At the beginning of every December, galleries around the world gather all their high ranking names and each send a two person team with crates of artwork to Florida. Namely, Miami. This gathering is called Miami Basel. It is the Holy Grail to many artists located in the States, and it functions as a powerful lure to any emerging artist not represented by participating galleries.
So I found a show being put together in Miami during the Basel weekend. It was an expensive application, but I applied and submitted my best work. I fantasized about a local gallery hoping to get foot traffic from the main event, my work surrounded by interesting art from all over the country, all sharing the theme of urban landscaping shaped by childhood memories: Now or Neverland. My thesis piece fit the description perfectly, and against hope, it was accepted in the show. Mind you, this is a large house made of paper and wood, but it folded and rolled into a neat little package that was just oversized for the flight over, so I had to pay the fee both ways: $200. I felt it a suitable sacrifice for the excellent exposure I would receive in return.
Miami is a sprawling metropolis, with neighborhoods as different from each other as black and white, poor and rich, with a Haitian or a Tuscan flair respectively. The racism was palpable in the thick wet air of a rainy Miami December. I took the red-eye and arrived tired and hungry, dragging a house that weighed heavier by the minute. I walked to the drop off address. It was a gym. I asked around and no one knew about any art show. My bleary eyes started to sting. A young European spray-painter happened to be there and pointed me in the right direction: a white tent behind a restaurant called Chef Creole, not a block away. Not a gallery.
As I dragged my house inside this tent I was struck by the “urban” style of hanging work: on screwed-together pallets. The “director” was unaware that my piece was a hanging piece, but they had serendipitously hired a forklift so I could reach the aluminum skeleton of the tent and install my house. Unfortunately, the tent frame was not designed to carry the weight of the house and sagged considerably under the weight of my paper walls, which were quickly sucking up the atmospheric moisture and getting heavier still. By the end of the day, the house hung just a fraction of an inch above the packed dirt and grass floor, just enough.
The opening was the next day. It had rained through the night and through the day and there were puddles everywhere vibrating with the volume of the music booming painfully by the entrance. As I walked in, I noticed the floor was no longer packed dirt, but loose mulch. a nice layer of wet, brown, rotting wood chips on top of which my house was standing in a fairly crumpled way.
The show lasted 3 days. It rained every day. My work took up water from the mulch, and the moisture caused some pieces to break off. They FOLDED the paper and tucked it in a corner as it fell. The lighting was inappropriate for the piece, my work lost all its magic with missing pieces and top-down lighting. And when the time came to uninstall, they lacked the equipment to help me cut down the house, so I had to destroy the hanging system to remove it. By the end I wanted out as fast as I could muster.
The trip cost me over a thousand dollars, and in return I got my artwork destroyed. And that’s it.