Last year, popular art themes during Art Basel included Warhol, guns, Warhol, street art, and more Warhol. But if the UNTITLED art fair is an indicator of this year's offerings, 2013 will be the year of new technology. (And also B-list celebrities. Hello, Val Kilmer!)
UNTITLED opened last night with a gala attended by people as diverse as Kilmer, Marina Abramovic, Otto von Schirach, and Sam Borkson of FriendsWithYou -- as well as 85 exhibitors from 18 different countries. Miami's own artist duo the TM Sisters staged an earthy performance piece in which performers dressed as each of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) en route to the ocean, fueled by the sounds of beatboxing and singing.
One performer -- a mother earth/sea turtle hybrid -- even suffered a bit of a nip slip. But hey, what's Basel without boobs?
Anyway. On to the art.
When we first walked into the large tent and passed the ticketing booths, we saw a series of sculptures. Down the hallway, a man wearing a cosmic print onesie with a large black contraption on his head - later it will be revealed to be a camera and an iPad on his chest - skipped around dancing to the music in his head and getting all up in people's faces. Later, we couldn't seem to get away from a series of works featuring shattered glass.
We'd barely had a chance to sip on our Grey Goose cocktail before we noticed a pattern: Sculptures. Technology. Mirrors. They are everywhere. They're three related themes in our modern world; each is used to create an alternate version of reality. Art imitates life, friends.
Among the sea of paintings and modern art splatters were the real artistic giants: the sculptures and structures.
Miami's Michael Jon Gallery was showcasing three artists who are all from Los Angeles. As Alan Gutierrez, one of the owners and operators, put it: "We're trying to make connections between Miami and LA; make Miami a point where we can have other artists come in and show their talent."
Gutierrez, along with Michael Jon Radziewicz, went on to say that they see the art community as ambassadors of the city and "Basel is such a Miami centered thing." But most of the visiting artists come from New York, Los Angeles, or the like, "so we're just showing that this is what we have to offer."
Two cool pieces they were offering were a pair of stone cylinders that looked like legs protruding from the ground, and car wheels that have been painted, tarnished, and turned into art. The wheels were particularly interesting to observe, especially since they were dead center in an open area, and one of the first eye-catching pieces you'll see when you enter.
One gallery in particular, Marso, from Mexico City, had two screens as part of their exhibit. But the most striking thing was a giant brain made of pencil-thin lines. Underneath the finished product was a video screen showing the artist, Tony Orrico, in the process of creating his artist extension.
Gallerist Sofia Mariscal explained that the documentation of the artist's process is very important, and though both the filmed version of the painting process and the final piece can stand alone as two separate works, they compliment each other best together. "In this particular case, the piece was done via a performance, so the piece has like two sides to it," she says.
"The performance, or the action, is important and we like to show it."
Mariscal says Orrico is interested in pushing his body to its the limit, and she describes his visual works as an impression of his movements. "He's trying to get an impression of his movements and of his thoughts onto the paper by doing certain actions. The action that we're showing there is him standing right in the middle of the paper and he's moving both arms at the same time trying to balance the atmospheres of his brain, in a way." The end result is an abstract piece that can pull you in for quite some time.
Other booths employed the use of iPads as enhancers to certain pieces, and others still featured large screened television sets either showing another type of artistic documentation or a short film on loop.
As with many Basel events, things tend to occur randomly. Such was UNTITLED's performance art. All of a sudden, guests were interrupted from taking pictures of everything with their camera phones by a beat boxing man cloaked in a mysterious and sparkling cape making his way down the hallway.
He was being pulled atop of a rolling platform by two women dressed in long gowns with bells attached to them. Their makeup was fierce and frightening, and they bowed their heads to the crowds as they maneuvered their way through with their beat boxing king. Ladies and gentlemen, the TM Sisters!
Since the word "selfie" was declared as the word of the year, it is only fitting that UNTITLED featured several works featuring mirrors, the better to pose with. And you bet your sweet arse that is exactly what was done. There were even moments when a small line was formed in front of a reflective surface so people could photograph themselves.
There were entire walls made of glass mirrors, small clocks that doubled as a shattered mirror, and a few booths had mirrors that looked as if they were covered with raindrops.
The most popular mirror piece at the event that had everyone stopping, staring, and snapping, was part of the de la Cruz Projects booth from Escazu, Costa Rica. Creative Director Veronique de la Cruz told us how "every single person that's been looking at this piece has taken a picture looking at themselves." The giant structure was done by artist Alejandro Guzman from Puerto Rico, who, as de la Cruz says, "uses all sorts of different objects and likes to show performances through the objects."
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"Mendacity" is the title of the piece, and de la Cruz interpreted people's gawking as performance: "it's like a reflection of yourself or what's around you...so it's like a performance because people play around and make faces and they take pictures."
The UNTITLED tent will be open to the public starting Wednesday, December 4 through Saturday, December 7, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and ends Sunday, December 8, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is $25. Visit art-untitled.com.
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