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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.

Much of this has been built, but the recent economic freeze halted certain development. Some ground has not yet been broken, while the construction of various buildings is stalled, half finished, awaiting new finance. What to do with these fallow properties as they yearn for completion? Again, it's art to the rescue, especially during a high profile week like Art Basel. Plenty of empty lots for a number of satellite fairs to literally set up their tents: Art Miami, Scope, Art Asia, Photo Miami, Bridge, Red Dot. Plus photo dealer Daniel Azoulay with a series of installations in unused storefronts.

Here's a promotional video showing the environs and some of the tents going up (start viewing at around 2:00):

And another which shows the locations (no need to view beyond 0:52):

One enlightened developer of a retail/residential complex was convinced to bring in some downtown, "cutting edge" energy to his unfinished building. The Station is a project that reeks with hipster cachet, perhaps even transcendence. It certainly provides a cross section of Lower East Side artists from New York with temporary escape from their studios. Although I am not planning to be in Miami to view it, allow me to throw the press release at you. Note how the "vestiges of construction" are now an aesthetic asset, "lending the event a sense of flux".

Wednesday, December 3rd through Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Private Opening, Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
Midblock East, 3250 NE 1st Avenue/Midtown Boulevard at 32nd St, Miami FL 33137

New York, October 2008 - The Station is pleased to announce an exciting exhibition in a recently constructed building in Midtown Miami to open on December 2nd, 2008. The Station will boast an exciting array of artworks, housed within an incredible and unique architectural environment, the interior of which is still completely raw and unbuilt, with the vestiges of construction lending the event a sense of flux.

The exhibition is co-curated by Shamim M. Momin (Co-Curator of the 2004 and 2008 Whitney Biennials) and New York-based artist and curator Nate Lowman. In a pioneering showcase of museum-quality art in a non-profit exhibition, The Station's artworks will include commissioned, site-specific installations, new works, and borrowed works, set within the massive 12,000 square foot space.

Spread out over three separate levels, the exhibition opens in a soaring ground-floor retail space. It flows to a second floor office space, and then to a duplex residential apartment. The selection of works, while not thematic, will be in dialogue with the transitional sensibility of the space, variously investigating architecture and urban landscape, intersections between public and private, notions of design as constructed lifestyle, and, above all, the sense of “in-betweeness” so fleetingly embodied by the exhibition spaces they will occupy. The Station will be open during the day, as well as at night, giving viewers the chance to see works in shifting contexts. Presenting their works in a non-commercial, transitional environment during Art Basel Miami Beach, the installation will retain a sense of immediacy and authenticity.

Among the 40+ artists participating in the exhibition will be Rita Ackermann, Diana Al-Hadid, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Lutz Bacher, Justin Beal, Dike Blair, Lizzi Bougatsos, Joe Bradley, Olaf Breuning, Tom Burr, Jedediah Caesar, Peter Coffin, Devon Costello, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Matias Faldbakken, Rob Fischer, Sylvie Fleury, Jonah Freeman, Martha Friedman, Katie Grinnan, Eli Hansen, Jay Heikes, Terence Koh, Lansing-Dreiden, Paul Lee, Hanna Liden, Justin Lowe, Irene Mamiye, Adam McEwen, Ryan McGinley, Bjarne Melgaard, New Humans, Yoshua Okon, Michele O'Marah, Martin Oppel, Rob Pruitt, Ry Rocklen, Torbjørn Rødland, Amanda Ross-Ho, Daniela Rossell, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Tom Scicluna, Gary Simmons, Haim Steinbach, Oscar Tuazon, Cosima von Bonin, and Jennifer West, among others.


The invitation to the opening of The Station in Miami on December 2 was billed as a special performance by Terence Koh. But the elusive artist, who once called himself "Asian Punk Boy", arrived quite late and then just walked around the space, talking with friends. When questioned, he indicated that this very act of doing nothing was his performance.

Which kind of left Station curator Shamim Momim holding the bag. But she did not become curator of the 2008 and 2004 Whitney Biennials (she included Koh in the latter) for her lack of resilience in the face of adversity. Commenting on the No Koh Show, she indicated: "Terence's art is about nothing. His performance is that he is not playing music."

Then again, this is the man who, after a previous trip to ABMB, declared that "MIAMI SUCKS LIKE A COCK IN AN ASS THAT HAS BEEN TURNED INSIDE OUT."

A text from his one person show at Kunsthalle Zurich (August 2006):

Terence Koh generates aspects of seduction and irritation – a kind of dark Romanticism hovers over all his works. His “contaminations" of cultural practice are achieved using the principle of purity underlying modern aesthetics: either completely in white, black or gold with a superficial artistic surface vocabulary that derives from Minimalism and classic abstraction – but it is in the details that observers experience the contradictory aspects of his creations.

Contradictory indeed. Considering his "installation" in the lobby of the Whitney Museum in February 2007, an intensely bright light that burned through our retinas, the insouciant Mr. Koh seems to have mastered the twin talents of minimalism and confrontation, of doing less but having us talk about it more. Perhaps his real talent is public relations.

On the other hand, if "doing nothing" is his new schtick, might it have been more appropriately accomplished at another event during Art Basel week: the NADA art fair?

youtube videos

more cheese please!

To my loyal reader, w.

I did not shoot the videos, and have included them merely to help define the location of the tent fairs in Midtown Miami. There is no implication that I ratify their entire content. In fact, my suggestion would be to start viewing the first at around 2:00, and to stop viewing the second at 0:52. (Similar advisories now appear above.) On a more useful note, does anyone know how to edit a youtube video to delete extraneous segments?

And many thanks to w, whose generosity is appreciated, and who always singles out the best aspects of my work for praise.