“Make me something I can sell,” berated the disheveled, full-grown man to the prepubescent child before him. “Paint whatever you want, as long as it looks like this,” he instructed to another young protege.
It is a ridiculous picture of the art world, but as with any joke, it's only funny because it's also true. The viewer is left to wonder how many times Alex Bag, the real artist behind the film The Van (Redux), must have heard something like that in her 20-plus year career. Of course, the central figure of the Institute of Contemporary Art's Art Basel exhibition looks to have had free reign in this case.
As soon as visitors enter the building, they're met with the hulking white van from the videos. The film on display is a call back to Bag's original presentation The Van from the 1990's. Redux follows the exploits of socially deplorable art dealer Leroy LeLoup, this time exploiting three young artists, all of whom are played by Bag's real-life son.
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Viewers watch the film with headphones as it's projected onto a giant screen hanging between the atrium in line with the building's second floor, as well as another video on the third floor. It all became even more real Tuesday night at the opening reception as guests drank their own cocktails of Tito's vodka milling in and out of the concurrent Shannon Ebner photographic and sculptural exhibit, which has far less to do with the “authoritarian structure of the art market” and more to do with the intersection of man, machine, and community.
But this was an opening reception, and that means it was more party than art appreciation. By 10 p.m., the scattered crowd of revelers gathered under the stars on the ICA's roof, waiting patiently for more Tito's cocktails and for local Miami rapper and performance artist Poorgrrrl to take the stage. Much like her III Points performance back in October, she simultaneously entertained and confused — although her presence and performance has sharpened considerably.
Poorgrrrl worked through four songs before making way for headliner Shamir, who brought the evening's energy to it's climax, jumping about on stage and singing in his signature falsetto, making sure to involve the crowd at every opportunity. The party came to a close shortly after midnight, but the exhibition remains open throughout the Basel week and into the new year.
Alex Bag at the ICA
On view until January 31, 2016. Admission is free. Visit icamiami.org.