chrismosley

In search of Dallas at another city’s art fair

Went looking for our local art scene, and found the future instead

by CHRISTOPHER MOSLEY

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Art Basel is arguably the most globally dominant art event in our time, with a brand recognition that extends far outside the art world. And it’s expanding. In March of this year, the fair announced plans to turn into a sort of franchise, looking to christen other cities besides Hong Kong, Miami, and of course, Basel. These new satellite cities will be initially vetted before being given a sort of cultural mentorship that could last several years. While the prospect is interesting, one immediately wonders if a credibility-starved city like Dallas might be among these satellites. But does Dallas need Basel’s knighting ceremony? Especially in light of having our very own art fair opening this weekend, which one writer bravely declared is “Art Basel Miami’s cooler cousin.” Having now attended both, I’m not so sure I would go that far. While we ponder whether or not that’s true, we’re taking a look back at how difficult it was to find signs of the Dallas art scene during Art Basel’s only North American destination. At least that’s still the case for now. Here is a December 2015 report that was to be my final story for the now-defunct FD. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did researching it. — CM 


Introduction: The Last Precious Gem

There was a moment during Miami Art Week 2015 when it became apparent that Dallas and Miami are more alike than one would expect. It was somewhere in a chat with Miami curator and Florida native Jesse Firestone, who seemed like more of an inspired community activist than an emotionally distant gallery figure. Firestone was breaking down how his exhibition was supposed to be the antithesis of the allegedly gaudy Art Basel. The group show occupied the front of an abandoned pharmacy, which was a considerable stroll up North Beach, away from the main convention center and hotels that made up most of the other major events. Firestone’s show was called High-Tide and addressed two hot topics in these parts: “shady political dealings” and “sustainability.”

He explained it thusly: “This immediate area [North Beach] is one of the last undeveloped strips of Miami Beach, so there are no high rises, mega-story condos. So in that way, this area is set very much apart because it’s working class, predominantly an Argentinian community. As opposed to South Beach and Lincoln Road, which is a mall,” Firestone said. “It’s an outdoor mall with transient living.”

There was one issue with that narrative, however. Remembering a high-dollar glossy special advertising section I had come across just days before in the official Art Basel literature, I alert Firestone to the fact that Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano is due to design his first residential building, Eighty Seven Park, which will feature “70 elegant homes,” according to the flashy animated website and a sponsored ad in the Art Basel magazine that sold at Miami International Airport for $9.99. The high rise is set to open very close to the DIY-occupied space in which we are standing, in 2017.

Firestone’s face dropped. “Interesting,” he said.

“That’s right around the corner, but when I say that North Beach is undeveloped, that’s not entirely true, because if you go ten blocks up that way, you’re in Bal Harbor which is one of the most expensive areas of Miami Beach. And if you go just south you’re in Mid Beach which has the Fontainebleau and all those places,” Firestone says. “It’s not really all of North Beach. It’s really this, this strip, that was kind of the last precious gem, I guess.”

Something about Renzo Piano looming like a symbol of controversial development in another city stands in contrast to the high regard in which he is held in Dallas, due to his work on the Nasher Sculpture Center, as well as his namesake pavilion at The Kimbell (Not to mention the Whitney Museum’s new building in New York). It makes Miami seem like a bizarro Dallas. It would be as if he designed Museum Tower instead of the Nasher.

It was in search of these whiffs of Dallas that I ended up at Firestone’s DIY space, though my original aim was more practical. Considering the magniloquence regarding Dallas’ allegedly increasing profile in the art world, you couldn’t tell at this year’s in Miami. The Floridian version of this massive fair is arguably the most significant art event in the Western Hemisphere.

The reality was that in order to find the best and brightest from our local visual arts community, you had to really scour. That meant going beyond the main event at the Miami Convention Center, where there was scant evidence of the North Texas art community. There are a lot of anti-Basel naysayers, but that’s usually the sour grape farming of Instagram. Despite the discouragingly small mark the city seems to make beyond our borders, it was a pleasurable hunt.

 Arrival

One of the sole Dallasites at Basel proper was Hannah Hoffman, who runs her eponymous gallery in Los Angeles. Hoffman receives a considerable amount of attention especially for not being in New York and is the daughter of Marguerite and the late Robert Hoffman. As for Dallas, she said the following to Town & Country, concerning her city of origin: “I’m from Dallas where a new model for art philanthropy was set through the collaborative efforts of three collections a little under a decade ago.”

