After waking up at 5 am to catch my shuttle (that’s 2 am for my not-yet acclimated west coast body), I first needed to zone out, nap heavily, eat my bagel sandwich and drink my free airplane ginger ale before I remembered that I hadn’t posted yesterday. I tried last night, but the internet at the hotel kept throwing me off and my feet were too damaged from three days of endless pavement pounding for me to even consider walking down to the internet café a bock away. Speaking of which, I am doing the unthinkable right now: wearing slipper socks and flip flops on the airplane. Not only do I generally reserve the tacky sock and flip-flop combo for the sidewalk in front of the house, but I also have a strict rule about wearing sensible shoes on airplanes; in case we should ever go down, I don’t want to be caught barefoot in the jungle. But this morning, my pinkie toes were so blistered and swollen (truthfully, I think I am going to lose at least one toenail), that I couldn’t even consider putting my feet in shoes.

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Proof at least that I didn’t spend all my time in that glorious ocean. I think the worst of the damage happened the night I went to Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller reception at the Miami Art Museum – in an effort to save a few bucks, I hoofed it 13 blocks or so to the convention center to catch the shuttle in my little black dress and my mom’s Ferragamo shoes on my already swollen and fatigued feet. What can I say, dollars saved on cab fare meant more money to spend on brunch the next day. I thought I brought reasonably comfortable shoes, but clearly the situation was more extreme than I ever imagined.

Beyond the two days spent drifting about the main event, Art Basel, there were 22 other fairs to squeeze in, if in fact that’s what you wanted to do. Twenty- two. So, basically there was enough art to gorge on even for the most ravenous art appreciator. However, it quickly became clear that the fairs are not so much about appreciating art as they are about buying art; as I read in Smithsonian Magazine, Art Basel and its associated art fairs is an “art Costco for billionaires” and this is no exaggeration. Art was flying off the shelves, even the gallerists who took the risk of actually making a focused statement with their temporary gallery spaces in lieu of showing a miscellaneous mix of sellable work, did well. Take John Connolly Presents for instance, who brought a wall work by ? which was specifically created for the shipping container gallery on the beach. The work went from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, made of panels of vertical or horizontal foam strips of color and texture. The colors were blazing and well accented by the opposite facing mirror-paneled wall; that piece sold for $100,000 on opening night. The containers on the beach were not even considered a separate fair, but an adjunct category of the main fair.

My last day of art viewing was the most satisfying, mainly perhaps because, while we traveled from fair to fair in groups, I saw the work on my own. Don’t get me wrong, the women (the artists) I stayed with were awesome: they were great company, they got me into every event free, and they networked me like crazy to every artist, gallerist, writer, and collector we met, but traveling in groups and tending to everybody’s non-synchronized needs tends to be a slow ordeal.  Although, in retrospect, without my running shoes, I don’t know if I could have fit in any more art than we did.

Yesterday, we hit the aforementioned containers on the beach, PULSE, and SCOPE. I’m not quite sure how a gallery decides to be in one fair or another. In discussions with other artists, we’ve surmised it goes something like this: a gallery applies to several fairs with booth rates within budget (Art Basel itself is enormously expensive), once approved, the gallerist will juggle booth location and fair visibility to the gallery’s best advantage. What happens is that although many of the fairs have popped up in reaction or as an alternative to the blue chip expenses of Art Basel, they are really all a motley collection of work that can mostly be bought and kept in the house; that is, mostly paintings and photographs, fewer sculptures, fewer still videos and digital works, and next to no performative or installation work.

In order to keep my eyes and psyche from simply glazing over, I tended to notice pieces that created a presence or a stillness around them, especially in the crowded, boisterous noise of all the art-viewers/shoppers. I also began to search out pieces using embroidery and other craft techniques – because handwork or even machine-made “handwork” like digital embroidery seemed to be coming up all over the place. Perhaps it was just that I was getting sick already of the works using collaged pornography and all the spread butt cheeks, but the hand crafts seemed to running alongside the fashion trend of embroidered jeans and Ed Hardy baseball caps. Clearly Angelo Filomeno, represented by several galleries, is riding the embroidery wave; Five Steps for a Suicide, five panels of minimal but lacy silver embroidery on five plain linen panels caught my eye and calls for further investigation.

Another work that caught my eye was at Nicola von Senger Gallery. They had a compact robotic beast with six monstrous claws tucked up underneath it like ancient crustacean with the heft of tractor equipment. It was tethered by its thick black twisted electrical cord on top of a concrete slab, which had been especially created so that the work would not damage the convention floor. Whichever claw had the least resistance would begin drawing itself inward followed by the rest of the claws, creating a slow lumbering movement reminiscent of an overturned turtle trying to right itself. The gallerist kept saying, “It always wants to get away!” as he would turn the beast off, put on his work gloves, and huffing and puffing pull the beast back to the center of its platform.

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