Taking Pulse at a Slower Pace
Post #1479 • December 22, 2012, 9:12 AM • 14 Comments
My review of the Pulse Art Fair is posted at Artcritical.
By the time I finished writing the piece it had sprawled into an overlong epic. I chopped a few hundred words and my editor chopped some more. One bit that didn't make it in was my primary-source qualification about Walter Darby Bannard's work at Daniel Weinberg Gallery and Frank Stella's protractor series.
Did Stella get the idea from him? I checked in with Darby. "I did the intersecting arc pictures from 1965 to 1967," he said, "and he started the protractors in 1967. We talked and exchanged ideas all the time back then, and he certainly saw those paintings, so he may have borrowed the idea. However, I have no taste for making claims (like the 1960s hassle over who did the first stripe) and I strongly feel that whatever influence there may have been, it is nothing more than the natural and benign process of sharing visual ideas. After all, I got plenty of ideas from him. It is the way art gets made."
So there you have it, for the record. Here's a part I cut myself:
I am a onetime Miami resident, and consequently saw the first five iterations of Art Basel Miami Beach. I watched the satellite fairs grow in number from a handful to two dozen or more. And of all the serious coverage devoted to the fairs over the decade since their first arrival in Miami Beach, I've never yet seen the obvious asserted about them: they're meaningless.
I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. A tree is meaningless. It's just living out its beautiful existence as a tree. A fair manifests at the same level of existential tautology. If you're looking for some larger theme at Pulse, Aqua, Scope, Burst, or any of the other fairs whose one-word names wouldn't look out of place on a tube of toothpaste, you ought to look directly at the stylish fairgoers, the frenzied gallerinas, the flawless Miami weather, and the selection of art that came to the fair individually according to someone's program, but in aggregate, at random. The larger meaning is not greater than the mechanics of the event itself.
Thus I've been saying for years that sending an art critic to an art fair is like sending a food critic to a supermarket, leaving the writer to claw a theme or a story angle or something from a non-narrative in which product appears because of the possibility that someone may want to buy it.
And yet every year I pitch fair coverage to some editor. Say what you will about them, the fairs are fun and the weather in Miami in December is the envy of most of the Northern Hemsiphere.