That “new model” would be the Fast Forward bequest which involves the Hoffman, Rachofsky and Rose families. As interesting as Hoffman’s connection to the city is, it was telling that there was not a Dallas-based gallery in the whole of Basel. Hannah Hoffman was as close as it gets, and that’s a stretch. Last December’s edition drew a record 77,000 people, but out of the 29 new galleries that had never showcased at Art Basel before, not a single Dallas gallery – or Texas gallery, for that matter – was represented at the show itself. It’s worth noting that the cost of renting a booth at Art Basel can be tens of thousands of dollars.

When I arrive, it’s a balmy Tuesday evening in Miami. The amount of Art Deco architecture is as if Fair Park exploded on a man-made island and is now dripping southward into the ocean. At the Fontainebleau hotel, another individual with strong ties to Dallas art royalty, Trinity Lewis, was working the press center for the North American Art Dealers Association (NADA). Lewis is the daughter of art philanthropist Christen Wilson. She seemed politely thrilled to run into a fellow Dallasite.

I ask her where all the Dallas galleries and artists are this year.

“Usually there’s James Cope,” she said. “But not this year.” She was referring to Cope’s participation in NADA in 2014, although later I see a professionally untethered Mr. Cope working the floor in the Fontainebleau’s blue-lit lobby.

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Mainstream outsiders

The much-maligned celebrity culture that goes hand-in-hand with Art Basel turned out to be merely quaint. Past years had seen the likes of Kanye West, and this December all we got was the occasional Lenny Kravitz sighting. A friend of a friend was a Miami native named Lauren who would confidently talk her way past door people to get our little group into a roped-off gathering at the Delano hotel. Having lived in the Northeast, Lauren was readjusting and relearning what she called her “Miami skills,” which is to merely assure the door person that you belong there with some key local details thrown in to show familiarity.  There was also a distinct lifestyle change. “It’s always ‘Let’s go to the beach.’ ‘Let’s do coke,'” she said. “Except it’s your boss.”

Once ensconced at the hotel’s Rose Bar, where every drink is at least $20, I found Dallas artist Zeke Williams, bragging about meeting with representatives from Galerie Perrotin and the Nasher Sculpture Center for a private meal.

Williams has shown up in Miami twice, in order to schmooze the way he does back home. His confidence is staggering and it’s incredible to watch him stalk a room. I ask him to summarize the major Miami Art Week events in only one word.

“NADA.” Winners.

“Basel.” Oligarchs. 

“Untitled.” The future. 

“No Commission.” Outsiders. Not outsiders, but they’re mavericks in a way.

I suggest to Williams that this art fair is thrown by “mainstream outsiders” if they are outsiders at all. No Commission is the truth-in-advertising micro fair (one of many satellite events to Planet Basel) thrown by the highly successful music producer Swizz Beatz. Beatz is married to the equally visible Alicia Keys. It takes place in Wynwood, on the mainland. Swizz Beatz offers all of the artists involved in his fair the luxury of not having to pay the typical gallery commission. High profile concerts take place at the No Commission fair each night, featuring everyone from Keys to rappers Pusha T and Fabolous.

I press Williams for why he thinks there is such a lack of Dallas artists and gallerists at this year’s Basel. “I think it’s an off-year. I bet you there were a few more galleries than got in to fairs, applied to fairs,” he says. “It’s very possible that if there was a little more money flowing around, they would have applied to different fairs and gotten in.”

Williams seems confident that the city has made a splash in the international rumor mill —commercially, at least.

“People want to know about Dallas. People in the art world know there’s money in Dallas. They hear about the Dallas Art Fair and Two x Two. They want to know more, typically. Especially the more blue chip the gallery the more they seem to have a knowledge of that.”

When I ask what blue chip galleries to which is he is referring, he demures. “I don’t know if I’m willing to say that,” he said. But he offered an insight about his lunch with the Perrotin people, explaining that while one representative didn’t know anything about the city, the other “seemed to know how Dallas’ two major holidays of Two x Two and the [Dallas] Art Fair work.”

Williams raised a bit of bafflement and jealousy in North Texas when he held a solo show at Erin Cluley Gallery where he sold a considerable amount of work last summer — surprising for an artist who didn’t exactly have the profile of other Dallas scene newsmakers. Claiming that an art critic asked him how he “sleeps at night” for taking the money of supposedly ill-informed collectors, I challenge him to defend his practice a little. His paintings are rather unsubtle, produced quickly and involve a great deal of spray paint and close-ups of fabric patterns stretched taut across the human form. There’s a leering aspect to it, of which Williams seems unashamed.

