Ester Paregas, Samesation, 2000. Mat board and wood, dimensions variable. Photo courtesy Galeria Helga de Alvear.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2004

Flowers in the air weren’t a big surprise given the fact that international art had come to the Sunshine State for the second time. It seemed like all the “powers” had joined hands to make it an even bigger success than the first Miami show of 2002. Art Basel Miami Beach is a new form of art event that combines a contemporary art show with a varied program of exhibitions and events. A total of 176 leading contemporary galleries from the Americas, Europe, and Asia showed works by over 1,000 established and emerging artists. The selected galleries were chosen from 500 applicants by an international jury. An additional exhibition featured 20 cutting-edge galleries that installed their works in shipping containers on the beach. In addition to a substantial schedule—exhibitions in Miami’s museums and alternative spaces, panels on art and architecture, daily parties and events with music, film, fashion, architecture, and design—the event offered opportunities to visit private art collections, including the Rubell Family Collection, Margulies Collection, the Dacra Offices, and the Rasa and Carlos de La Cruz home.

Each collection had its own personal taste. At the de La Cruz residence, a 15,000-square-foot art-filled home, I found work that hinted at what is, after all, unique in the Basel Miami show. Jim Hodges’s We come We go (1997), a beautiful wall sculpture filled with Miami flowers, consisted of 236 elements of silk, plastic, wire, pins. Rasa de La Cruz, who conducted the tour, stopped by the piece and enthusiastically spoke about its installation: it is the first artwork to greet her in the morning as she comes out of the bedroom, the only room in the house without art. It is an appropriate work for a Miami house, plastic flowers pinned to the wall like dead butterflies, yet reflective of the beauty they possess. From here on, it seemed like flowers and vegetation were all over the exhibits of the fair.

Debora Warner, who usually creates collages of familiar sounds that cause viewers to imagine a picture as they walk through the listening experience, changed direction here. Her 13 black roses, exhibited by I 20 Gallery, gave us the image of art, and we could create in our minds an abstract situation from life. The elements constructing the work, 13 black roses arranged neatly in a large black vase placed on the floor, contradicted the immediate instincts one has when thinking about roses, throwing us off balance and catching us by surprise.

Anya Gallaccio creates sculptural installations that combine natural objects such as flowers and trees with traditional sculptural materials. In this show, she exhibited two wooden doors with stacks of flowers squeezed captive behind the glass. The flowers blackened and decayed as time passed. The effects of time are desired by the artist, who stresses the instability of natural materials and the permanence of cast objects. Gallaccio was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2003.

Anya Gallaccio, Preserve Fleur, 1993. Gerberas behind glass, 100 x 100 cm. Photo courtesy Annet Gelin Gallery Amsterdam.

Johnston Foster is known for creating sculptural forms out of “household rubbish or the scraps of the dining room,” says Pierre Restany. In Miracle Grow (2003), exhibited at the Miami Basel art fair, Foster used green and yellow duct tape to create a make-believe cactus “growing” in plastic pots. Foster says, “I want it to be true to form, [with] respect to what it’s made of. I want the viewer to see how I made it…that honesty comes through the shoddiness, honesty as well as humbleness.”

For someone entering the room at the Scope Miami Town House Hotel, Clarina Bezzola’s work evoked an immediate reaction. One could not but associate her ceramic constructions with sexual body parts doubling as flowers. Bezzola is also known as aperformance artist; she creates her mixed-media sculptures based on a belief that “the profound beauty of human frailty is trapped for security purposes within structures designed to provide support and protection.” She tries hard to make her sculptures perform the task of psychologists, providing support systems that allow human beings to deal with the outside world.

Sally-Ann Rowland exhibited a bathtub piece—Mirage—with Zieher Smith Gallery. Rowland, a native of Australia, also participated in “New York Calling,” a P.S.1 exhibition that brought attention to her fresh work. Mirage is a sculptural environment consisting of cheap plastic plants and animals that together create a marine-like landscape in a bathtub. Rowland plays on emotional instincts, motherhood, tender love and care, leavening them with humor.

Ester Partegas exhibited Sensation (2002) at Galeria Helga Alvear. Made of Mat Board and wood, flower and tree-like stands spread within a fast-cash bank station. The work offered a cynical look into a future of cold plastic environments, where individuals are expected to behave like robots punching the buttons. The contours of industrialized flowers and tree-like branches upended out familiar environment, creating a chilling feeling that pointed to emotionless, programmed human behavior. With all of the energy and powerful art on view at Art Basel Miami Beach, it seems like even art fairs can develop new trends.