Trump, pol­i­tics on the mind at Art Basel Mi­ami Beach

Kuwait Times - - WEEKENDER -

Pol­i­tics and art have of­ten gone hand in hand. At the Art Basel Mi­ami Beach fair, the big­gest and most an­tic­i­pated of the year in North Amer­ica, ex­hibitors cer­tainly have Don­ald Trump on their minds. Sev­eral artists show­ing at the event, which opened Thurs­day, have taken on the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent-elect, his tough stance on im­mi­gra­tion and even the white su­prem­a­cists who sup­port him-back­ing he has nev­er­the­less dis­avowed. “We are in a mo­ment now of great po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion and so­cial change in Amer­ica, and a num­ber of works that have been cre­ated re­spond to that,” said the fair’s di­rec­tor Noah Horowitz.

Amer­i­can artist Sam Du­rant has done two works that take on trou­bled race re­la­tions in the United States. One is a large red back­lit sign with words in black vinyl let­ters that reads “End White Supremacy.” The other, also back­lit red with black let­ters, hangs be­hind a graf­fiti-cov­ered ce­ment brick wall-a ref­er­ence to the wall with Mex­ico that Trump has vowed to raise-and a stretch of sand.

“Land­scape art is good only when it shows the op­pres­sor hang­ing from a tree by his mother neck.” Rirkrit Ti­ra­vanija, an artist from Thai­land who lives in New York, is ex­hibit­ing a three-panel tryp­tic fea­tur­ing news­pa­per pages with big head­lines like “Trump Tri­umphs.” Over­laid on top, in bold red let­ters on one panel are the words: “The tyranny of com­mon sense has reached its fi­nal stage.” Mex­i­can artist Pedro Reyes makes his un­ease known through a wooden sculp­ture in­spired by the Statue of Lib­erty, but with trac­tortype treads at its base. The ti­tle? “Lady Lib­erty (as a Tro­jan Horse).”

In to­tal, 269 gal­leries will dis­play the work of artists from 29 coun­tries through Sun­day at Art Basel Mi­ami Beach, the US edition of an event that orig­i­nated in Switzer­land and has grown in pop­u­lar­ity over the past 15 years. The artists whose works are on dis­play range from mas­ters such as Spain’s Pablo Pi­casso and Joan Miro to lesser­known new­com­ers.

Sun, fun and cul­ture

Fears that crowds might skip this year’s event out of fear of be­ing bit­ten by a mos­quito car­ry­ing the Zika virus seem to have sub­sided. Zika-car­ry­ing mos­qui­tos showed up in Mi­ami Beach in Septem­ber, but seemed to have been erad­i­cated af­ter ag­gres­sive aerial spray­ing. “We faced our chal­lenges, we dealt with Zika, but we hope the en­tire [travel] ad­vi­sory will go away in a cou­ple of weeks,” Mi­ami Beach Mayor Philip Levine told re­porters.

Art Basel Mi­ami Beach head Nor­man Bra­man said he was happy with how the event has evolved since it be­gan in 2002, and said that its growth in pop­u­lar­ity has led to Mi­ami’s grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion as a des­ti­na­tion for art. “An en­tirely new area, called Wyn­wood, evolved,” said Bra­man, a ref­er­ence to an area north of Mi­ami. “Now there are 60 art gal­leries there.” All of Mi­ami, in­clud­ing Lit­tle Haiti, “have ben­e­fited from the pres­ence of Art Basel,” Bra­man said.

Mer­chants and gallery own­ers say the an­nual fair has been an engine of cul­tural ren­o­va­tion in Mi­ami Beach, which was pre­vi­ously known mainly for its beaches and wild Spring Break par­ties. “We are the sun and fun cap­i­tal,” said Levine. “But it’s bet­ter to be the sun, fun and cul­tural cap­i­tal of the world.” Sev­eral street fairs are be­ing held to co­in­cide with Art Basel, while lo­cal mu­se­ums put on their best ex­hi­bi­tions in an at­tempt to get the at­ten­tion of art col­lec­tors and gallery own­ers flock­ing to the city. Last year, 77,000 vis­i­tors came to Mi­ami for Art Basel ex­hibits. Fig­ures for the 2016 edition will be re­leased at the end of the event.

— AP/AFP pho­tos

Views of art­works dur­ing the Art Basel Mi­ami Beach Vernissage at the Mi­ami Beach Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Mi­ami Beach, Florida.

— AP/AFP pho­tos

Views of art­works dur­ing the Art Basel Mi­ami Beach Vernissage at the Mi­ami Beach Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Mi­ami Beach, Florida.

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