Art Basel diary: The other side of the causeway, street art, Art Asia

Read part one of Caitlin Donohue’s Art Basel diary: South Beach here

It would be a mistake to characterize the Art-Basel-that’s-not-in-South-Beach parts of Miami as containing more DIY/indie/anti-consumerist detritus than Art Deco land during the arty wheeling and dealing that occured last week (transactions worth, the Miami New Times helpfully noted, approximately the GDP of Guyana.)

Not-South-Beach, after all, included the Design District, where my camera memorably died for the last time during our Florida adventure as I was photographing an exhibit entitled “Architecture For Dogs.” 

So maybe lumping in all the art and murals I saw in the Not-South-Beach neighborhoods is a bit confusing. I hope this helps clarify: Wynwood is the area that has been designated as hipster city clusterfuck, centering on the murals bankrolled by the recently-deceased Tony Goldman and a handful of actually-indie art fairs. It hosts many parties featuring free beer and Chromeo.

The Design District is home to “Architecture for Dogs”, the Louis Vuitton store whose facade has been refurbished by last year’s Art Basel week darling, street artist Retna, and copious amounts of fancy bathtubs on display in local businesses (a must for your post-Basel recuperation.)

Between them, Mid-Town is bisected by a street that becomes absolutly jampacked with art and design fairs (and the patrons who love them), including SCOPE, Context, Red Dot, and more. Also, a fountain accented with brightly-colored butterfly, etc. statues by Brazilian artist Romero Britto, who my companion helpfully clarified, is “the worst.”

Snarkiness aside, should you find yourself in Miami next year Baseling, you’ll want to make the trip away from the Convention Center, fashion, high-falutin’ nightlife, and beach beauties of South Beach, because the art on the mainland can be refreshing, and freakish, and gorgeous. Here’s what we saw:  

HELLA MURALS: Street art was pretty much the reason why I went to Art Basel last year, and it continues to blow my mind, even if the crushing crowds of gawkers on Wynwood’s main drag tend to dull the shine for you after awhile. Fountain Art Fair sponsored some dope pieces, and had the only formal (indoor) showing of Miami street artists I caught at the fair. Miami graff pioneer Hec 1 had a room at Fountain he’d curated, with model trains and canvases sprayed with work by some of the city’s most iconic letter artists.

I’d never seen a pro-Israel artist collective until we wandered into the Bomb Shelter Museum‘s street art complex, where Asturian street artist Belin had done one of the most technicaly proficient murals I’ve ever seen of a stretched-out, insect-proportioned young woman. 

One of the best parts of the week was just wandering the back roads, where some super-talented street artists had taken refuge from the crush. We found Molly Rose Freeman and Danielle Brutto putting up a gorgeous pair of cats on a shack in an abandoned lot, that had been informally transmorgified into an aerosol gallery. 

ART ASIA: This year I was once again blown away by the mini-fair within SCOPE that brings Asian-run galleries from Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, in addition to New York and Miami. 

I’d seen its near-identical showings at Art Asia last year, but even so Miami’s Art Lexing gallery was probably my favorite gallery showing of the week, including Ye Hongxing‘s intricate Buddhist collages, shining rainbows revealed to be made of stickers you’d find on a schoolkid’s notebook when you shove your nose up close to them. Lexing showed them alongside washed-out blow-ups of Quentin Shih‘s photos for the somewhat controversial Dior “Shanghai Dreams” ad campaign. Models in Dior gowns come boxed in glass, unaffected indicators of Western glamour in the middle of prosaic scenes from Chinese country life: a market, a basketball court. 

Also in Art Asia: Buhan, Korea’s Kim Jae Sun gallery brought Sehan Kim‘s dotted homage to Keith Haring and other pop artists, the legends’ work rendered on a Asian skyscaper in a busy nightscape. Seung Yong Kwak‘s “Old Future” geisha remix of Mona Lisa sat a few booths down from Tokyo’s Gallery Tomura, whose entire showing was dedicated to Kazuki Takamatsu‘s eerie depth mapping of ringleted little girls. 

For SCOPE, Context, and more on Fountain Art Fair stay tuned for my final blogstallation