Monday, January 24, 2011

Like kites . . . a sense of freedom

“I think they’re stunning”, a woman pushing her own wheelchair.

“The most different thing I’ve seen.” (an artist who lives in Israel, who suggests as a venue for Lotus, TZFAT, the Center of Kaballah art in Tel Aviv).

“Just beautiful”.

“How fun!”

A dad on stroller duty pushes an empty baby carriage in front of him. Later they return: Tom and Crystal and baby Zuri.

“It’s great to see something new.” This the man who created the art collection for GE Headquarters in Fairfield, Conn. years ago.

“Dreamy, soft.


“So fresh”.

“They make me smile.”

“An honestly artistic Christo .. instead of just drapes!”

“I’m blown away.”

“Like kites .. it gives me a sense of freedom.”

“Who would have ever thought? Unbelievable!”

“Love the turquoise!”

Eight thousand people came through the doors at the fair.

And at the end of the day, exhibitors and artists piled into a bus for a cocktail party.

We danced. We met Sergio, a larger than life Miami artist well respected and exhibited, a man with open arms and a mission: the first Miami Biennial to open in November, 2011.

He talks of ‘monster’ artists and ‘monster’ curators, and has opened the doors to Jorge Gutierrez, director of Miami Dade College art museums, who is curating the show. Sergio would like to see Gord Halloran curate Canadian artists to participate. With one gesture, brought us into his family of artists. Okay we’d each had a cocktail, everyone danced, the bus ride home was perhaps a bit boisterous but we felt embraced.

So the next day, I stole a break and found myself at the bar talking to Danilo Gonzalez, admitting I’d fantasy bonded with Miami, the international city. He warned me, “Don’t move here based on party time – make sure it works for you.” We’ll be back in November. Today we met directors of museums, directors of Public Art at museums, parents, with children in tow, encouraging the artist in each little heart. Today Gord installed three paintings in the homes of local collectors.

The man who developed and patented "continuous extrusion" method of making poly styrene, David Willette, now from Naples, FL, commented on the medium of LOTUS, polyethylene foam “very durable, floats, doesn’t absorb water”.

Then, at dinner I spotted someone from the distant past - 25 years ago, Chicago when Open Outcry trading was at its heyday.

John Bolero and his family, close friends of Rob Moore, (who commissioned the largest group portrait of traders in action during their trading day, in the early eighties at The Chicago Board of Trade). Gord created the paintings, and drawings which are now visual, historical documents of a day gone by. (

Glad to see us, we loved the happy coincidence.

Friday, January 21, 2011

After MIAF, Art Palm Beach

Summer in January. A day or two in between. Goodbye Miami South Beach, hello another day on the warm water, toes in the white sand.

The Convention Center in Palm Beach is magnificent.

I’ve so far been unsuccessful in discovering the difference between the kind of art exhibited at the Miami International Art Fair

and what they show at Art Palm Beach.

Setting up his booth next to the Jaguar, Frank Hyder shed a light. “Objects,” he said simply, decisively. “Oh! Sculpture!” I replied. “No. Objects. They like objects here.”

And then Ken, a dealer with a huge glass collection, gorgeous stuff, said, “Here people have sprawling homes on waterfront, lots of windows and they want something for the table in front of the view.”

Suddenly I saw it.
There were more people here on opening, tanned and dressed to the comfortable, balmy, Palm Beach nines than I’ve seen almost anywhere.

And sure enough a woman became agitated when viewing the turquoise lotus, asking her husband “Honey, wouldn’t this turquoise look wonderful in the living room on the wall next to the window?”

Marie Antoinette, aka Lucinda Linderman of graced our booth with her noble costume, a completely recycled version of our excesses.

George “Mr. Glitter”, as I call him, from Miami Tourism and I compared and admired all things sparkle. He’s going to be key, in helping us come to Miami.

Snow birds from the East Hamptons, from Boston, from New York, Atlanta, Colorado and elsewhere, exclaimed over the paintings, and I wrote down some of their comments here.

“ I think they’re stunning.”

“The most different thing I’ve seen.”

“Just beautiful.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The moment we occupy

“This is one of the most interesting exhibits we’ve seen,” Julia said shyly, and her partner, Lodovic admitted after spending a half hour talking about it. They were students, too young to be buyers.

A club of photographers ( buzzed around the paintings like a hive of bees, clicking away, excited about their discovery. Ironically, one of their photographers has an ephemeral photo business called

As usual, the press was curious.

