Museum Exhibitions for the People

Anthony Japour looks at PAMM, Bass Musuem & MoCA's offerings

Anthony Japour (AJ) is an art collector, advisor, independent curator, and private art dealer. Japour deals in the international contemporary art movement with a focus on the Chinese Contemporary Art Movement and its relationship to the pillars of Western Contemporary Art. Since 2003, AJ has produced numerous art exhibitions and installations in Miami and South Florida through AJ Japour Gallery and now works on various art projects. AJ has served on the Fine Arts Board and the Cultural Arts Council of the City of Miami Beach.

As Miami continues its quest in becoming the 21st century Venice as gateway of the Americas, our museums are playing host to three solo exhibitions by international contemporary artists from China, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Ai Weiwei: According to What?

Installation view; Background: Ai Wei Wei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995-2009, Triptych lamda prints, 75 25/64 x 70 7/8 IN each Foreground: Ai WeiWei, Colored Vases, 2010, Han Dynasty vases and Industrial paint, Dimensions variable

Perez Art Museum Miami
1103 Biscayne Blvd
Miami, FL 33132

Ai Weiwei (B. 1957, Beijing)

For the grand opening of the new Perez Art Museum of Miami and to compete with the spectacular $131 million dollar museum designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, Ai Weiwei According to What? Is a traveling exhibition that was originally organized by the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo with the Hirsshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. The exhibition has already traveled to Indianapolis, Ontario and will go to Brooklyn from here.

Ai Weiwei’s artistic output has been divided into three periods. Before 1979 while he was still in China, the New York period 1981-1993 (mostly photographs), and his return to Beijing 1993 to the present. Ai Weiwei’s father, Ai Qing, was a renowned poet and shortly after Ai Weiwei’s birth, his father was denounced as an antisocialist with bourgeois tendencies. Ai Weiwei’s father was subjected to forced labor during the artist’s childhood, which clearly had an impact on the son.

Another way to look at Ai Weiwei’s work is “before and after” he got in trouble with the law (in China) which occurred in 2009 about the time of the opening of this exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Japan. A coincidence? Possibly, but I’m quite sure the Chinese have long memories of the Japanese atrocities during WWII. Likely the Chinese authorities wouldn’t be exactly thrilled with the artist they gave the prestigious honor to collaborate with Herzog & de Meuron to design the Birds Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics to then turn around and speak out against them as Ai Weiwei did after the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008. As I have often said, Ai Weiwei is the Nelson Mandela of China; he just happens to be an artist.

Ai Weiwei trained at the Parsons School of Design and this comes through his work, which is often three dimensional employing furniture and architectural materials. His works are reminiscent of conceptual and minimalist artists such as Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt; Ai Weiwei’s He Xie, 2010 and Bowls of Pearls, 2006 bring to mind Miami artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ poetic candy works Placebo, 1991 and Untitled (Portrait of Dad), 1991, respectively.

Of course, as is common in traveling exhibitions, the works displayed need to conform to the space and, as such, the exhibition consists primarily of works “after he got in trouble with the law”. Peter Plagens, in the Wall Street Journal (Dec 13, 2013) gave PAMM a rather unflattering review focusing on the “spat” with local collectors and “making its debut with a paltry collection” rather than acknowledging we’re not New York or London, but we are on the path to being a world-class city one step at a time. A great first exhibition!

Installation view; Left to right: Ai Weiwei, Grapes, 2010, 40 antique stools from Qing Dynasty, 87 1/64 x 73 7/32 x 74 13/16 IN Ai Weiwei, Bowls of Pearls, 2006, Porcelain bowls and freshwater pearls, 14 31/32 x 38 37/64 IN each Ai Weiwei, Coca-Cola Vase, 2007, Vase from the Neolithic age (5000-3000 BC) and paint, 15 3/3 IN
Piotr Uklanski, Untitled (T-Shirt), 2002 One United States dollar bill 2 4/25 x 2 4/25 IN

ESL (English as a Second Language)
Bass Museum of Art
2100 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Piotr Uklanski (B. 1968, Warsaw, Poland)

As the child of two deaf parents who speak ASL (American Sign Language), I was immediately taken by the title of Piotr Uklanski’s Art Basel exhibition at the Bass Museum. As billed, the exhibition refers to Uklanski’s foreign birth (hardly novel) and “the literal understanding of his status as an immigrant in America.” While I found some of the works interesting, neither me nor my colleagues including another art advisor, a dealer-gallerist or several curators with whom I spoke felt the works in any way realized the theme of ESL as described in the curatorial write-up.

Piotr Uklanski, Untitled (Story of the Eye), 2013 Fiber reactive dye on oxidized jute and hemp textile, cotton and nylon rope, polyester batting, resin, aluminum and steel Collection of the artist. 120 x 96 x 84 inches.

Nonetheless, Uklanski has exhibited widely in the US and in Europe including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Tate Modern in London, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Kunstalle Basel.

Uklanski is interested in craft practices and aesthetics using materials such as dyed textiles, embroidery, torn paper, ceramic pottery among others. Having seen other good works of Uklanski, unfortunately, the works in this exhibition don’t present the artist in the best light.

ESL, installation view; From left to right: Piotr Uklanski, Untitled (Priceless), 2012, fiber reactive dye on oxidized cotton fabric, 105 x 105 inches; Courtesy Massimo De Carlo Gallery, Milan-London Piotr Uklanski, Untitled (Warsaw Uprising '44-Żoliborz), 2008; resin on canvas; 118 1/2 x 236 1/2 inches. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photo by EPW Studio/Maris Hutchinson, 2013.
ESL, installation view; From left to right: Piotr Uklanski, Untitled (Tragic Magic), 2011; Pottery, mortar on masonry board and aluminum; 60 x 43 1/2 x 23 inches; Private collection, New York. Piotr Uklanski, Untitled (Cassiopeia), 2013; Pencil shavings, colored graphite, and adhesive film on plexiglass in gilded frame; 72 x 107 inches; Private collection, New York. Photo by EPW Studio/Maris Hutchinson, 2013.

Angel without You

Tracey Emin, Angel without You, 2013, Neon
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami
Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami
770 NE 125th St
North Miami, FL 33161
Tracey Emin (B. 1963, Croydon, United Kingdom

Tracey Emin, Angel without You, 2013, Neon At the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami

As Miami remains an “emerging city” compared with the art capitols of New York, Paris, Rome, and London, it is particularly gratifying when we are able to have a “first American exhibition” here in Miami for an already well-recognized artist from abroad. Miami’s MoCA has mounted a wonderful exhibition of neon works by British artist, Tracey Emin. Emin follows in the tradition of text-based art including such artists as Joseph Kosuth, John Balessari, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger, Xu Bing, and Jenny Holzer among others.

Organized in collaboration with the Knight Exhibition series, Angel without You, is an exhibition about LOVE through Emin’s Neon sculptures. While the artist does not exclusively use neon in her artistic practice, neon has particular resonance for her. From urban to suburban to rural, neon signs are so universal (as is love) that any of us can relate to Emin’s emotionally packed phrases including my favorites “I Listen to the Ocean and All I hear is You”, 2011 and “I Never Stopped Loving You”, 2010 and “You Forgot to Kiss my Soul”, 2001.

In what I consider to be a great model for fund-raising for museum shows, the artist, Tracey Emin, donated five neon sculptural works at auction which raised $185,000 to support this exhibition.

Tracey Emin, You Forgot to Kiss my Soul, 2001, 45.47 x 55.31 IN, Neon
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