New York Finds Its Edge in Miami

By Francesca Gavin

Artistic innovation has arguably become harder for New Yorkers struggling against the financial wall of gentrification. Yet during the flurry of fairs in Miami this month, it was New York galleries, project spaces, and collectives who proved themselves to be the most inventive and experimental elements of the week.

A perfect example is Know More Games, an artist-run space from the “Donut District” in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, who exhibited in the Projects section of NADA. “We want to foster those who are emerging while also creating exhibitions that challenge a supposed context that other established artists find themselves in,” KMG’s founders Jacques Louis Vidal, Miles Huston, and Brian Faucette point out. The central piece of their stand at NADA was an installation by Joe Graham-Felsen titled To sit or stand, To eat or speak (2013), consisting of a metal frame balancing bowls of dates and olives that obstructed anyone from entering the booth at all. The structure and limits of the space became a work in itself.

Outside of the fair, Know More Games staged a 50-person exhibition in an abandoned night club in North Miami called Euforia. “NPR BAR” was a grimy, makeshift show that would not be out of place in Berlin. Highlights included a painting of a reception wall mural at the entrance by Michael E. Smith Chippewa CF mural (2013) and a performance of remote control helicopters by Rafael Lyons. The show aimed to question how work is seen and consumed at fairs. “It is nearly impossible to do anything in a booth above from being a glorified candy store,” KMG observe.

Red Hook project space The Still House Group also curated an exhibition in Miami entitled “Straight II DVD”, with artists including Phoebe Colling-James and Peter Sutherland. Their booth at NADA consisted solely of a photocopier machine that printed out invitations to the show. The aim was “to give viewers a more considered, spacious and curated viewing experience. The fairs can be overwhelming, and we sought to provide an alternative.” There was a touch of arrogance about their approach but the result definitely felt fresh in a fair setting.

Other New York spaces were more classic in their stands but equally inventive in attitude. COPE CYBULSKI is run by two New York-based curators doing exhibitions in unconventional spaces across the city. Their solo presentation of Ben Sansbury’s neo-modernist sculptures at NADA sold out in 45 minutes. Proof that New York’s edge has concrete results.

British artist Matthew Stone, represented by The Hole, came to Miami with his new collective of NYC artists and performers, who co-created a “hybrid-opera” at The Shore Club in Miami. The group, named after their performance Love Focused Like a Laser, included vocalist of the moment Kelela, music producer L-Vis 1990, and performance artist Andre J. “I love learning from people,” Stone explains. “Like most people in the world I simply can’t achieve what I do without relying on others in many ways. I see the only positive future for humanity being based on cooperation instead of competition.” Their nighttime musical performance by the pool, if perhaps haphazard, was a genuine attempt to refocus attention to art, rather than just the hedonism and fashion that Miami has been criticized for.

It is interesting that Miami provided the context for New Yorkers to shine. Perhaps it is a reflection of the multiculturalism of the city, the heat, the hedonism, the corruption, the lawlessness, the empty real estate, but Florida took its hat off to the Yankees for a week.

Revisit the Miami fairs on Artsy.