“Of course there is no accounting for taste. But, I believe they are solid compositions with great uses of color, that have a solid-enough conceptual base of being mostly about how patterns are distorted by people’s bodies as they wear clothes—particularly women, but not always,” he says. “Look at ‘em; if you don’t believe in them, I’m sorry. And if you don’t that’s fine. It’s no big deal. But I believe in them and I seem to run into a lot of people who do.”

Williams had mixed feelings on the No Commission event. “It’s all very crowd-pleasing work but at the same time it’s bringing a new crowd to art that doesn’t normally see it,” Williams said. Then he launches into something that’s become a bit of a refrain here, and which echoes a sentiment that’s built to a crescendo during a particularly volatile year in American culture. “There’s also these amazing hip-hop shows at night that Basel doesn’t normally get, because Basel is so moneyed and white.”

But Williams wasn’t showing at Basel or its satellites. Another Dallas artist, Gabriel Dawe, was. The aforementioned Swizz Beatz saw one of his installations and sent him a private message inviting him to participate in No Commission. “I didn’t know who he was, to be honest,” said Dawe. “I had to Google him.”

Dawe met musician Lenny Kravitz and NBA star Amare Stoudemire while he was at No Commission. He noted that “all the serious buyers go to NADA or Basel.” Although he wonders aloud whether or not his work was noticed, he says he would participate in No Commission again. “Swizz wants to make it a yearly thing. He said once you’re in the fair, you can always do it again.”

Swizz Beatz himself takes the stage during one of his concerts and gave a rousing speech:

“This has been a successful week so make some noise for the artist getting 100 percent. Then on top of that we have a festival/show where everyone in here didn’t have to pay one cent to be in here tonight, so make some noise for that. This is how we killing the culture; this is how we killing the culture and push the envelope.

This show is by the artist, for the artist, with the people. You understand? By the artist, for the artist, with the people. This the only thing going on in Basel, that’s doing this. All of the other shows—the galleries win, the collectors win, and the artists kind of have to find their way home. But what we’re doing in here—I said “F*ck it man. “We plan our own art fair. We plan our own concert. And the artist don’t gotta find their way home…”

Beatz’ sentiments echo a popular talking point of art scene detractors in Dallas as well. I attend the Pusha T show, a rapper whose lyrics offer some fascinating insight into the current state of selling your art. Pusha often remarks about how he doesn’t have to sell records because he makes money in other illicit ways. Although it’s posited as drug dealer myth-making, it says more about how hard it is to actually make any money off of creative endeavors in the 21st Century than it does about the economics of cocaine. It’s no longer cool to boast that you make money off of your art, because the money simply isn’t what it used to be. At least not for the artists.

Swizz Beatz closes his speech by thanking his sponsors. “We’d like to thank Bacardi for being great partners. It’s really hard for me to partner with a brand that’s not trying to pimp the artist, that’s not trying to use the artist, you understand? It’s really hard to find real authentic brands out there, they want to use the art and use it and pimp us and all the artists are broke, all the artists are struggling,” he says. “Enough of that sh*t with the struggling artist, you understand?”

“Enough with the struggling artist,” he says.

At last, an actual Dallas gallery

Liliana Bloch was the sole hometown gallery I found at Art Basel. The gallery was selected to participate in The Miami Project, which was held at the Deauville Hotel further up North Beach. It’s where NADA used to take place, meaning that its legitimate standing could potentially snowball in the same way. Attendees seem to take NADA as seriously as Art Basel.

Liliana Bloch herself has been coming to Miami Art Week since 2009. She describes it as “a celebration.” I ask why is she possibly the only Dallas gallerist represented in the major fairs. “I know for a fact that it has to be because I’m good. Because I know they make a big screen for whom they accept and whom they don’t. That’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

As for Basel, “it’s been amazing,” she said. “Amazing in the fact that the works are so wonderful that people don’t even look at the gallery where I’m from, they come directly to the work and then they look at the gallery, and then they start talking about Texas. It’s like a little domino effect.”

Bloch describes herself as “a little ambassador” and says she went to Miami partly because of the attitude prevalent in Texas concerning the arts.

