Thursday, December 4, 2008

Art Basel, Day 1: The shock of the new

John Miller's The Totality of an Object (2008)

By Robyn Deits Eckersley

MIAMI BEACH -- 11:57 a.m., and the waiting crowd had already started to fidget and heckle the security guards to let them into the much-anticipated Art Basel show.

After several impatient sighs and exaggerated looks at wristwatches, the mob was granted access, herded through the entryway like cattle.

My excitement was subdued by a lingering fear of disappointment, as I observed a booth displaying the “art” of a plank of plywood leaning against the wall. I noted that there was an exhibition tag next to this wood and that it was, in fact, the “art” in that booth.

If given the choice, I would take shock and horror over just plain laziness by artists. I ventured on, hoping that the overall theme would prove to be more than apathetic art, or what seemed to be leftovers from a trip to Home Depot.

So I was in a negative frame mind when I came to the work of John Miller, represented by Patrick Painter Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif., and overheard the dealer describing the artwork and the artist’s “process” as “looking through junk.” The sarcastic voice in me chimed in: “Like an art dealer searching for the right words to sell.”

But after allowing my cynicism to quiet down so I could view the piece, I noted that Miller had created a diamond in the rough, not only using great skill to assemble the gold-leafed sculptural collage, but doing so in a pleasing composition.

When viewing art, I like to observe the surrounding environment, too, and it's often that everyday humanity turns out to be the real treasure. For instance:

* The glamorous, now frantic, dealer trying to get the artist’s installation to work (the projector was having mechanical errors);

* Viewing the animated reactions of the spectators as they come across a piece that shocks, confuses, or in some cases, disgusts them;

* An eccentric man with a massive curled beard earnestly taking notes on the art he viewed. When I asked what he was writing so eagerly in his notebook, he revealed he was looking at the art and observing a re-occurring theme, “I’m doing a penis count!”

* Photographers capturing art figures gathered at the event, without noticing that they are posed in front of a “piss painting" by British bad-boy artist Gavin Turk.

With all of the anticipation and excitement of Art Basel, one can go through a rollercoaster of emotion, but it is always important to remember to stop and enjoy the ride. Followers of the art world, whatever mindset and preconceptions they bring with them, will find a brilliant experience and insightful discoveries with all the many events that Art Basel has to offer.

The show continues through Sunday, Dec. 7.

From left: Pat Crowley of West Palm Beach; Cibeles Bello of Madrid, Spain; Leslie Ortiz of Lake Worth; and Luis Montoya of West Palm Beach, seen at the Art Basel vernissage Wednesday night.

Robyn Deits Eckersley is an art gallery manager in Cheshire, England, and writes about art. She is also the daughter of Palm Beach ArtsPaper's Katie Deits.

1 comment:

Karen Batista said...

Great article! I am personally a huge fan of Disney artwork.