Saturday evening, as we were leaving out the back door, several artists from the Paris booth left with wrapped artwork, elated: they had sold their pieces.

We strolled with Aldo on Lincoln Avenue, shared three plates at a restaurant over discussion about the business of art.

Aldo Castillo, this year’s curator who has elevated this fair to a contemporary mix of exciting work from all over the world, lives his life on the relationships he nurtures doing what he loves. Although invited to continue with MIAF, he needs an independent 'life of his own’, and will curate & produce an art fair in Shanghai, probably in September.

We talked into the night:

Public art, and especially ephemeral art – what can it mean, how can it function in the context of an art fair, where it’s all about the sale of one piece of art at a time?

Organizers bring this instant art gallery to Miami, hoping to spend much less than they take in. Here’s Lee Ann Lester, the queen of MIAF and seven other art fairs. She runs a tight ship.

Artists and galleries pay the Lesters a hefty fee, all speculation, hoping to make enough sales, piece by piece, to overcome their expenses and earn their living.

Vendors hope that hungry fair goers will have no problem shelling out $4 for a cup of coffee or $14 for a skinny glass of cheap champagne. The conference center must make their take on every necessary thing: lighting, electricity, internet, (internet, which in the rest of Miami, is free). Collectors want something of a very specific size for their very specific walls – or – the next trendy artist whose work will climb in value to satisfy their need for a good investment. From this standpoint, it's really all about the money.

Artists are looking for inspiration, and for a clue as to what sells. Here's Mike Hine, one of the many who stopped by the exhibit, asking questions, looking closely, talking about their work, context, passion. His work can be seen at

The public – families, retired couples, young entrepreneurs and people who prop themselves up with more ordinary pursuits, seem to be looking for a cultural fix for their admission fee, or simply to be part of the discussion. Children play.

Diane Landry, a woman from Montreal, wants to bring Paintings Below Zero there. An architect is interested in using an installation of the Halloran's work to revitalize a heritage building. The youth, just want to look cool.

By Sunday, Gord had changed the exhibit three times. His work is constantly in motion, and this was no different.

There were those who in loud, discovery voices couldn't stop themselves, “These are great! Beautiful!” Another man walked up to them, exhalting. “This is it! I’ve been looking for five years for something for my beach house! This is what I want!” A trader, he is used to making unhesitating decisions, he trusts his visceral response. He saw their fragility. So we talked about framing, about expoy to seal the paintings, about Plexiglas boxes to encase the work, make it . . . more substantial? More permanent? Less ephemeral.

One woman said bluntly, "I am a collector. Tell me how I can buy these. I love the ephemeral connection, especially the sorrow of loss." And yet . . I cannot be sure she understood the artist's creation of a fragile piece which must be treasured, like the moment, not owned and boxed and stacked to create a sense of The Permanent. To own one of these pieces is to be seduced into the present, to participate in an experience of awareness of the ephemeral; the risk is loss, but this is what we are all made of. Rauschenberg, too, created pieces with miscellaneous bits hanging, even falling off. Everything is always changing.

But those who understand the meditation, even those who just like the look of them fresh and blowing in the breeze, say, “NO! Just like they are!” Joy, surprise, recognition – passion. We met professional tennis players, a woman who worked on Christo's exhibit, a writer of 17 children's books, who teaches parents of young children about how to nurture an interest in art. She's got an early blog at Elena Mulcahy, who works with the beautiful Spirit of Korea, visited daily wearing the creations of her client.

It was great to see their faces, one viewer at a time. And they were from .. everywhere: Belarus, Morocco, Turkey, Italy, Argentina, Columbia, France, New York, Philadelphia, Delaware, Georgia, Serbia, Russia, Canada.

We discussed the trajectory of the work. The ice, the colors, the links between this and Paintings Below Zero.

Public art means lack of ownership and a collective experience in something that has a known end date. At MIAF, an environment where everyone contributes to the illusion of ownership, of ‘permanent’, we meditate on the moment we occupy while ice melts, while wind and waves ruffle the edges of the lotus on the water.

Kelly, the beautiful youth in the service of the paintings across the hall, had to leave.

This just before the sound of fork lifts, hammers pounding, the high pitched whine of screw guns at 7:01 on Monday night. We were all in decline, backstage after showtime. Four days had just slipped through our fingers like sand.