Houses Proud


Left: CIFO's Ella Cisneros. Right: Artist Doug Aitken with curators Thelma Golden and Nicholas Baume. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)

The upside of my early night Thursday was an early start Friday. The weather was perfect—I guess it always is in Miami—but the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, my first stop, was awfully good too. Celebrating new digs on North Miami Avenue, the foundation opened a pair of shows: “Indeterminate States,” curated by Michael Rush and devoted to video, and “Beyond Delirious,” organized by Christopher Phillips and featuring photographs of architecture. This was sophisticated programming (everyone from Thomas Struth to Kutlug Ataman), and the work was intelligently installed. We departed in an upbeat mood.

Lunch was next, my destination the North Bay Drive manse of Aaron Fleischman and Lin Lougheed, who hosted three such gatherings for fair week. Where was our Miami beast, let alone its belly? Here we discovered only Miami virtue. Sophistication reigned in a light-drenched, terrazzo-floored confection tricked out with the help of Albert Hadley, the doyenne of “bachelor” pad decorating. Casa Fleischman manages to be everything that Miami should be but rarely is. It was so Miami in fact that everything seemed set off by scare-quotes. Start with the mosaic-lined oval entry hall crowned with a giant Venetian chandelier (original to the house), deep chocolate walls, a double staircase sweeping up to more terrazzo, more balconies, and an art collection that makes one fret about the effects of the sea air. I’ll mention only the Gustons (several, and from two periods) and a sublime early Arp that worked so well with a Judd and a vintage Braniff lounge settee that art very nearly lost the age-old battle with decorating, pulling through only on account of exceptional strength.

Guests who dined poolside included museum directors: the Whitney’s Adam Weinberg, and the Guggenheim’s Lisa Dennison (exchanging playful quips about their dual presence at lunch), Jeremy Strick from MoCA, Anne d’Harnoncourt of Philadelphia and her new curator Carlos Basualdo, folks from the Fogg, and a bunch of nonmuseum people too, including New York dealer Barbara Gladstone and the collecting Sandlers from LA. Fleischman is so irrepressibly enthusiastic (about everything) that it is all he can do to make himself stick around to hear the answers to the thirteen questions he just asked you, especially when he is needed to shoo one guest out of the best sight lines on a painting to make sure it was fully appreciated by the next. Lougheed is all laconic ballast. I heard him say “chill” more than once. Everyone did, eventually. Even Aaron.

Left: Naomi Fisher and Rivington Arms artist Hanna Liden at Visionaire's Taste party. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: The Guggenheim's Lisa Dennison at the announcement party for the 2006 Hugo Boss prize. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)

NADA next. I caught up with a colleague who had been through the second fair once, and he obliged me with a just-the-high-points tour. At Elizabeth Dee, I laughed hard at a video by Stanya Kahn and Harriet “Harry” Dodge called Whacker (as in weed whacker), in which a zaftig chick in heels and shades takes down a vacant lot of weeds on an LA hillside, periodically pausing to remove a strand of hair from her mouth. The line between a really Dada Saturday Night Live skit and great art can be a fine one. I’ll leave the judgment to posterity.

David Kordansky, a Chinatown (LA) favorite, was so dazed by his sold-out success that he kept repeating the fact of his good fortune, as if he needed to convince himself. At one point he paused, reaching for the word “problematic” to qualify his success but his delicacy must have rung a little false even to him because he went right back to the they-bought-eveything mantra. A little later, I stumbled on my personal fair highlight: A great photograph (not digitally manipulated) by Una Szeemann, daughter of famed curator Harold, featuring bearded sage Lawrence Weiner doing a pair of naked playmates from behind, while inflatable lovelies strewn everywhere bore witness to the Conceptualist’s rampaging. I laughed all the way to the Kaikai Kiki booth.

Left: Artist Takashi Murakami. Right: Detail of a production still from Una Szeemann's Montewood/Hollyverit, 2003. (Courtesy HaswellEdiger Gallery)

Takashi Murakami was personally supervising his factory manned by laborers in aprons at work on a suite of canvases surrounding a display case of sushi. Introduced by his Kaikai Kiki executive director, Gen Watanabe, I thanked the artist for a contribution to a publication with which I am affiliated. He said, “No, no, not me.” My colleague thought to try his luck with a more recent tidbit from the artist. Same response. When he nervously produced the issue as evidence, the artist took the magazine from him, read his own words, and said, “Ah yes, this is true.”

What to do on the final day? Well, the “Art loves perfectly-vile boutique hotels” panel, hosted by Hans Ulrich Obrist (with special guest Alain Robbe-Grillet) sounds inviting. Co-sponsored by Lockheed (hey what’s wrong with corporate sponsorship?) and Lucian Pellat-Finet, at least the hors d’oeuvres are bound be top notch. On second thought: Didn’t someone offer a boat ride?

En route to the marina, I decided to swing by the Rubell collection, as I heard their great Cady Noland installation was on view this time. Admiring the collecting clan’s entrepreneurial prowess as I passed through not one but several gift shops plus a caf, and took in an ad for the Susan Gale Group (“The collector’s choice for luxury real estate”) on the back of the exhibition floor plan, I can also report to being artistically edified at a show of new art from Poland, to gobbling up the Guyton/Walker paint-can primer, to Noland’s beer-can main event, to stopping dead in my tracks before her 1989, um, masterpiece? Sixteen years later, the work does not disappoint.

By the way, the boat ride wasn’t bad either—that is if you like Mediterranean fantasy mansions twinkling in the twilight, warm breezes, and good company. I could get to like this town.

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