Man is by nature a social animal…Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.
— Aristotle, Politics
Those of us who fall into the middling range of mere mortals may especially enjoy this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach Art Public sector, with works chosen especially to reflect the exhibition’s theme of “Social Animals.”
Nicholas Baume, director and chief curator of New York’s Public Art Fund, selected two dozen works that play on the collective and social nature of a public park. The artists invited to show at Collins Park this year range from emerging to emeritus. There’s even a posthumous display by Charlotte Posenenske, a German artist known for her minimalist works — particularly her steel sculptures resembling ventilation parts. Gallerists Mehdi Chouakri and Peter Freeman are teaming up to recreate six works from her Vierkanthrohre (Square Tubes) Serie D, among the last works she created before abruptly ending her career in the late 1960s. Ironically, during her self-imposed exile from the art world until her death in 1985, Posenenske questioned the worth of public art.
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For Silvia Karman Cubiñá, that worth is not questionable at all. As executive director and chief curator of the Bass Museum – which once again joined Art Basel in Miami Beach to produce the outdoor exhibit outside the museum’s front entrance – Cubiñá has seen first-hand how the public interacts with the art previously displayed in Collins Park. Of particular note were six chaise-shaped concrete slabs created by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles, Cubiñá says, explaining how different groups of people would gravitate to the works.
“They turned into a meeting point, which became lovely, because there would be different populations that would crowd around it,” she says. “Early in the morning we had a lot of homeless people that were having breakfast. Then a little later, the dog walkers. Then at 3 o’clock the students who came from the high school would gather there, and some of them started coming into the museum. Then again the dog walkers; then again the homeless people. So, there were different populations, and I just saw it as a gathering place that came together around art.”
This year British sculptor Thomas Houseago is expected to provide visitors with a similar experience. In addition to his Striding Figure (Rome 1), Houseago plans to provide two studio seats and a chaise lounge, which will be an open invitation for the public to drape themselves across his sculptures. Danish artist Jeppe Hein also is expected to add a bit of interactive art with his Appearing Rooms, a constantly changing sculpture in which jets of water form a labyrinth of wet walls that can end up soaking those who get too close. Matias Faldbakken presents a full-scale adaptation of a Peterbilt 281 big rig truck.
This year’s exhibit in the park, which fronts the museum and spans the area between 17th and 25th streets, is aimed to satisfy the senses from sight to sound and runs through March 31. According to Cubiñá, a grant from the Knight Foundation enabled the show to grow from its original four days to four months this year. As a result, she says, the museum plans to use the sculpture garden as a backdrop for its 50th anniversary in January, complete with a full orchestra in the park.
On the days when there is no orchestra, visitors to the park may hear the chirping of crickets, as imitated by a clarinet player. That’s courtesy of American artist Mungo Thomson, whose installation goes by the working title of “Cricket Solo for Clarinet.”
Abstract expressionist Mark di Suvero, 80, is the show’s oldest artist. His monumental work, Exemplar, was created in 1979 and consists of two intersecting I-beans. British land artist Richard Long will also be showing an earlier work. His Higher White Tor Circle was created in 1996 and is made up of Dartmoor granite chunks arranged in a mosaic-like circle.
Other featured artists include Huma Bhabha, Carol Bove, Olaf Breuning, Aaron Curry, Sam Falls, Tom Friedman, Alicja Kwade, Michelle Lopez, Matthew Monahan, Scott Reeder, Santiago Roose, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Tony Tasset, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Oscar Tuazon, Maarten Vanden Eynde and Phil Wagner.