Let’s get this out of the way. “One Way: Peter Marino” is an outlandish, over-the-top exhibit filled with ego and extravagance and superb art. Which is why it was a perfect fit to open during Art Basel fair week: it made other exhibits look, well, small and a little lethargic. It is still up at the Bass Museum of Art, and it is still an amazing trip.
Marino is a celebrity architect best known for his retail buildings incorporating fine art in dazzling exteriors and interiors befitting luxury retailers Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. (He also designs high-end residential.) Marino is also a collector and has in his possession works by some of the top-name artists in contemporary art.
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It’s not surprising then that a tour of this exhibit is like visiting an exclusive, art-filled mansion. The Bass itself seems transformed by all that this house offers. The ceilings seem to soar above each room gilded with prized paintings, photos and sculptures. The visitor’s eyes are always guided upward, to frames of works that are stacked to the roof, adding to the overwhelming effect.
The exhibit — curated by Jérôme Sans, known internationally for his provocative style — does not ease you in. The entrance to the main galleries, along the ramp leading to the second floor, has been hung with unspooled black video tape that create curtains that glisten and shimmer. This is one of the five commissioned artworks in the show, from Gregor Hildebrandt.
The tape strands are taken from a video of Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée, based on the Greek story of Orpheus — a theme that will pop up again to close the exhibit. Entwined in the curtains are several works from the German Anselm Reyle, along with works by Richard Serra, Keith Haring, Richard Prince and Rudolf Stingel, among others. The centerpiece is another commissioned piece, a sort of contemporary beaded tapestry, or beaded string necklaces, from Jean-Michel Othoniel. This entry alone could be a stand-alone exhibit.
But there is much more. One of rooms in Marino’s “house” includes new takes on old masters, such as Vik Muniz’s Monet-like work and Prince’s versions of Picasso, made from crayon, ink jet and charcoal. There are a number of fine Muniz works in this gallery, which is called “Art on Art.”
The “Pop Gallery” features — who else? — Andy Warhol, for whom Marino renovated a real house and spaces in the famed gallery The Factory. Supposedly, it was Warhol who enticed Marino into art collecting.
While “One Way” starts off with a bang, you still won’t be prepared for some of what follows on this tour. “The Treasury” is an homage to Robert Mapplethorpe, and what an homage it is. The walls here are also black, covered not with tape but strips of leather. The rows of the late photographer’s black and white images, 40 of them, are gorgeous. In fact, for someone like Mapplethorpe who became such a cultural lightening rod in his day, this room is one of the most subdued. It too could have been an exhibit all its own. This many stunning Mapplethorpe’s in one place is the treasure its room’s name implies.
There are several gilded — actually bronzed —pieces of furniture in this room as well, which reminds you again whose house this really is: Peter Marino’s. He designed the handsome commodes and cabinets.
Marino is not an anonymous patron or architect here at the Bass. Scores of images — made by famous artists — of him appear throughout the show, dressed in his trade-mark black leather and skull jewelry; there is an intentional wink,wink to this aspect, and it and it includes the appropriately titled “The Dark Architect” from Damien Hirst. There are also photographs of his most spectacular international projects — some of them are almost surreal. Don’t let it rub you the wrong way. This infusion of ego really is part of the entire installation, for it is a show in every sense, including in its theatricality.
The next-to-the-last room truly towers, as it encases the works of two German artists whose art is monumental in scale. Marino, who has established his leather-clad persona suggesting a rebel soul, has long been a fan of Anselm Kiefer. The painter and sculptor will be familiar to Miami audiences, as the Margulies Collection features him prominently. His dark and aggressive works often reflect the turbulent history of his native country, and they are also physically huge and made from materials such as clay and ash. Marino has populated his vacation home in Aspen, Colo. with Kiefer’s paintings.
It almost feels like you are walking into a room high in the mountains, staring up at the magnificence. Kiefer’s pieces are stunning, and they are joined by another heavy-weight in the German contemporary pantheon, Georg Baselitz. His giant sculptural duo here is almost too hefty; but he also grapples with Germany’s past in his work, and from an East German background. Though the contents in this gallery are not light, it is nonetheless awe-inspiring.
The finale of the exhibit is truly operatic. The last room is comprised of sets and flat-screen TVs showing the performance from the 1762 opera Orfeo ed Euridice. It was staged by Marino, and performed in his home. “Opera Gallery” pulls all the strings together. There is the underlying motif throughout the exhibit that stems from the Orpheus myth, which deals with art and music and death. It is beautifully orchestrated, by Marino, and is out-of-the ordinary. And it includes designs from Dior.
There are legitimate questions about some of the lines redrawn here — several rooms are sponsored by the likes of Chanel and Vuitton, companies who commission Marino; this close meshing of elite fashion and design with visual arts can be uncomfortable.
But as much as it fits with the Art Basel aesthetic, this exhibit also fits with the Bass Museum, which has made its niche by combining the genres of design, fashion and art. Yes, “One Way” is a brash and brazen exhibit, but Marino’s way is stuffed with top-quality art that stands tall this season, and it would be a real shame to miss.