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The Fantom Sea Series

Dazed looks at the relationship between Miami Art Basel and the ocean, as Fantom editor Cay Sophie Rabinowitz launches her aqua-based photography exhibition with work by Fabien Baron, John Waters and Roe Ethridge

At Art Basel Miami, water is all around; South Beach being an island and so on. But it’s not a coastal culture - it’s not chill or even a little bit hippie. And the art that is shown and bought here - and, above all, made here - doesn’t reflect the ocean, but the neon lights and pastel deco facades of the boardwalk. It’s generally speaking loud, brash, confrontational of “taste” and a little kitschy. The original, giant Art Basel fair, and most of the satellite ones, like Pulse and Scope, are dizzily crowded and air-conditioned, like malls, leaving you wanting nothing but air and water. One of the best fairs in Miami is NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance), and not only because you can walk from a Berlin gallery to a London gallery or a Tokyo gallery and fall in love with a new or emerging artist every time. It’s because as you do so, the ocean laps at your consciousness through the beach-facing windows. It calms you. Next to that illimitable view, no amount of art can overwhelm you, not even a Joel Kyack fountain-sculpture comprising an eight-foot-long plastic sandwich...

It’s hard not to wonder why that view hasn’t inspired more of the art here. The twisted-expressionist painter Hernan Bas, one of Miami's standout artists, sometimes draws his fantasies from the water; one such painting is called 'Floating in the Dead Sea with Ghost Ship Pirated by Hedi Slimane'. Surely if you understand that, you understand the whole of his work. (Much of it is held by the Rubell Family Collection - an unfathomably cool survey of contemporary art, especially American contemporary - in the Wynwood Arts District). Still, most of the art celebrated here is urban, either in genre or in feel; it couldn’t be further from the water.

And that’s why the launch of FANTOM Magazine’s Sea Series, a collection of aqua-based photographs picked by editor Cay Sophie Rabinowitz and presented at Miami's multi brand store The Webster last week, was such a refreshing way to dive into the fair. Rabinowitz, a New York writer/curator, is no stranger to these shores; she served as director of both the original Swiss Basel and Basel Miami from 2007-2008. Her quarterly, FANTOM, is a beautiful and considered exploration of photography-as-art. For this Sea Series, Rabinowitz curated works by big-time art director Fabien Baron, experimental video artist Jiang Zhi, mad-cool cult filmmaker John Waters, and Miami native Roe Ethridge. “The works chosen represent a diversity of viewpoints and blah, as Christian Rattemeyer would say,” explains Rabinowitz. They’re also meant to create awareness of ocean conservation as the choice of exhibit partner La Mer shows. We’re showing you a few of the Sea Series photographs here, but they should all be seen in real. They’ve been printed in the new edition of FANTOM, which you can usually find wherever art mags are sold. You’ll feel like you’re in Miami, too, or Atlantis...