Art Week 2020, Final Days

The 2020 abbreviated Art Week, a combination of live and virtual exhibits was over. Several installations, however, remained open for some time after the weeklong limits of others. Slowly, Constant Companion and I checked off must-see our list and made our way around to see them, one in Miami Beach and two in the Design District across the Bay.

No Vacancy was a juried art competition that took art to several of Miami Beach’s hotels, making them destinations for two weeks (http://www.mbartsandculture.org/no-vacancy/).

Constant Companion and I took advantage of a beautiful day to drive and walk and take in most what was offered – we chose to miss two. At some venues, signage got visitors directly to their installation, at others the art was quite hidden. We had already seen Temporary Occupancy staged by Die-Cast, a Philadelphia group (see Dec. 6 post). This live and projected performance made use of the hotel rooms at the Betsy Hotel.

The first stop of our excursion was the new Kimpton Palomar Hotel, not quite opened because of the COVID. Coral Morphologic installed a small screen with Coral City Camera in the hotel lobby. This live streaming video takes viewers under Biscayne Bay and brings its diverse marine ecosystems into our homes (http://www.coralcitycamera.com/); you can tune in anytime, it’s great. This combination of entertainment and research monitors the nearby coral communities and their inhabitants including parrotfish, barracudas, manatees and more. We wondered why was it not presented on a wall-sized screen?

Back to the car for a group of hotels. The Catalina Hotel hosted Pennsylvania artist Anna Kell’s Do Not Disturb. Her images on painted, reclaimed mattress fabric were displayed in an area overlooking the hotel lobby. In 2012, the Catalina was the site of a reality show that aimed to show the “fun” of staying and working at the place (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2292187/).  

Floral patterns of the mattress top

From the second floor of the Catalina, we got a bird’s-eye view of the mural by PunkMeTender across the street at the SLS.

Finding the entrance of the Hyatt Centric South Beach to see local artist Kerry Phillips’ Other People’s Rooms was a bit of a challenge. Constant Companion was drawn particularly to this site-specific installation. Phillips interacted with personnel and guests at the hotel in a collaboration to tell many stories.

Hers is “a collection of upside down dressers ‘propped up’ with fanciful objects and patterns; or a few clusters of upside-down hanging lamps creating large chandelier-like objects…” staged to “challenge people’s usually way of moving though a space.”

Our walk took us to the Riviera Hotel, one of the many local art deco hotels designed by architect Henry Hohauser. The hotel’s entrance was framed by local fiber artist Sterling Rock’s Other People’s Rooms, made of steel and hand-woven and painted palm fronds.

Karelle Levy’s Interknit at the nearby Plymouth Hotel, another restored art deco treasure, was quite a contrast. Her meandering, multi-colored yarn construction enveloped the hotel’s porch, creating a “world wide web” to which viewers were invited to add. While the installation was in place, Levy invited masked and socially distanced visitors to join knitting and crocheting sessions opportunities and participate in her sculpture.

A short drive took us to the Hotel Croydon for Animals and Friends, the sculptures of Federico Uribe, an artist whose work we generally enjoy. In fact, some was included in the Art Drive we took advantage of during the real Art Week (see Dec. 6 post). Several of his large and small mixed media sculptures were displayed together in a small lobby space connecting the hotel kitchen to their busy restaurant.

The human figure was constructed of pencils, a material he frequently uses, while the others were crafted from bullet shells.

Both Constant Companion and I were frankly disappointed by this “display.” Too many sculptures of different sizes filled the cramped space; the value of their artistry was lessened in this situation.

The following week, we were drawn to the nearby Design District to see the new Louis Vuitton Men’s Temporary Residency, a grouping of brightly painted shipping containers showcasing Vuitton’s upcoming menswear collection, in other words, a glorified, art-ified advertising campaign.

This installation and the fantastical crew of characters was conceptualized by Vuitton’s Men’s Artistic Director, Virgil Abloh. Abloh is a Ghanaian-American creative, architect, engineer, and fashion designer. One of his sculptures is on permanent display in the Design District. Here’s some more of what we saw! Oh, yes there were clothes!

Jeffrey Deitch is an art dealer, curator, and advisor who annually brings an exhibit of some sort or other to Art Week. This year’s edition was still open when we walked past on the way to the Vuitton extravaganza. Deitch brought together MOODZ, a collection of faces by Kenny Scharf in a spacious, one time retail space.

Kenny Scharf is well-known in the Miami art scene where he’s lived for most of the 1990s. He started as a street artist who has been spray-painting faces since 1981.

I’m sure there are quite a number of both real and virtual offerings that we chose to bypass because of the unusual circumstances this year. Constant Companion and I remain somewhat leery about too many outings from the confines of our own personal Hotel California. The COVID continues to rage and we wish to stay safe. We can only hope that next year’s Art Week will be in a safer world.

And sometimes, the people we see are art …

After both outings, Constant Companion and I compared notes, as usual, and talked about what we saw. One word that was repeated following the Vuitton adventure and the Scharf exhibit was “gimmick.”

You may have already read that my professional life was spent in various capacities in different types of museums. I realize that digital technologies are taking over many practices we honed long ago. For example, QR codes accessed with cell phones are replacing interpretive label texts.

An recently overheard discussion at work was about the local Artechhouse, at as is advertised, “At the crossroads of art, science and technology … [a] 21st century art experience,” which brings together “multimedia art exhibitions and explorations” ((https://www.miami.artechouse.com/) My much younger co-workers love this concept. Frankly, I don’t get it. I fail to see it as art. On the other hand, on one of my Korean excursions, I fell in love with the work of James Turrell (https://jamesturrell.com/) an American artist who also plays with light to create immersive environmental art. Perhaps these of these interventions are also “gimmicks.”

Nevertheless, I feel that the digital world is holding us captive. It is often the only way by which information can be accessed.

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