Tuesday, January 05, 2010

MIA – Day One: Travel and Hang

0200 – I’m having trouble sleeping, and the alarm is set for 2:45AM, and the taxi will arrive at 3:30AM. I look at the alarm clock and it reads 2:07. I hope to catch at least half an hour more of sleep. Today will be a long day, as I’m flying down to Miami with a 6:10AM departure from BWI. It’s installation day for the Miami International Art Fair (MIA), which opens formally tomorrow with a VIP reception.

0245 – The alarm rings and I’m surprised that while I thought I was awake most of the time, I was actually catching some Z’s. I spring from bed, hoping that Little Junes will not awake, and proceed to what the morning wake-up ritual known in the Navy as “shit-shower-and-shave.”

0305 – I’m out of the shower and dressed, and I close the luggage and carry it from the bedroom to the front door, hoping that the squeaky hardwood floors will not wake up Little Junes. My wife awakens and follows me to the door and kisses me goodbye. I send her back to bed; this will be a tough week for her as a single mom to a four month old. I pack up the laptop, remember to grab a box of red dots and then step outside to the 25 degree Potomac early morning to get my Blackberry ear plugs out of the van. Bones (that’s his real name), my cab driver, is already there in the driveway and waiting for me.

0320 – On the way to BWI Bones tells me about his daughter who is about to graduate from Maryland. This burly cab driver has three daughters and he’s put all three of them through college. He is a hero. Bones is originally from Nigeria, and he likes to talk about art. On this trip I discuss the work of artist Viktor Ekpuk for him. Bones dissects the name and tells me where in Nigeria Viktor is from. He promises to look for Viktor’s work in the Internet.

0410 – We arrive at BWI. Outside the airport is quiet, almost deserted. Inside it is also deserted except for a huge line at the American Airlines counters. I’m flying AA, so I resign myself and join the line. I’m really early anyway. A gregarious AA Skycap is herding people along to the check in counters. When I check in I discover that AA now charges $20 for your first checked in bag. It used to be $15. It also used to be explained that the charge was because the price of airline fuel was so high and was “temporary.” But now that the price of fuel has dropped, the checked-in charge not only remains but has increased. And flights are packed but airlines still lose money. Something doesn’t make sense to me in this industry.

0430 – I’m surprised to find the security line almost non-existent and go through the TSA portals. Something in my laptop backpack catches their attention and they search for it. The backpack is filled to the brim with assorted electronic junk such as the GPS unit (I find that now I can’t drive without GPS aid), the removable hard drive, the Flip video recorder, the digital camera, assorted power cables and books. Finally they find the offending item: a wine corkscrew. I had no idea that it was inside the backpack. Since the corkscrew doesn’t have a blade, it’s OK and I’m passed through.

0440 – I find a seat by a wall outlet and plug in the laptop to do some Facebooking and surfing. A teen it’s a couple of seats from me and begins to alarm me with his coughing, sneezing and snorting. It is obvious that he has a cold. It is also obvious that no one has told him that he should cover his mouth when he sneezes. I debate whether to move seats or tell him to cover his mouth. As electric wall outlets are not easy to come by at BWI, I elect for the latter and tell him. He doesn’t respond, but simply moves away from me, to infect someone else.

0540 – We begin boarding. The flight goes to Miami and then to Cancun. It is loaded with folks dressed for tropical weather and who earlier on froze their butts getting to the airport, but by noon will be sipping Margaritas by the beach while I’ll be installing the artwork at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

0610 – We actually depart on time, and I get prime seating on the first row, with the extra leg space and on the aisle with two empty seats in my row. Good start to the flight day. I’m reading “Seven Days in the Art World” by Sarah Thornton and rediscover what an asshole Chris Burden is.

0840 – We actually land a few minutes ahead of time.

0915 – 1100 - I swing by Casablanca Bakery in Hialeah and have breakfast (eggs, Cuban bread, ham and coffee for $3) and pick up two boxes of Cuban pastries and two Cuban breads. I visit my parents in Hialeah and my aunt in Miami Beach, drop the pastries and bread. I am also forced to eat in both places even though I am full.

1130 – I arrive at the Miami Beach Convention Center; the big leagues of art fairing and home to Art Basel Miami Beach. I meet Philadelphia artist Frank Hyder and his wife, Helen, director of Philly’s hardworking Projects Gallery. They are my Philly dealers and we’re doing this fair together. They tell me that my booth has been moved to a new location by the fair management. Also, about 75% of the booths still have not been finished nor painted. There is clearly a lot of work still to be done before a single thing can be hung.

1230 – 1430 – Lunch at the Hyder’s Miami Beach condo – the one with a breathtaking view of the ocean. We load up a vanload of artwork and take to the Convention Center. Poor Frank is hobbling because he took a nasty spill in Philly ice recently. The booths are still far from being finished. Lots of painting and wall re-arrangements being done. Frank Hyder walks me through the spectacular sculptural works by Federico Uribe. His work, done from shoe laces, sneakers (Puma gave him 30,000 running shoes for a particular project), and other common objects – including a toilet plunger which has been transformed into a flower via the use of wooden clothes’ hangers – make him the best WalMartist that I have ever seen. Uribe’s work alone is worth the price of the entrance to the fair. The bright yellow sun made out of yellow shoelaces, thousands of them is a transformative piece worth of worship by the Egyptians.

1500 – I find the guy in charge of painting and construction and tell him (more like beg him) that my booth has been moved from its original location and now the booth design closes up the booth too much and I need one wall moved. The booth still needs to be painted. It may be hours before a crew can get to it. I used the Cuban angle and the HMFIC sends the painting crew to my booth. Now I just need to get one wall moved to open up the gallery.

1700 – Construction guy shows up and says that the wall will be moved in ten minutes. 45 minutes later I am still waiting.

1800 – Wall crew arrives. They are very friendly and quite experts at their work. After a 15 minute Union-mandated break, they start adding a new wall and removing the blocking wall in my booth. It is hard work.

2000 – All the booth hard labor is done. The crew has done a terrific job. And I have a shiny, newly painted booth, in a new arrangement and in a new spot. Now at G-11 instead of G-13.

2001 – I hang one large photograph by Cuban artist Cirenaica Moreira, and exhausted call it quits for the night. Loads of other galleries are nowhere to being close to being ready.

2015 – The Hyders and I have a terrific meal at a Peruvian Restaurant called Chalan in Miami Beach (at 1580 Washington Ave) . I have one of the most amazing seafood dishes that I’ve had in a long time. It has a rather forgettable Peruvian name, Cau Cau something. It is very yummy.

2345 – I'm at my cousin's beautiful home in Little Havana, staying in his empty maid's quarters' apartment in the rear of his home. I post this blog and exhausted get ready to sleep a few hours. Tomorrow we hang the artwork and by 6PM the VIPs arrive.

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