December 17, 2007

Out in the Dark at Art Basel Miami Beach 2007

I attended Art Basel in Miami for the first time last week. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Art Basel Miami Beach is the sister event for the original fair that is held every summer in Basel, Switzerland.

Images from the UBS VIP lounge at the Miami Basel are above and below.

The top galleries from around the world are invited to show the art they represent for collectors and museums interested in acquiring art. It is a commercial fair that features some of the world's most expensive pieces by contemporary artists and their predecessors. At one gallery you're looking at a large scale photograph by Andreas Gursky, at another gallery you get to view an early Picasso. The vast selection of art that encompasses multiple media, periods and styles makes the fair an overwhelming experience.

Terence Koh is an artist whose work I saw for the first time here. Based in New York, he does provocative work. Shown at the stand for Peres Projects his photographs depict the artist himself in sexual situations with other men. The photos are taken outdoors in the dark. They look both raw and sleek at the same time. What makes his work interesting is the fact hat he has no inhibitions. He is not afraid to depict himself in compromising situations with difficult subject matter. He is completely naked, engaging in sex or acting out violent and lewd acts with no reservations. Some of the most interesting work comes from artists with the least reservations to express themselves. Kara Walker is another example that comes to mind.
In these photographs Koh and friends frolick in the darkness, seemingly under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or both), adding a freakish feel to the whole set.

Compare Koh's work with the Picasso at a another gallery nearby. Picasso's Male Bathers is another depiction of men frolicking outdoors, this time on a beach. The difference between the two works are like night and day, literally. Koh's works show today's post-modern angst and chaos. Picasso's painting is relatively calmer. It is hard to imagine that his work was considered provocative at the time.

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