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Miami from Afar: Buena Vista 2008

The Buena Vista rail yards used to occupy a huge swath of 56 acres, bounded by 36th and 29th Streets north and south, and by N Miami Avenue and NE Second Avenue west and east, smack in the middle of a decaying area of light manufacturing, garage industry and broken down bungalows just a bit north of downtown Miami, a neighborhood that is now called Wynwood.

The yards were a fenced-in, weed choked eyesore, not a "buena vista" at all, although certain urban archaeologists undoubtedly found it charming. And the land was available, an unused graveyard for rusting rolling stock. But since most real estate development in Miami was done in typical subdivision method, reclaiming swampland to the west and south for new tracts of homes and shopping centers, and since the inner city ghetto of Overtown abutted Wynwood, the area was left stagnant for decades. It was considered unredeemable, too funky by far.

But the healing power of art (as a battering ram for real estate speculation) started to work its magic in Wynwood about a decade ago, as galleries opened up, then private museums (Rubell, Margulies), followed by speculators buying property (both warehouses and parcels of land) all through the neighborhood. Eventually even the train yards were seen as a potential source of development, and in one fell swoop the area was rethought as "Midtown Miami". It would feature big chain stores like Target, Circuit City, Linens 'N Things, Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls, West Elm and Loehmann's, as well as high rise condos and garden apartments. A little oasis of mixed use where rusting metal, garter snakes and (who knows?) the decapitated bodies of mob hits once held sway. Also included would be lots of parking space.

Art Basel Miami Beach and the New Economy

The following is a repost of my original texts on an Artworld Salon thread regarding Art Basel Miami Beach.

In the past, my reasons for going to Miami were only partially motivated by ABMB and the various satellite fairs. There were museum openings, collections to be viewed, a whole panoply of local galleries and artists, various curated shows, book signings, concerts and outdoor events which made Miami a hundred ring circus during that heady week.

All of this will again be happening in a few days, but of course it is ultimately based on the central commercial premise of the fairs, and would not be scheduled but for that thriving center. If money is not being abundantly spent, if art is not being sold, if the top echelon of movers and shakers does not show up with open wallets, the whole house of cards can easily fall down.

Art Basel (in Switzerland) has survived previous economic downturns, but ABMB, its younger and glitzier offshoot, has not. The excesses of ABMB since 2002 have been nurtured by a continuous art boom. It will be interesting to watch a new sobriety take hold, to see if the words “sober” and “Miami” can be uttered by the art world in a single breath.

Thanksgiving Terrorism in Mumbai

There is no Thanksgiving holiday in India. The "Indians" that the Puritans encountered in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 17th century were neither Hindu nor Muslim, but indigenous tribes of Native Americans. But on Wednesday November 26, 2008, on the eve of Thanksgiving, while Americans were getting ready to join their families and celebrate their annual turkey day, twenty six terrorists arrived by sea in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, first on a fishing trawler hijacked somewhere on the Arabian Sea, and then via small inflatable motorboats.

They were armed to the teeth with guns, hand grenades and explosives, and carried several days provisions of dried fruit. They landed at night near the Gateway to India along the busy south Mumbai waterfront, and fanned out to various planned locations: two luxury hotels, a touristy cafe/restaurant, a hospital, cinema, busy train depot, a Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish center, even a local police station. They sprayed bullets into crowds of people, set fires, blew up cars and other facilities, and took hostages. Americans and Brits were particularly targeted, but locations frequented by Westerners were obviously selected for maximum impact.

"Hanukkah Bush"

Here is the invitation to the annual White House Hanukkah party that the Bush family sent to America's Jewish leaders.

You might note a Clydesdale delivering the traditional "Hanukkah Tree" to a White House festooned from top to bottom in "Hanukkah wreaths". The wagon is also appropriately inscribed with a Hanukkah text sacred to Jews the world over: "White House Christmas Tree 2008".