“I wanted to come here because I always thought that sometimes Texas is a little conservative, or maybe not as curious. I’m not criticizing or pinpointing fingers; it’s just the way that a state that is more conservative than others is … My vision is international so this was always planned in the life of the gallery. I was always going to go abroad. And this is just out of state. I will go out of the country, too. Like I said, I’m really proud. I’m really proud of being able to talk to people about what’s happening in Texas. “

I ask if she will participate in the Dallas Art Fair itself. It seems to reason that if a self-starter like Bloch could get her gallery in The Miami Project fair, she should theoretically have no problem in Dallas. “They said that they are full,” says Bloch. “That’s what they said.”

Bloch was formerly on the Dallas Public Art Committee at the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. As for whether she could get involved with a project at the public level again, Bloch makes a distinction. “I think I’m faster than the city. And I don’t like censorship. So I don’t like anybody to tell me what to do and the beauty of art is freedom. I think we need that in Dallas,” Bloch says. “People are always afraid to offend or hurt sensibilities. But that’s super counterproductive to what art is about.”

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Luxuries behind glass

Arriving in Miami before the start of the fair allowed for some food and amenities tourism, as the hotels had yet to raise their rates to the astronomical levels expected during the actual start of the Art Basel. Great food is abundant and relatively inexpensive in Miami, since Cuban food does not tend to be a luxury item solely for the wealthy. The perfect Cuban sandwich was tucked away at the very modest Las Olas Cafe and was accompanied by a lovely slice of Key lime pie that wasn’t as unacceptably sweet as most varieties found outside of Florida. The sandwich is sliced long-ways, which made it seem like two entire dinners and perhaps I ate both. Ocha was not as touristy as the extremely popular Havana 1957, but served food with much more character and flavor.

The Catalina Hotel is in walking distance of the Miami Convention Center, and was under $100 the first night I arrived. The hotel had free mixed drinks during a happy hour from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. that was attended entirely by men on the night that I went.

Upon a recommendation from Liliana Bloch, I have dinner alone at Fifi’s, which is known for its seafood. Bloch says she is an expert in such matters, having grown up near the coast of El Salvador. A half-order of paella is huge. The enormous lobster tail mixed into the spiced rice and overly generous portions of shrimp and squid was a culinary highlight of the week.

And as a cab driver reminds me, the “ocean never closes.” It’s also free. Miami Beach offers particularly dramatic views of the sea no matter how far north or south you happen to be.

The sound of Art Basel

The only thing louder than the overloaded speakers of a Miami club are the gasps whenever full glasses of liquor clash in mid-stride, shattering below. Space is at a premium, and the dance floors of Bardot and the nearby Electric Pickle are not for the agoraphobic. Let this be a warning to all of my Netflix-addicted friends who dread crowds: Stay far away. This isn’t for you.

Art Basel Miami was very much like a South By Southwest for art, and after attending a dozen of those I feel confident in making the comparison. The difference is that music is treated more like a curiosity, a bonus for having spent the day pondering heavy subject matter while simultaneously lightening one’s pocketbook.

Few people deserve the title of legend anymore, but it’s safe to say that Georgio Moroder deserves such a designation. Moroder was playing an event hosted by the Horse Meat Disco collective, a party destination for the well-informed peacock crowd that overflowed onto a staircase. We begged a squadron of door people clutching iPads to please let us in. Eventually a couple was asked if my friend and I were part of their group. We were not. That did not stop me from insisting we were, in fact, a foursome, and slipping a twenty dollar bill into the gentleman’s hand.

At 75, Moroder has done it all. From definitive soundtrack moments (“Take my Breath Away”; “Flashdance… What a Feeling”; “The NeverEnding Story”) to being an electronic music pioneer in his work with Donna Summer, Moroder has a career that is equal parts pop culture excess and cerebral innovation.

Moroder’s set can only be a greatest-hits collection; he couldn’t go deep cut if he tried. He played a sped-up remix of “Take my Breath Away” that blasted over the chest-to-back sweatiness of the dance floor and an influx of drag queens blowing bubbles on the crowd. I didn’t even care that I didn’t hear “Baby Blue.” Two doubles set me back $78. I was fully seduced.

Later in the week, the performance artist, singer and energy drink entrepreneur QT D.J.’d a late night show that stood in contrast to past performances I’ve seen by the singular entertainer. Those all tended to be at festivals and were heavily attended. QT’s concept is a gridlocked intersection between music, art and commerce; what sounds like radio pop is mutated just enough so as to be somewhat uncomfortable to dance to, although many do. QT played in a smokey (you can still smoke in Miami bars) club that didn’t really start getting a proper crowd trickling in until after 3 a.m. The bars on the beach stay open until 5 or 6 a.m., but I discovered that you don’t necessarily want to stay there until last call.

