Art Basel Miami Beach, 2010: Two Coats of Paint

Article excerpt

THERE IS A SAYING IN MIAMI THAT EVERYONE SHOULD LIVE IN Miami Beach once. It is in that spirit that I moved there a little more than a week before Art Basel 41. Basel Miami, as it is locally known, is the largest and most prominent art fair in the Americas. It is set against flourishing hotels, economically neglected buildings and the occasional forgotten hurricane-ravaged shell. Despite this, there is no question that it is where the party is.

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My concern is material but to write an essay on the presence of ceramics at Art Basel, or any art fair for that matter, seems naive to me. I broadened my scope to include earthen materials, because I think that if ceramics is to expand its field it is important to the discourse to include the Earth and our processing of raw resources beyond the social significance of a select but devoted community, by acknowledging the challenges we face in the effort to control our environment beyond any isolated objet d'art.

Something that struck me as odd is that hidden within the commercial fair was a discussion series titled "Art Basel Conversations Forum". The panel "Museums in the Digital Age" was focused on, quite obviously, technology. The most important idea that I took away from this discussion was that technology, as a force, was not something to behold but, rather, a collective manifestation of 'us'. It has always seemed to me that artists, dealers, collectors and critics who identify with a ceramic specific discourse are often concerned with maintaining an enforcer attitude with technology as opposed to the latter. 'Technology' is more interesting as a cultural attitude than as a substance to manipulate but this tends to run counter to the material sensibilities felt in the presence of earthen or earth-made objects.

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It is in this spirit that Art Basel represents a kind of cultural network. There is an obvious absence of a singular authority, save maybe the selection of the galleries themselves, giving way to the preference of preference. …