Conference Miami Beach '09

On Friday, December 4, West of Rome Public Art celebrated its newly obtained 501(c) 3 status with an invitation only breakfast bouffe in the Great Room at the W South Beach Hotel during Art Basel Miami Beach 2009. The guests, consisting of art aficionados, members of the press, bloggers, gallerists, artists, board members and staff of West of Rome, were greeted by a hotel barista offering freshly made Italian style espresso and cappuccino, blended fresh fruit smoothies and mimosas. After filling their plates with food from buffet tables brimming with breakfast delights for every taste and craving, the guests moved into the Great Room. Dressed in “The Spirit Girls” black tee-shirt designed by artist Marnie Weber and fashionably torn black jeans, Emi Fontana, the founder and driving force of West of Rome Public Art, presented slides and videos of past and current projects while providing a lively account of how West of Rome evolved, from its first site-specific project in 2005 with artist Olafur Eliasson in a privately owned postmodernist home in the Pasadena Hills, to Women in the City, an ambitious city wide public art project of billboards, LED screens, marquees, promotional stickers, and wild postings by renowned artists Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, and Cindy Sherman. To conclude, Fontana presented a video teaser of WoR’s most recent project, A Voyage of Growth and Discovery, a collaboration between seminal artists Mike Kelley and Michael Smith. Smith made a surprise appearance to share how his character Baby Ikki, the star of the six-channel video, came into being. Using a WoR canvas bag as a prop, Smith pulled out the accoutrements of the Baby one by one — diapers with suspenders, crocheted bonnet, white crocs, and the signature white plastic sunglasses and pacifier—and then redressed, transforming into the character only a Mother could love (and eventually everyone else, too). As Baby Ikki cooed and drooled and took unsure steps, a nervous titter filled the room, as it was hard to ignore the five o’clock shadow and bushy eyebrows. In the end, each guest got his or her own WoR swag bag containing WoR cotillion (gifts)—a press kit, “The Spirit Girls” CD and black tee-shirt, A Voyage of Growth and Discovery teaser DVD, Women in the City pins —all with the transformative power to become a fan of West of Rome Public Art!