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The future

Near the end of the trip, I felt the full deluge of what Basel can offer in a single week. Most of the work was made in the past year or two, not an insignificant fact. In order for the public to have a broader perception of what is really happening in the art world, it’s important to go beyond retrospectives and museum exhibitions. The crowds were heavy and diverse, and it’s hard to argue against such a sports-sized audience wanting to experience visual art in person. It’s especially important that perhaps some of the less fortunate attendees who are enrolled in elementary schools in less glamorous parts of Miami are exposed to this work, as well.

Recent works by Stanley Whitney were on display in the Team Gallery booth at Art Basel, an artist nearly in his 70s who just had his first solo show in New York in summer of 2015. If it took New York that long to catch on to Whitney’s work, chances are he won’t be in your town anytime soon, unfortunately. Whitney’s story flies in the face of all of the extensive criticism lobbed at the event. Whitney is a black painter who comes from a working class background in Philadelphia. The story is always much more nuanced than the detractors can piece together from lazy social media critiques. It’s a privilege to see this work in person.

Near the end of the trip is when I felt the full deluge of what Basel can offer in a single week. It occurred to me that I could hear thinkers as disparate as Bret Easton Ellis and Kate Durbin speaking their minds in the span of a few days. Ellis sat onstage at Basel proper with artist Alex Israel and discussed everything from the Manson murders to One Direction, as well as an upcoming film project on which he is collaborating with Israel. Ellis urged young writers not to “crave popularity.” Hans-Ulrich Obrist moderated the discussion and Ellis signed books after.

Writer and artist Kate Durbin, meanwhile, appeared at the X Contemporary satellite fair and talked about the third installment of her Hello Selfie project, which asked participants to wade into the Atlantic Ocean with their phones, snapping selfies for a full hour. She had done the same previously in Los Angeles and New York. Durbin, alongside new media artist Washko, who discussed the vile sexism of gaming culture and played a snippet of her Skype interview with a notorious online pickup artist, and Interview Magazine’s Rachel Small, who shed some light on the art world’s apprehension to get involved with fashion brands, offered an evening more enlightening than the past three years of art panels I had seen combined. One exception: Morehshin Allahyari, a former resident of Dallas who also spoke at Basel, has given intellectually enveloping talks at both the Dallas Museum of Art and at Dallas City Performance Hall.

While in Dallas, Allahyari’s work was shown at the Oliver Francis Gallery, the Dallas Contemporary and the Dallas Biennial. She also was an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Dallas. Since leaving Dallas, she has gained international recognition for her work in publications as diverse as Vice Magazine and Al-Jazeera. Her memories of Dallas have yet to form a rose-tinged nostalgia.

“I think the hardest thing for me with the art scene in Dallas was the level of niceness and art bubble-ness; that everyone just said a lot of nice things about each other and each other’s work. I found criticism — when [there was] any — to be personal and not constructive.”

Now based in Oakland and having grown up in Tehran, Allahyari does not view her life’s work in terms of regionalism.

“I don’t think I have ever considered myself a local artist based in one city. I find my practice to be more international and universal in a way that my location has not had a big influence on its level of production or exposure,” Allahyari says.

When she takes the stage at X Contemporary she is introduced as “The celebrated emerging Iranian artist, Morehshin Allahyari.” Her work is explained as tackling “Iran: Cultural and political taboos around the female body, and censorship in the Middle East and Iran, as well as the destruction and reconstruction of female forms and artifacts by ISIS in the last twelve months.”

Allahyari has created 3-D printed models that would theoretically fill the void left by the precious artifacts destroyed by war, but has increasingly turned her attention to how such destruction relates to women and female-focused artifacts. She complains that the tech companies in San Francisco have suggested that her work should be life-sized, but she counters that as smaller pieces — complete with inserted thumb drives containing further reading on the destroyed artifact — the work can be shipped anywhere, able to disseminate what was thought to be a lost relic across borders and into a willful sort of permanence.

This city should be proud that some of the most extreme and progressive work in Miami came from one-time Dallas residents like Allahyari. 3-D printing, virtual galleries and comandeering abandoned physical spaces have increasingly sapped the power from traditional creative hubs and have remained at the forefront of what has radically changed art over the past decade. It’s a debate that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. The fact that the arts aren’t obviously centralized any longer is exemplified in Alfredo Salazar Caro’s virtual gallery, the Digital Museum of Digital Art. I found it far north up the beach, very close to where Renzo Piano’s luxury condo will eventually sit. It was part of Satellite, an off-shoot of the Miami Project.

