Miami is inspiring! The architecture, foliage, and quick stepping residents make it a lively experience. I pulled in front of my small boutique hotel, La Flora, in the 1200 block of Collins Ave around 2 p.m. The drive took about 5 hours from my home in Ormond Beach. Driving up Collins I called the hotel as like many hotels they can only provide off-site parking. The attendant, Carlos, quickly came out to help me and called the valet service ($30 per day, cash only!). La Flora is a thoughtfully upgraded original deco style hotel. Through Booking.com I ended up in a suite with 2 queen beds and a view of Collins Avenue, a lounge area with kitchen, and a bathroom with over-sized tub. I soon found that all hotel staff were “gracious” and professional, a concept lost on many in the service industry today.
I felt a bit selfish going alone to the event and the “suite” enhanced my guilt for a moment. However I was on a mission to be immersed in art and let things simply unfold so was traveling light on multiple levels. My “must do” game plan for the limited time I had included the Rubell Family Foundation, Context and Art Miami, and Art Basel.
I quickly freshened up and headed out to Lincoln Road Mall, a nearby busy shopping/restaurant area created by closing off streets. It was pretty crowded and I got hailed at 3 different beauty salons as I walked by – really? I don’t think I looked that bad. I did run into the local Art Center South Florida – fabulous
amazing studios where 44 local artists worked – I was ready to move down. Disappointingly I learned that after 30 years in the location the building had sold and they had to move elsewhere. Isn’t that the way? Artists help improve an area and once it takes off commercially artists can’t afford the rent and move – gypsies for art we are. I found several galleries here: David Castillo Gallery created a “pop up gallery” for the art fair week showing works by several contemporary artists; a Romero Britto shop where you could buy his art on almost anything; and a gallery of works by Peter Lik, the Australian Photographer whose sublime landscape imagery has sold for millions according to a website– what a life, but someone has to do it, right?
I got up early the next day and enjoyed a light breakfast provided free by the hotel. I wanted to avoid traffic so by 9 a.m. I was headed west over the bridge towards the Art Miami and Context grounds to park. Parking was $20 and up (remember cash only!). The Rubell Foundation opened at 9 a.m. and was two blocks away so I walked there from my parking space in a lot just east of Context. Please accept my apologies in advance for not having the titles and artists names – I was looking and forgot to capture the data.
Upon entering the Rubell Family Foundation at 95 NW 29th Street I followed the crowd to find 50 folks sitting at 50 cakes in the back outdoor art space. This charming performance breakfast by daughter Jennifer Rubell celebrates Don and Mera Rubell’s 50 years of marriage and collecting together – about 6,000 contemporary works of art. Unable to get close enough for a taste or pictures I moved quickly on to the galleries where there was an intriguing mix of 3-D, 2-D, and video. Each of the works was accompanied by a specific explanation by the artist about their piece and/or meeting the Rubells which I found meaningful. The collection features artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol. They continue to expand the collection and maintain their original approach of championing emerging artists. You can visit this space mid-December thru the end of May limited days / hours of the week. This is a must see space each time I go to Miami as the exhibits change. Admission is free. I pre-ordered their new book on the collection coming out December 2014 – getting it before Christmas.
At 10:30, I took off to Art Miami (and Context) that opened at 11:00. A few years back I enjoyed the smaller gallery exhibits set up in the rooms of the Aqua hotel on Collins, but didn’t have enough time this year. The two fairs include a great deal of emerging artists and new technologies as well as well known names. Being from Ormond Beach it is a delight to discover “new materials and methods” for producing and exhibiting art; ideas typically found in larger cities where industrial and engineering factories are nearby. For me new materials does not equate to art I want to spend much time with or methods I want to include in my own process today – I just tuck it away for a day when it might be useful.
At 2:00 p.m. I drove my car back to park at my hotel. Traffic was getting challenging so I decided to walk to Basel. I took a route down Washington Avenue which crossed Espanola Way where the aroma from an authentic Cuban restaurant confirmed for me where I would eat dinner later. Washington is a thriving business street that runs north to 17th Street. At 17th and Washington, under the metal encased “tree plants, I ran into a gentleman with a “which way now” look mirroring mine. We chummed up for the balance of the journey to the Convention Center and decided to follow the crowd flowing further west on 17th….then north again.
Arriving at 3 p.m., the exact opening time of the first “regular folk” day for Art Basel, the line was not too long and there were 8 ticket windows moving people through. Shuffling into the main entryway I could see a good size crowd in front of me, but there was only a slight delay to get in. Entering in to the first wide open gallery space my eyes popped at the size of the Calder in the expansive entry area. I had never seen a Calder this large. What a welcome card!
Once fully imbedded in the pedestrian flow, I forgot to look at my map and kept ending up in the same place (easy to do) – My thought -DON’T PANIC! There were plenty of areas to sit to get your bearings – so I did. My goal was to see every gallery exhibit. Notice that I did not say every piece of art and even with all I saw I am sure I missed some fabulous works. Since the city wide art fairs are really groups of “gallery” festivals you might feel like you stepped into a circus with its sideshows. Each gallery has its own personality – from silver haired blue chip gentry reps to contemporary sophisticate reps who look like art themselves (where do they get these lookers?), with art from images hidden behind magic mirrors, accordion like 3-D paper acts, in your face erotica,
large sculptures that have a playful feel of “souvenir chotchkie” or kaleidoscopes, to intermittent respites of truly mysterious thought provoking art if you can pull your eyes away from novelties – which of course I did. If you choose to go, you will celebrate the use of all your senses. You have total freedom of expression here so feel free to guffaw, be disturbed, be amazed, hate it, wonder WTF and fall in love all at the same time within every 100 feet of multi-gallery hallway – miles of it! Enjoy – I did!