Monday, May 14, 2012

South Beach, Miami, January 2011

WEDNESDAY MIAF, Day One. Balmy, a Mediterranean feel. Clusters of art deco hotels with neon signs and peeling paint daily witness the Florida sun. A windy day, unexpected, gulls chase each other on the draft; Miami is all romance, grunge, and a plethora of smells: pungent, fried, smoky, ripe, rotten, perfume. 99 percent humidity yesterday, how can that be? With clear skies, turquoise waters and a population unfettered by the need for work. Beach ‘bums’, volleyball players and dog walkers in balmy warmth, shorts, shirt sleeves and sandals. Beautiful dreads and dark tattoos, buff bare chests, upscale scruff, and never far, the homeless. Palm fronds crash at our feet as we walk the 25 minutes to Miami Convention Center up Washington Street, where residents travel on the 25 cent South Beach Local bus up and down the strip. It’s set-up day inside Hall D at MIAF. Wide, white spaces lit with steel zig zag bars of industrial lighting are peppered with the bleep bleep bleeping of green and yellow fork lifts as they buzz around with blonde crates full of . . . art. Artists, dressed for install carry their large canvases, some, unwrapped. The slap of boards against cement. Slouch jeans, pot bellies, green shirts pushing brooms. A red painting goes by and on each booth, a name, a number. We have been sent to the back, #500 with lots of space. In just one day, hurricane-looking drafts, threatening clouds and cool. Wind whips through huge doors at the back of the center where many still bustle. Which are the artists? Who are the guards, the gallery reps? We all wear jeans, the women: boots and jewelry. Gord and I wait on the delivery of the Lotus crate. Colleen is an angel at the office. Frank Hyder and his crew, very helpful, and I love his paintings! Aldo introduces us to a trendy, attractive, charismatic, tanned agent who walks and talks decisively. She is nothing if not cool, in an international way. I eye her outfit, wondering if I’ve packed enough for the Miami sophistication; as I puzzle on what exactly, that is. The crate arrives, full of the Lotus paintings. Two Korean artists walk across the cement floor to their booth, arms loaded with artwork. “Are they all beautiful?” Gord asks, humbled by the graceful beauty of Hyung Joo and Elln Sil. I meet a student, Austin Paul, who carries his artwork to a booth called Miami Dade Art Gallery. We're all excited. Aldo, who knows everybody, everybody; Aldo who invited Gord to do an installation of Paintings Below Zero here, tells us how the press is clamoring for Ice In Miami!. He is smiling because he is truly a master of diplomacy; but meanwhile no one from the press has asked the artist a single thing. Then Aldo says we must pay for our own spot lights, if we want them. Gord begins to lay out the Lotus installation on the floor. Who said ‘art is what you can get away with’? Somebody famous and well-respected. Driving to meet Berndt Lausberg today, the taxi stops at an intersection. A white, middle class-looking man holds up a sign. “I lost my job, 2 children to feed.” Miami retrograde things: 1. High heel fashion 2. 18% tip on top of dinner & tax. 3. Cigarette smoking 4. Cell phones. (I saw a police man holding the phone while driving!) Also mannequins in t-shirt shops have size C cups. At the end of the day, we were still creating our installation but finally quit. At the restaurant, a woman danced as we heard German, Spanish and Italian spoken around us. This is truly an international city!

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