You have to attach an Oculus Rift headset somewhat obtrusively over your face to attend Salazar-Caro’s gallery, which he designed in collaboration with Chicago artist William Robertson. You hold a video game controller in order to explore further. You can physically turn around to see behind you and the non-linear aspect of the experience can be stomach-turning.

The museum shows the work of four different artists, and one must enter different buildings in the virtual world in order to see each exhibition. Salazar-Caro says that one of his inspirations for the museum’s virtual architecture is Tadao Ando, who designed the Fort Worth Modern. One of the Digital Museum standouts is Claudia Hart, who has been working since the 1980s. “She just turned 60,” says Salazar-Caro. “She’s pretty incredible. She’s kind of a pioneer. This is her first VR piece as well. She had a custom algorithm made so that these flowers bloom and wilt inside of the space. So the space gets filled with flowers at some point and then they all die.”

Salazar-Caro splits his time between New York City and Mexico City. He spent his high school years in Arlington, and then went to community college in Dallas. “I started college there at Brookhaven, actually, where I met a lot of really dope professors,” he says. “They definitely have a really great art program. So they were always kind of pushing me, and whenever I would do something really weird and crazy they would be like, ‘Yeah, that was great—keep doing that.’ That was a really beautiful experience.”

Dallas curator Kevin Ruben Jacobs played a key role in Salazar-Caro’s development.

“Then I met Kevin Jacobs at the Goss-Michael Foundation right as he was about to start OFG [Oliver Francis Gallery, now closed]. We had this moment where I was like, “Hey, I’m an artist” and he was like, “Hey, I’m starting a gallery” and we hit it off,” he says. “Kevin gave me my second solo show, which was really awesome and I was part of the OFG crew for a little bit while OFG was in its heyday. That was the main reason that was bringing me back to Texas. I also had a relationship with the Dallas Museum of Art. I got a couple of awards from there.”

Not all memories of Dallas were good ones, however. “It’s a difficult place to live as a Latino, as a Mexican immigrant. Living in the States, Texas tends to be one of the rougher places,” says Salazaro-Caro. “Although the art scene I feel like is eager to create and eager to invite people to do as much as possible, the population, or the social environment is, I don’t want to say super noxious, but it’s relatively noxious.”

Not being particularly drawn to virtual reality, I had yet to put on an Oculus Rift headset before that Sunday afternoon in Miami, despite the technology being around me in a professional and social environment on a near-constant basis. But after experiencing it, I realized that this was a wholly tangible experience that would be foolish to ignore further. That applied to so many moments over those six days in Florida. Noticing the stained floor of the pharmacy and seeing an a lonely DJ setup on a table nearby, I asked if they had been hosting parties at the Pharmacy after the normal visiting hours. He said that they had and that they were “crazy.” Somehow after taking hundreds of dollars worth of Ubers and walking dozens of miles around town and doing and seeing everything I possibly could, I still feel I missed out.

Back in the real world and surrounding Alfredo Salazar-Caro’s virtual reality setup, there was a fake gift shop, designed by artists about what they felt would be at a Miami Beach junk kiosk. There was an oversized box of Plan B, sewn out of cloth. A beach towel featuring Tinder profiles featuring both an American soldier looking for love and another profile featuring the Twin Towers aflame. Down an employees-only type hall, a “Satanic”-themed gallery had artwork so off-putting I was hesitant to show anyone before I boarded my flight home, lest they get the wrong idea.

The cushy, luxurious and elite Art Basel that is sold to the public is not the whole story. There was work that was progressive and boundary pushing both inside and outside of the Miami Convention Center. And whether it is acknowledged or not, some of the best of it has strong ties to Dallas. For now we will have to accept that the Hoffmans and Allahyaris and Salazar-Caros still leave the city to do work that garners international recognition, but it will be interesting to see how our own art fair expands over the decades to come. Art Basel Miami is only 14 years old, and has expanded exponentially in that time.

Upon leaving the abandoned pharmacy I ask if anything at the gift shop is for sale. The curator sitting on top of the sales desk throws up his arms and shrugs. “Who knows?,” he says. Still feeling sick from the virtual gallery and back in the graffiti-stained walls of Wynwood, a man yells at me to get off the sidewalk with my suitcase. “COME ON, MAN” he yells in my face. When I look up from my wobbly luggage wheels I see that he has an enormous python resting on top of his red convertible. It was time to go.

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This entry was published on July 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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