Private collector spaces a good bet during Art Basel Miami Beach

By Jan Sjostrom
Daily News Arts Editor

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
Posted: 7:41 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011

Part of the fun of Art Basel Miami Beach fair week is seeing what the owners of Miami's private collector spaces have scooped up in the past year.

As far as facilities go, you couldn't find a greater contrast than that between Martin Margulies' gritty graffiti-decorated warehouse and Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz's airy sunlight gallery. What they share is world-class art.

The de la Cruzes hung some of their art salon style this year, in stacked rows. They did it partly to increase the amount of work they can display so that the many school groups that come to the facility will have more to look at, director Ibett Yanez said.

But also, it's an interesting way to present art. Hanging formally related works salon-style creates an overall, united first impression, Yanez said. “Then you start to pay attention to the individual artworks and experience a dialogue among them," she said.

The first salon-style grouping occurs right inside the door, where a wall of black-and-white works by American artists arrests the viewer. There’s been a surge of interest in contemporary American artists, Yanez said.

Included in the display are Christopher Wool's lively black on white untitled (Roller), a set of severe dark Glenn Ligon silkscreens and a nihilistic Mark Grotjahn inkjet on linen.

Another salon-style hanging includes colorful paintings by German artists, such as Sigmar Polke and Martin Kippenberger, whose works the de la Cruzes have collected for a few years, as well as the first painting they bought at auction, Rufino Tamayo’s nocturnal oil painting, Star Gazer.

The second floor features new acquisitions by Kathryn Andrews, an American artist who juxtaposes child-like motifs with severe minimalist structures. “All the works you see require human action to be functional," Yanez said.

In John Hancock, a black-and-white mural-sized image of candles frames a silver bat resting on a polished aluminum chair. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) features a pink-and-blue bench on which is draped the T-shirt Brad Pitt wore while filming the movie.

The third floor includes works by artists such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jim Hodges, Ana Mendieta and Cesar Trasobares, whose works the de la Cruzes collect in depth, as well as all 80 works the couple owns by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. Among the Orozcos are Ping Pond Table, a sort of Ping-Pong table with a lotus pond center, and the graceful Bamboo Balls, flower constructions made of bamboo leaves and rubber balls that are suspended from the ceiling.

Margulies' space is darker, and more industrial. It's a perfect setting for neon sculptures, such as Ivan Navarro's Electric Chair Blue and Red, a gorgeously colored Adirondack-style lawn chair.

New acquisitions include Hiraki Sawa's video installation O, a haunting meditation on perception, time and motion. Small monitors display black-and-white videos of spinning cups, bottles, tops, bells and other objects. Larger, panoramic screens show videos of birds flying, a desert landscape, the deteriorating interior of an old house and other scenes.

Also new to the collection is Deborah Luster's Tooth for an Eye: A Choreography of Violence in Orleans Parish. Three large albums are laid out on a table, opened to display circular black-and-white photographs of contemporary and historical homicide scenes in New Orleans, the murder capital of the United States.

There are no people in the pictures, just blank, prosaic places where horrifying acts took place. The facing pages document the locations, dates, victims' names and descriptions of how they were killed.

Collector spaces such as the de la Cruzes' and Margulies' are among the best bargains of fair week. There's no admission charge at the de la Cruz collection and the $10 charge at The Margulies Collection goes to the Lotus House Shelter for Homeless Women.