Collaborations are what Basel is all about. This year the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is celebrating its second year as a Miami institution with something special: a performance by artist and choreographer Ryan McNamara, and new-age R&B musician Blood Orange (aka Devonte Hynes). While both are Miami outsiders, the pair is planning a piece that speaks to the local atmosphere, tackling issues like gentrification, race, and history in a one-night-only spectacle.
“These are two artists whose layered work emerges from a multiplicity of information and influences, whether it be that of sonic landscape, or the experience of the digital age,” says curator Emily Mello. “Their work evokes and borrows from the familiar, yet cuts through the leveling stream and dizzying realities of image and short attention with art that doesn’t preclude the humanistic from the highly crafted.”
The Brooklyn-based McNamara is a veritable art world darling. His haunting and opaque pieces dazzle art lovers, not just because they’re visually compelling, but because they’re thoughtfully arranged, packing an intellectual punch along with a social message. Last year his Art Basel show with Performa 13 was said to be the toast of the fair among the crowd of buyers, gallerists, and industry heavyweights. Blending net aesthetics with a visual language, “ME?M: A Story Ballet About the Internet” sought to recreate the same flash in the pan reaction typified by social media like Instagram and Tumblr in a performance art context.
This upcoming project with Hynes marks another turning point in McNamara’s career. In a Basel atmosphere increasingly dominated by spectacle, the ties between art and entertainment have never been stronger. Last year the fair boasted intimate performance from a host of indie and mainstream musicians, like Miley Cyrus and Brooke Candy. The traditional lines between the two industries are being blurred, and the McNamara-Hynes collaboration only goes a step further along those lines.
“In 2013, during the move to PAMM, I had been incessantly listening to Dev’s Blood Orange album, Cupid Deluxe,” says Mello of the inspiration behind the commission.
The move not only marks an important milestone for McNamara, but also for the museum. As an up-and-comer on the scene, PAMM has a vested interest in standing out from the pack come Basel, and having one of the most buzz worthy performances of the fair will go a long way towards that mission.
For Hynes, it’s a way to establish himself as an art world figure, and bring his brand in closer contact with an untapped demographic. For a musician, ties to the art world have boosted perceptions of legitimacy and agency, as well as diversified their fan base. Just think of Jay-Z’s homage to Maria Abramovic in “Picasso Baby,” or Lady Gaga’s Jeff Koons inspired aesthetics in ArtPop. But, exactly how will two outsiders, with no immediate connection to Miami, put on a piece endemically tied to the obstacles and resilience of the region?
That will remain a closely guarded secret until the curtains go up. Yet, Mello remains assured that both artists have the right sensibilities to capture a local snapshot in their work.
“You won’t see a literal re-interpretation of European or Moorish revival architecture or high rises at the water’s edge,” explains Mello, “but rather the longing for an imagined mythic past and speculative future experienced in fragments of music and choreography drawing from disparate genres.”