek into what some of the ART AT BAY staff plans on checking out and why.  See you in Miami!

Danny Olda’s Guide

My personal circumstances are only allowing a two night trip to Miami.  In order to make the most of my time I figured I’d be a nerd about it and actually list every exhibitor I specifically wanted to see in each of the fairs I’ll be heading to.  I won’t bother you with an exhaustive list but here are some of my highlights for two of the fairs I’ll be stopping by.

NADA Miami Beach-NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) is perhaps the only non-profit fair in Miami.  This may account for the particular perk of free admission to the public.  Please don’t let this lead you to believe that this somehow reflects poorly on the caliber of the exhibitors.  My list for NADA is long but there are three I particularly wanted to see.  The Horton Gallery of Manhattan’s Lower East Side has had an impressive queue of exhibitions over the last year.  Last spring’s Trudy Benson solo show alone made my tug toward NYC just a bit more taut.  I’m also really looking forward to seeing another LES gallery at NADA: Klaus Von Nichtssagend.  As a brick and mortar gallery, Klaus has been especially supportive of digital and New Media art (e.g. check out last spring’s Sarah Ludy solo).  I’ve also especially enjoyed Klaus_eBooks – a series of interactive artist ebooks that serve up a pleasantly confusing mix of art, literature and digital art.  They are seriously interesting and offer much more interaction than many would expect from a gallery.  Finally, there’s Chelsea’s Foxy Production.  Foxy Production also consistently hosts awesome exhibits.  I especially love the work of Sterling Ruby from the Foxy Production roster and hope to see some of the artist’s work in Miami.

ART UNTITLED-ART UNTITLED is fairly new – last year was its first.  Still, it got off to a strong start with good reviews and seems set to do likewise this year.  I’m particularly stoked to see booths from some publications that I love.  My first stop will likely be with one of my favorite art bloga: Art F City.  It’s always a pleasure reading editor Paddy Johnson’s work – I saw a lot of you recently shared her New York Times piece on paying artists fairly.  When Art F City makes it to fairs they seem to find exciting ways of exhibiting/selling digital art.  This year is especially interesting.  Cloaque is an art Tumblr that is perhaps best described as a never-ending mind-eating digital tapestry.  Art F City will be premiering a print of the blog feed, a football field-sized(!) print.  Take a second to check out Cloaque, you’ll quickly get an idea of how awesome this print could be.  UNTITLED will also feature booths from a couple of arts and culture mags that particularly enjoy: Esopus and Cabinet.  Both are a bit difficult to find in local book stores so I snatch them up whenever I see them.  Stopping by their booths in Miami may be good time to finally get subscriptions.  I also need to mention the Jeff Bailey Gallery.  A sports metaphor?  Jeff Bailey sort of reminds me of the Rays: they’ve developed a strong roster of artists through emerging artists/farming.  There’s something special about a gallery with this kind of quality that is also so open to emerging talent.  Check out their past exhibits to see what I mean (or better yet, check them out at UNTITLED).

Victoria Casal-Data’s Guide

I’m happy to announce that I will be making my rounds through Basel with press pass and camera in hand. I will be crafting top ten lists based on a few fairs for Beautiful/Decay. Last year I was unable to enjoy Basel properly due to school, but now I am free to conquer Basel with all my might. Looking forward to meeting art bloggers, artists, and gallery owners. You will find me in the following:

Fairs

Art Basel Miami-Art Basel can be quite intimidating…there is a lot to see. It is also quite pricey, but honestly, it is worth your $$$. It is held in the Miami Beach Convention Center. From the old Modern masters, to the top contemporary artists, you can find everything here. My favorite thing about Art Basel would have to be their out most responsibility to make it a solid international Art fair. You will find galleries from Eastern Europe to South America. The diversity is quite compelling,  and it will create an interesting multicultural dialogue within you, and amongst those that are around you.

