There's nothing like a jaunt to Miami to revivify
sun-starved Stumptowners. Happily, the third annual Art Basel
Miami Beach (Dec. 2-5) afforded a cadre of Portland's art
trendsetters the opportunity to do just that.
With temperatures in the 80s, an A-list
conglamoration of 175 art galleries from around the
world descended on the Miami Beach Convention Center, offering
a dizzying array of art. Works by Hofmann, Dubuffet, Basquiat,
Rosenquist and Haring hung alongside more recent stunners:
Peter Zimmerman's colorfully layered lacquer, Peter Halley's
journey into the brain of a computer circuit, and perhaps the
fair's iconic piece--a sculptural self-portrait by the amazing
Liza Lou. Nude, contorted in an anatomy-defying yoga pose, her
feet wrapped around her head and her tongue sticking out as if
to say, "Look what I can do," Lou's sculpture was covered in
silver beads, with a single, strategically placed rhinestone
as her clitoris. The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art
devoured the piece for a cool quarter-million. "Within a year,
it'll be worth a million five," predicted a passerby.
Among the throngs of chic-to-cheekers at the fair were
Portland Art Museum bigwigs John and Lucy Buchanan and Bruce
Guenther, along with gallery doyenne Elizabeth Leach, each
assessing the offerings.
Former Disjecta curator Paul Middendorf brought the latest
incarnation of his ongoing Manifest Artistry project to
Miami. This time, he paired up with New York artist Mary
Mattingly to build a 10-by-10-foot life raft, stuffed with
works by artists such as Portlanders Chandra Bocci, Sam Gould,
Bruce Conkle, David Eckard, Dina Noto and others. "We built it
as a Cuban lifeboat," the sunburned Middendorf told me at a
Design District street party, "because we saw ties between
Cubans fleeing Castro and a lot of the artists in this country
who'd like to flee Bush." Middendorf said this, quite
convincingly, while wearing a red, white and blue Speedo.
The lifeboat caught the attention of New York dealer Ethan
Cohen, who invited the Manifest team to re-install the
boat atop his art-filled Winnebago. Middendorf and Mattingly
obliged, and the raft sailed again at a Bacardi-fueled affair
called "Park Your Art."
Meanwhile, Portland painter Eugenia Pardue made the rounds,
checking out other artists' work and networking with the aid
of a colorful brochure of her own. Portland multimedia artist
Troy Briggs brought along his portfolio of recent drawings,
which present stump-legged women in an oddly affecting attempt
to deconstruct the essence of femininity. Gallery 500
impresario Justin Oswald scoped out nearby Scope (the
hotel-fair big brother of Portland's recent AFFAIR @ Jupiter
Hotel) and NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) for acquisitions,
including a subdued yet colorful painting by Seattle artist
Jaq Chartier. Also making an appearance at NADA was the art of
Pulliam Deffenbaugh wonder boy Tim Bavington. And a new
Portland player, collector-curator Marjorie Weston Myers, held
court with her friend, art maven Marcia May, and with photog
phenoms Carlos and Jason Sanchez, whom she sweet-talked into a
March show at Oswald's gallery.
Several among the group found their way to the warehouse
holding the beyond-impressive Marguilies Collection, where
Tony Oursler's weirdly seductive projections sent the freak
factor into overdrive. Giles Barbier's wax-figure gallery took
the cake, though. With a dingy nursing home for doting
superheroes as its conceit, the installation cast a sagging
Catwoman in old-lady slippers, Wonder Woman with varicose
veins, and the Incredible Hulk, his hair in a green comb-over,
parked in a wheelchair, watching Christian TV. Sad.
As the sun sank over South Beach, the nights unfurled with
dozens of parties. Poolside at the Delano, Oswald ordered a
magnum of Veuve Clicquot for his Miami posse. Pardue belted
out Blondie's "The Tide Is High" at a dive karaoke bar at 3:30
am, while Briggs promenaded along neon-lit Ocean Drive.
Middendorf wound up in a hot tub in the Design District and
missed his 5 am return flight to Portland.
A gaggle of uninhibited Northwesterners skinny-dipped in
the pool of the Marseilles Hotel, finally collapsing in their
rooms at 7 am and, we are told, sleeping through their
scheduled appointment with art collector Jason Rubell. The
next night, over on the Ritz-Carlton's stretch of strand, the
revelers converged on harem tents, where, to the shimmerings
of woozy techno, topless bartenders body-painted as mermaids
Inevitably, the weekend came to an end, and the travelers
returned to their mossy hometown--perhaps bringing with them
enough residual Miami caliente to raise Portland's
temperature a few desperately needed degrees.
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