Art Miami and Design Miami, 2011

Andrea Kirsh visits Art Basel Miami, runs into Jayson Musson, and sees a lot of good things. Read her report.

On the way to Art Miami, held this year in the midst of a group of other fairs in Wynwood, across the bay from Miami Beach, I ran into Jayson Musson who was heading off to see a friend at Scope, one block south.  Jayson had come to Miami to do Hennessy Youngman Presents: His History of Art at the NADA fair on December 1, and commented that the entry price to Art Basel Miami Beach was prohibitive. It was. I mentioned that those of us in Philadelphia wish him well, but also wish his descriptor, living in New York included where he recently moved from Philly.

I didn’t make any more thorough a visit to Art Miami than I had done to Art Basel Miami Beach, so what follows are thoughts on what I managed to see. Art Miami is a fair that precedes Art Basel Miami Beach and the many fairs that have arrived in its wake. A recent painting by Mel Bochner, hung near the entrance, summarized much of the atmosphere of the fairs rather too well:

Mel Bochner 'Blah, Blah, Blah' (2010) oil on velvet

I wanted to know how Bridgette Mayer was doing, so sought out her space and found the gallery’s operating director, Maria Hooper, who said they’d had success seeing current clients and meeting new people.

Maria Hooper with a painting by Neil Anderson at Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia

Across the aisle, Galeria Santa Giustina had a range of work that suggested sales on the secondary market (which characterized much of Art Miami). I was taken with an early Manzoni made of cotton squares, as well as a figurative ceramic relief by Fontana, whose ceramics are almost never seen in the U.S..

Piero Manzoni 'Achrome' (1960) Galerie Santa Giustina, Lucca

Speaking of ceramics, it was heartening to see Viola Frey‘s towering Standing Man at Nancy Hoffman Gallery and confirm that she can more than hold her own against artists who could be her grandchildren.

Viola Frey 'Standing Man' (ca. 1985), Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York

The work that most tempted me was one of five drawings by the Italian-born artist, Anna Maria Maiolino, who has worked primarily in Brazil since the late 1950s; they were on display at the Mexico City gallery, Ginocchio.  All were done with the most modest means: ink on white paper, and conveyed the spontaneity and immediacy of drawing at its best. This presumably explains its continued appeal to an artist best known for sculpture, performance and film.

Anna Maria Maiolino, Untitled (1991) ink, 19 x 27”, Galeria Alfredo Ginocchio

I’m always happy to know more about galleries from Dublin, since I visit regularly to see family. I was particularly surprised, therefore, to see Blue Leaf Gallery exhibiting not only a number of paintings and drawings by Suzy O’ Mullane, but also a group of tiny paintings with elaborate, found frames by Carol K. Brown. When I’d lived in Miami, many years ago, Carol was well established as a sculptor. I’d run into her several years ago and she said she’d been painting (work I later saw at Nora Haime Gallery, New York). The current work was part of a very large series, all of which depict women in the dress and poses of athletes, including boxers. I couldn’t help thinking of the ad that Judy Chicago published in 1971 of herself in boxing attire, prepping for a fight with what was then an all-male art establishment. These women were not going down easily; Carol later told me that the images were based on women in Miami’s art world.

Carol Brown 'Las Conquistadoras' paintings in mixed media frames, Blue Leaf Gallery, Dublin

Design Miami, in its seventh year, was held in a large tent adjacent to the parking lot for Art Basel Miami Beach. The publicity had mentioned a strong presence of jewelry this year, and along with much other work from the mid 20th century that caught my eye  (and not primarily because I live with furniture of the period, it being the only modernist style I could buy at second hand furniture prices) was a wonderful range of mid-century jewelry.  Several cases of hand-crafted, silver jewelry by Art Smith, Harry Bertoia and others at Mark McDonald of Hudson, NY. included pieces that were tiny, sculptural objects and wearable, daytime jewelry at the same time; I didn’t ask about prices but hope their owners will actually wear them, rather than keeping them under lock and key.

Smith Jewelry
a case of Art Smith jewelry at Mark McDonald; necklace far r. by Sergei Gvinton
Bertoia pin
jewelry by various craftsmen at Mark McDonald Gallery; Harry Bertoia anthropomorphic brooch at lower left

I thought most of the contemporary furniture was both over-designed visually yet poorly designed for function, so was pleased to see the simplest of couches by Louise Campbell at Galerie Maria Wettegren, Paris. Rather than traditional upholstery, the cover appeared to be padded fabric with origami-like folds.

Folda Sofa
Folda Sofa (2001) by Louise Campbell at Galerie Maria Wettegren, Paris

Moss was featuring the work of Haresh Lavani, a designer who uses digital manipulation of forms and pushes computer technology to its utmost in designing serial production of unique variants. There were various three-dimensional models as well as a series of morphing platters actually on offer; $100 bought a unique platter of pierced steel as well as a cd, which presumably revealed the design process and showed other variants.

Moss, New York's exhibit of digital designs by Haresh Lavani

Three galleries specialized in classic, French modernist design, and it is hardly a revelation that Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouve produced restrained, timeless, thoroughly livable furniture. The novelty was a swooping, shed-like roof constructed of factory-produced steel parts, designed by Prouve; it was originally part of l’Ecole Villejuif near Paris.

furniture display underneath a section of Prouve architecture at Galerie Downtown-Francoise Laffanour, Paris
Jenneret furniture
Jenneret furniture at Jousse Enterprise, Paris

The other treasure that surprised me were two modest pieces by Mathieu Matégot; they wouldn’t even require a fantasy palace to house them, but would fit in the smallest of studio apartments, so lack of space was not the reason I came home empty-handed. One was a highly-sculptural wall shelf of wrought-iron, the other a hanging lamp not 10 inches in its largest dimension. Both were distinctive without being showy. The lamp had biomorphic forms more commonly found in sculpture, and occasionally furniture, than in lighting fixtures, and it captured my heart.

hanging shelf and lamp by Mathieu Mategot at Jousse Enterprise, Paris

Design Miami describes itself as representing the burgeoning market for collectible design; I hope that doesn’t mean design to he seen but not held, felt or sat upon. It would be a shame for such recent examples of well-designed functionalism to be shut off from everyday life.