PULSE-PULSE Miami, now in its eighth year, has become one of the leading Contemporary art fairs held in Miami. The PULSE venue is split into two distinct parts. One section of the fair is comprised of gallery booths showcasing works of multiple artists. The other section, IMPULSE, is dedicated to select galleries featuring works by a single artist. Artists who have work on display in this section are put in the running for a cash prize, which is awarded to one artist at the end of the fair. Last year, German artist Nadine Wottke was honored with this unique distinction for her porcelain relief sculptures. One of my favorites on display is the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

José Parlá, DeKalb Avenue Station, 2011 Acrylic, ink, oil, collage, plaster and enamel on canvas Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

José Parlá, DeKalb Avenue Station, 2011
Acrylic, ink, oil, collage, plaster and enamel on canvas
Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

NADA– As Danny mentioned, this fair is one of the few non-profit fairs at Basel.  Twenty-five galleries from fourteen countries will be on hand with works from emerging global artists. Look for these upcoming galleries: Marlborough Chelsea, SculptureCenter, Alden Projects, American Contemporary, Nicelle Beauchene, Brennan and Griffin and Callicoon Fine Arts.  NADA’s “special invite” preview is on December 5th, which I will be attention, is from 10am to 2pm. The fair is open to the public — free of charge — after 2pm on the 5th and through Sunday, December 8.

Robert Lazzarini motel door (kicked-in), 2012 With Marlborough Chelsea Gallery

Robert Lazzarini
motel door (kicked-in), 2012
With Marlborough Chelsea Gallery

Miami Project- Miami Project, the fair  started last year by the ArtMrkt fair group (whose events include Texas Contemporary and ArtMrkt Hamptons), is returning for a second edition. Fifty-six galleries are on tap, including the most famous of most: Fredericks & Freiser, and Yossi Milo.

Ring Master, 2013 Ink, acrylic, and glitter on paper: 30 x 22 inches With the Fredericks & Freiser Gallery

Ring Master, 2013
Ink, acrylic, and glitter on paper: 30 x 22 inches
With the Fredericks & Freiser Gallery

Brazil Art Fair– Brazil will getting a lot of attention this year with over 40 galleries exhibiting at the new Brazil ArtFair running from December 3 to 8 in Woodson Park on NW 36th Street in Midtown. Their goal is “to go beyond your everyday art fair…with a private initiative for the promotion and internationalization of Brazil’s art market,” the fair’s founder Michel Serebrinsky explained to Art Info. Some galleries to watch: Multiplique Boutique, Lourdina Jean Rabieh, and Paralelo Gallery.

Panta Rhei, folhas sintéticas, 2012 Lourdina Jean Rabieh Gallery

Panta Rhei, folhas sintéticas, 2012
With Lourdina Jean Rabieh Gallery

Parties/Art & Music Events

Basel Castle – Basel Castle, produced by the Overthrow Collective in association with Embrace and ABV Gallery, is an art and music festival combining street artists and upcoming electronic musicians. The fair, on view all day on Dec.7th, includes unique interactive games, installations, exhibitions, and live performances by both the artists and musicians. The line-up includes Nychos, Skinner, Matt W Moore, Meggs, Jeremyville, Buff Monster, Madsteez, and a DJ set by SBTRKT,  amongst others.

Basel_Castle_2013_Lineup_Flyer

Hyperallergic’s cocktail part at Aqua Art Miami- On Friday, December 6, from 6 to 8 pm, our favorite blog, Hyperallergic, will be hosting their second cocktail party at Aqua Art Miami (1530 Collins Avenue, South Beach, FL). Great opportunity to meet with the brilliant writers; Danny and I will definitely try to talk to Alicia Eler about her Selfie theories while having a cocktail or two. You can RSVP here.

Hyperallergic’s ‘Blogger’s Tour’ of Art Miami-On Saturday, December 7, at 11am, you can join Hyperallergic’s editors Hrag Vartanian, Mostafa Heddaya, and Jillian Steinhauer at Art Miami and Context for an hour-long tour of the fair. The tour includes stops at the fair’s highlights, and an opportunity to engage in dialogue with dealers, who will be available to answer questions about the artworks on display. The tour will be followed by a lively Informal discussion. You can RSVP here.

Juxtapoze Magazine Party– Juxtapoz  is moving into a private beach house at the Shore Club (1901 Collins Avenue, South Beach) for a four-day series of parties and events with San Francisco’s Chandran Gallery. They’ve scheduled art installations by Geoff McFetridge, Andrew Shoultz, Monica Canilao and SWOON, and even an evening hosted by Shepard Fairey. The spot will be happening from December 4 until the 7th, but many of the parties are invite only.