Here is another shot of the scene, from the rear.

Happy Thanksgiving!


From the Alpha and the Omega, the Raw and the Cooked, the Fowl and the Fare.

The Kindest Act of George W. Bush's Presidency...

...would be to resign right now and end his lame duck waffling, before his widely perceived incompetence and the total lack of faith that investors place in the current administration cause the Dow to fall another thousand points. A lot of damage can still ensue prior to Obama assuming office on January 20, 2009.

Rather than an admission of defeat, such an unexpected act of generosity and humility, of self realization and courage, while totally out of character, might prop up his reputation. By giving up his current posture of doing nothing and instead quitting decisively and posthaste, Bush has a chance (a small chance, to be sure, but still a possibility) of rescuing a legacy generally perceived as a total disaster and elevating it to the merely mediocre. His self imposed departure, effective immediately, would reveal a "kinder, gentler" man, or at least one who has made some peace with the imperatives of history.

Guests of The Power 100, Per Se

I receive regular updates from Paul H-O on the progress of his film Guest of Cindy Sherman, which I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival in May.

In the category of striking while the iron is hot: His email from yesterday (November 25), eleven days after Sherman's opening at Metro, announces a list of festivals where the film has recently screened, an upcoming Christmas party, a new DVD release and a blog address. It also points out that, for the first time since 2003, Ms. Sherman has made The Power 100 list of ArtReview magazine. She is number 82, with the following text:

What better testament could there be to Sherman's place among the artworld elite than this year's release of Paul H-O's Guest of Cindy Sherman, a documentary about H-O's (Hasegawa-Overacker) five-year relationship with the reclusive art celeb and the ego erosion - 'subjective detumescence', as the academics would say - that befalls him (Sherman last appeared on the Power 100 in 2003)? H-O plays the Oscar-wife to Sherman's A-list life, but still manages to offer perhaps the most unmediated portrait ever made of (or by) the artist. And after all that, she still looks good.

Cindy Sherman at Metro Pictures

Cindy Sherman at Metro Pictures, New York
15 November - 23 December 2008

I enjoyed Jerry Saltz's review of the show in New York Magazine, but added the following comment:

When I saw the show, my first thought was that Cindy Sherman was being remarkably candid in depicting her female collectors. There they all are, up on the walls of Metro, the museum trustee doyennes, oil baronesses, superannuated cowgirls, Upper East Side plastic surgery queens, sexagenarian countesses and aging Foundation goddesses who have acquired Sherman photographs over the years. Or there they all are, caricatures of what she feels we think they look like. It's an homage of sorts, a jolt of recognition, bringing things full circle. John Waters seems to agree, and has been so quoted: “It’s great to see Cindy’s pictures in the same room with some of her best subjects.”


November 18, 2008 marked the 24th and final chapter of THE ART CRITIC, Peter Plagen's roman a clef set in the New York art world, that has been syndicated on An archive of all installments can he found here.

In Chapter 24, we find the critic in compromised straits, having lost the dream girl - the daughter of a wealthy collector and publisher who has recently purchased the very magazine where the critic publishes his writing - to a sculptor that he reviewed in that self same magazine.

We follow the critic on a brief Southwestern jaunt during which he gets all uppity about the regional cowboys-and-Indians vernacular. Upon returning to New York, he learns of the death of a female painter with whom he was close, and of a painting she left him that was discovered posthumously. The critic participates in a "Visual Culture" panel at an SVA sort of institution.

The critic learns that his article about the sculptor (to whom he lost the girl) influenced the sale of that sculptor's room-sized installation to the collector/publisher/father of the girl. The novel ends with a chance meeting between the publisher and the critic, which intends to tie up the fates of the main characters who have been threading through the narrative. Phrases like "You're cursed with integrity" and "It’s a brand new world out there" are bandied about. Finally, the critic hits the galleries, as "there were still a few exhibitions he could catch before closing time.

The End."

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