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Swaying hammocks and NADA


Post by Andrea Kirsh

Our trusty correspondent Andrea Kirsh reports from Art Basel/Miami Beach, in four installments. Here’s the fourth and last.–r&l

Miami, Dec. 9
Return to NADA

I decided to return to NADA with my camera, to see the parts of the fair I was too exhausted to reach two days earlier.

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NADA hammocks and balmy weather go together.

NADA (the New Art Dealers’ Alliance) fair has a lot going for it, beyond 82 galleries full of art: in keeping with the organization’s mission to make contemporary art more accessible to the public, it is free; also supporting a broad audience, the fair included a number of publishers of artists’ multiples (including Cereal Art of Philadelphia), tee-shirts, books and the like. And the fair’s site has considerable charm: a film studio whose entry-way has been landscaped with palm trees strung with hammocks, and an adjacent grassy out-doors area. The weather was balmy and people hung out there.

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Cereal Art’s booth

The international galleries came from all sorts of places off my usual route (Athens, Glasgow, Karlsruhe, Warsaw, Naples, Gateshead …), so that alone was an education; so much contemporary art finding an audience everywhere. I checked out the Philadelphia connections first. Cereal Art had a prime location opposite the bar. Shiya Mangel said they were so busy on Friday that they had to turn people away; they’ll have to check out the web-site. Not a bad problem to have.

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NADA Camillo Alvarez (l) Gabe Martinez photo on wall, Nicole Cherubini sculpture

Then I went to find Samson Projects (Boston) which was featuring Gabriel Martinez whose full-frontal “Academic Nude (Darren)” occupied the central position. The picture I snapped also includes a ceramic and mixed-media sculpture by Nicole Cherubini who will have an exhibition next month at the ICA at Penn. I asked the director, Camillo Alvarez, whether Boston had collectors for contemporary art ; when I was an undergraduate in the area, decades ago, there was almost no contemporary work to be found in the Boston area, save the spaces at Brandeis and M.I.T.. He said no – the gallery depends on fairs. Perhaps contemporary art isn’t finding an audience in those far-flung places after all, simply lower-rent warehouse spaces.

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Ken Kagami Penis series at Gallery Sora booth

Across from Samson was Gallery Sora of Tokyo, featuring a number of anatomically-correct stuffed figures by Ken Kahami spread out on the floor: a skeleton-faced figure with a red erection and a youthful menage a trois (think XXX-rated Mike Kelly). I discovered an interesting London gallery further along the same row: Hales. The pieces that caught my eye were both by foreign artists who’d come to London for art school and stayed on.

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Tomoko Takahashi at Hales Gallery

In the front of the space was Tomoko Takahashi’s “Natural Disaster,” a folding chair surrounded by detritus of modern life, the sand-covered seat becoming a miniature landscape of orphaned plastic toys. It was simple, but carried a punch. On the wall behind was a large, stunning drawing from the Soldier series, by Hew Locke, a Royal College of Art grad from Guyana. Paul Hedge, the gallery director showed me a handsome catalogue of Locke’s work (New Art Gallery, Walsall) which includes wall-hung pieces using accumulations of beads to construct huge heads as well as large cardboard constructions that resemble vernacular architecture. I’m hardly the first person to notice either artist (Hedge said the Tate Modern has several of Takahashi’s pieces on view), but both deserve to be known in the States).

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Jarbas Lopes at A Gentil Carioca booth

Another gallery that had caught my eye last year was A Gentil Carioca, from Rio. They showed a number of artists, but the one whose work dominated was Jarabas Lopes, who wove rubber strips over the frame of a functioning bicycle, and whose large wall hanging, made of woven plastic taken from political bill-boards, dominated the rear wall. Many of their artists came out of a street aesthetic and a culture of subsistence recycling.

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Imperfect Articles

I then spent some time in a booth shared by two youthful enterprises. Imperfect Articles is a Chicago-based company that produces hand-dyed and screen-printed tee-shirts ($30 each), with designs by artists. Co-founder Noah Andrews told me that they invited some of the artists, while others approached them. Andrews hadn’t kept count, but figured they’d “published” about 40-50 artists. They have a web-site:

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Taylor Mc Kimens at Picture Box

Next to them was Picture Box, described as a “Grammy Award-winning visual culture studio and publishing house. Their artists tended towards a cartoon aesthetic, and they produced books and occasional frame-able screen-prints. Their stand was decorated by Taylor McKimens, who happened to be there, and we had a long talk.

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Picture Box booth decorated by McKimens.

McKimens studied illustration at Art Center College of Design, and I told him that I’d been thinking a lot about issues of illustration in connection with exhibitions of comic books, among other things. McKimmens (who’s not as young as he looks; Clementine Gallery, also at NADA, carries his work ) had a recent exhibition in Tokyo of his 3-dimensional constructions that began as drawings . Only afterwords did I wonder whether he knew Red Grooms’ work.

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Grolsch and hammocks–sheer luxury at NADA

As I passed the last booth and moved into the eating area, I discovered that Grolsch was supplying free beer after 5 pm. I took a bottle, and lingered a while. The sun was beginning to set over Miami’s rapidly-changing sky-line, and young people swung from hammocks amid the palms.

–artblog correspondent Andrea Kirsh is an art historian living in Philadelphia. See her Philadelphia Introductions essays on emerging artists at inliquid. Her most recent essay is on Stefan Abrams.