Darkside visual and audio exhibition – Milk Studios and Moishes Moving are hosting an incredible show with Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s Darkside and an art installation by Children of the Light. The showcase space is located at 318 NW 23rd Street. Darkside will be performing on the 5th of Dec at 10pm.

Shlohmo – American electronic musician from Los Angeles, Shlohmo will be performing at Bardot on Dec. 7. Since I will attending Bastle Castle that night, I will be missing this show. However, if you are a fan of innovative, downtempo electronic music, this is the show for you.

Warehouse to Wynwood: A Checklist

Detail of a mural by Acud-Akut in the Warehouse Arts District

I stared out the window as we drove up I-595 on our way out of Miami.  Single story, brightly painted garages and warehouses, street art murals, numerous galleries: “That looks just like the Warehouse Arts District!”  In actuality we were driving by Miami’s Wynwood Arts District.  The Wynwood neighborhood is arguably America’s most important art neighborhood outside of New York city limits.  Perhaps it was the visual similarities between the two districts that inspired my optimism.  But maybe, just maybe, the Warehouse Arts District, too, can one day be a national game changer of a neighborhood.

After all, in Florida’s Bermuda-Triangle-style real estate climate, expecting a neighborhood similar to Manhattan’s Chelsea or even Brooklyn’s Williamsburg area are frankly unrealistic.  However, Miami’s Wynwood – that just might work.  So how does our WAD become the cock of the walk that is Miami’s WAD?  Here is a check list to get it going.  Don’t despair: the Warehouse Arts District can already cross some of these off.

Low rent neighborhood for artists and galleries.  Artists are generally poor; they’re not starving artists by choice.  Getting them to congregate in one neighborhood require’s affordable rent.

Warehouse/garage spaces that make for good gallery spaces and studios.  This is self-explanatory – a lot of space is good for working artists.  I’ve also been hearing the term “industrial-chic” lately.  I suppose the grittiness can look cool in its own way.  On an unrelated note, if you ever hear me utter any word followed by “chic”, please drown me. 

Recognition from the city as an important cultural neighborhood.  To be honest, Miami, like St. Pete, didn’t exactly give their WAD much recognition until it became clear that the arts makes crap-loads of money.  Crap-loads.  Recognition is recognition, though, right?  Seriously, cooperation and help from the city is vital.  St. Pete annually budgets money for arts organizations that would be near impossible to operate without.   

World-class art fairs that funnels thousands of art-lovers (and collectors) to the neighborhood.  Through Art Basel Miami and satellite fairs, December is the only time of the year Miami may be more important than NYC.  I realize St. Pete can’t realistically expect a fair of Basel magnitude any time soon (if ever).  That doesn’t mean we can’t host a quality contemporary art fair.  Main Sail and Gasparilla Arts Festival?  Please.  We could use a fair that doesn’t appeal exclusively to the senior citizen set.   

Art galleries in touch with national trends, pushing the conversation forward.  This may be the most important piece.  Everything else will grow organically if the district has a base of galleries/spaces in touch with contemporary art thought.  Otherwise, the area can easily regress into a kitsch district.  Think St. Augustine’s Historic District without any of the history. 

Art collectors that live in the area or at least visit often.  I hate to say it, but art collectors are still one of the main catalysts to good art.  Tourists demand chotchkies.  Serious Collectors demand quality contemporary work.  While it’s better to supply the latter, unfortunately it’s easier to supply the former.  It seems that nearly all of (the few) collectors that head our way land just South of us in Sarasota.  In the mean time we’re plentiful in the next best catalyst: good schools.  The University of South Florida, the University of Tampa, and the Ringling College of Art and Design are all producing a respectable pool of new artists.       

The arts and their support have strengthened exponentially in the Bay area as of late.  It could be my love for St. Pete and Tampa saying this but I think we may soon be poised to bring our voice to the national table.  It may soon be time to widen the cirlce of those benefited by our art scene to well beyond the bay.  I’d hate to see the chance squandered.