The Aqua Art Fair made its way back to the ocean (actually, just a block away from the Atlantic on Collins Avenue), coming back to the Aqua Hotel where it all began in 2005. It's a good move, because the Aqua Hotel is about as cool a place as you can show art on South Beach. And let's face it: If your name is water, you should be close to it.
The two-story hotel with a narrow courtyard is old-style South Beach. Its tiny rooms provide an intimate art experience as you'll
get at any Art Basel event. On the flip side, if you like to enjoy art
anonymously, think twice about shuffling between the 43 rooms packed with
painting, photographs, and sculptures. You'll often find yourself in a
small room alone with the artist or gallery rep and trying to avoid eye
contact is an exercise in futility.
Aqua will appeal to those who are turned off by the pretense surrounding
many Basel events. The cramped quarters and simple hotel
rooms -- be sure to look in closets and nooks for art
treasures purposefully hidden away -- make the experience feel casual. And
if you're feet get a little tired from walking in and out of all those
rooms, don't be afraid to slip off your shoes and socks and dip your
bunions in the hotel jacuzzi --everybody else was doing it when we showed
As for the exhibits, they were a little heavy on the
traditional visual arts, painting, and sculpture, without too much in the
way of mixed-media installations. There were, however, some notable
exceptions. The venue was just as cool as much of the work, with a
couple of spectacular spaces to sit back in the courtyard or on the
second-floor balcony fronting Collins Avenue.
Here are some of the highlights:
We're not art critics, but we did visit the Harold Golen Gallery last night.
The head looks a little like Darth Vader when he finally took off his mask in Return of the Jedi -- but with a goatee. It's also very big. Those are somebody's legs next to the noggin.