Monday, May 14, 2012

The moment we occupy: January 18, 2011

“This is one of the most interesting exhibits we’ve seen,” Julia said shyly, and her partner, Lodovic admitted after spending a half hour talking about it. They were students, too young to be buyers. A club of photographers ( buzzed around the paintings like a hive of bees, clicking away, excited about their discovery. Ironically, one of their photographers has an ephemeral photo business called As usual, the press was curious. Saturday evening, as we were leaving out the back door, several artists from the Paris booth left with wrapped artwork, elated: they had sold their pieces. We strolled with Aldo on Lincoln Avenue, shared three plates at a restaurant over discussion about the business of art. Aldo Castillo, this year’s curator who has elevated this fair to a contemporary mix of exciting work from all over the world, lives his life on the relationships he nurtures doing what he loves. Although invited to continue with MIAF, he needs an independent 'life of his own’, and will curate & produce an art fair in Shanghai, probably in September. We talked into the night: Public art, and especially ephemeral art – what can it mean, how can it function in the context of an art fair, where it’s all about the sale of one piece of art at a time? Organizers bring this instant art gallery to Miami, hoping to spend much less than they take in. Here’s Lee Ann Lester, the queen of MIAF and seven other art fairs. She runs a tight ship. Artists and galleries pay the Lesters a hefty fee, all speculation, hoping to make enough sales, piece by piece, to overcome their expenses and earn their living. Vendors hope that hungry fair goers will have no problem shelling out $4 for a cup of coffee or $14 for a skinny glass of cheap champagne. The conference center must make their take on every necessary thing: lighting, electricity, internet, (internet, which in the rest of Miami, is free). Collectors want something of a very specific size for their very specific walls – or – the next trendy artist whose work will climb in value to satisfy their need for a good investment. From this standpoint, it's really all about the money. Artists are looking for inspiration, and for a clue as to what sells. Here's Mike Hine, one of the many who stopped by the exhibit, asking questions, looking closely, talking about their work, context, passion. His work can be seen at The public – families, retired couples, young entrepreneurs and people who prop themselves up with more ordinary pursuits, seem to be looking for a cultural fix for their admission fee, or simply to be part of the discussion. Children play. Diane Landry, a woman from Montreal, wants to bring Paintings Below Zero there. An architect is interested in using an installation of the Halloran's work to revitalize a heritage building. The youth, just want to look cool. By Sunday, Gord had changed the exhibit three times. His work is constantly in motion, and this was no different. There were those who in loud, discovery voices couldn't stop themselves, “These are great! Beautiful!” Another man walked up to them, exhalting. “This is it! I’ve been looking for five years for something for my beach house! This is what I want!” A trader, he is used to making unhesitating decisions, he trusts his visceral response. He saw their fragility. So we talked about framing, about expoy to seal the paintings, about Plexiglas boxes to encase the work, make it . . . more substantial? More permanent? Less ephemeral. One woman said bluntly, "I am a collector. Tell me how I can buy these. I love the ephemeral connection, especially the sorrow of loss." And yet . . I cannot be sure she understood the artist's creation of a fragile piece which must be treasured, like the moment, not owned and boxed and stacked to create a sense of The Permanent. To own one of these pieces is to be seduced into the present, to participate in an experience of awareness of the ephemeral; the risk is loss, but this is what we are all made of. Rauschenberg, too, created pieces with miscellaneous bits hanging, even falling off. Everything is always changing. But those who understand the meditation, even those who just like the look of them fresh and blowing in the breeze, say, “NO! Just like they are!” Joy, surprise, recognition – passion. We met professional tennis players, a woman who worked on Christo's exhibit, a writer of 17 children's books, who teaches parents of young children about how to nurture an interest in art. She's got an early blog at Elena Mulcahy, who works with the beautiful Spirit of Korea, visited daily wearing the creations of her client. It was great to see their faces, one viewer at a time. And they were from .. everywhere: Belarus, Morocco, Turkey, Italy, Argentina, Columbia, France, New York, Philadelphia, Delaware, Georgia, Serbia, Russia, Canada. We discussed the trajectory of the work. The ice, the colors, the links between this and Paintings Below Zero. Public art means lack of ownership and a collective experience in something that has a known end date. At MIAF, an environment where everyone contributes to the illusion of ownership, of ‘permanent’, we meditate on the moment we occupy while ice melts, while wind and waves ruffle the edges of the lotus on the water. Kelly, the beautiful youth in the service of the paintings across the hall, had to leave. This just before the sound of fork lifts, hammers pounding, the high pitched whine of screw guns at 7:01 on Monday night. We were all in decline, backstage after showtime. Four days had just slipped through our fingers like sand.

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