Every December the art world buzzes about Art Basel, the main fair that is also used colloquially to refer to all of art week in Miami. Certainly the golden goose at the center of the gaggle of 20+ satellite fairs, Art Basel drew over 70,000 visitors this year to the Miami Convention Center in South Beach over the 5 days running from Dec. 3-7.
Art Basel overall was what I was expecting -- mostly paintings and sculptures by modern and contemporary artists, some of which I was familiar with from museum visits and others that I was not familiar with, but were probably in Art Forum magazine at some time or another. Smart, well executed works that you could easily live with by names that will probably hold their value.
Neon popped up in quite a few appearances as did highly reflective works such as this stunning Anish Kapoor, which seemed more appreciated for its selfie photo opportunities than its art merit. There were a few moments of welcomed non-commercialism, which included the “Sleeping Exercise” designed by performance artist Marina Abramovic: a large space with cots and colorful blankets to kick off your high heels, get tucked in and rest up for as long as you wish.
The art dealers offer no greetings or casual pleasantries; this is a very costly venture so their focus is to make themselves available to serious inquiries about the artist and, if all goes well, the price to acquire (which is never visible on the title placards).
SCOPE is a totally different vibe. Housed in a huge temporary tent right on the beach, this fair is focused on emerging artists and galleries that are serious about what they do, but perhaps a bit less stuffy in attitude. A towering Swoon dominated the entrance and the sound decibel was quite a bit louder and livelier than at Art Basel. The gallerists were friendly and a few artists were camped out in gallery booths working on art pieces while making themselves available to answer questions about their work. Prices are posted on many of the title placards, ranging from a few hundred dollars to the tens of thousands. Red (sold) dots were scarce but visible.
Hyper realistic figurative sculptures by different artists were peppered throughout the fairs, but my hands down favorite was the Salvador Dali sculpture by Kazuhiro Tsuji at SCOPE.
Untitled Art Fair
A few paces down the beach from SCOPE was the Untitled Art Fair -- large airy booths featuring mostly sculpture and installation art with compelling concepts.
“Is this work going to be recycled at the end of the fair?” asked a viewer looking at a 3-dimensional mass accumulation of garbage debris created on site, left as a result of a performance by artist Anastasia Ax. “It will,” assures the gallerist, “unless of course it sells.”
Conceptual works require more time and consideration than a brisk walk-through can accommodate, but it is very rewarding if you make the effort as is the case with Jen Stark’s pedestal art piece. If you had just glanced at it on your way to somewhere else you would’ve missed the experience of looking down into an infinite abyss of a color burst.
After 7pm, when all the fairs have called it a day, Wynwood is the party place. Mixed in with the plethora of outdoor murals are the resident galleries, pop-up exhibits and dance parties. The art is almost secondary to the libations but highly accessible, which has its place in the art fair ecosystem. Warehouses served as mural spots outdoors and exhibit space indoors with works by several urban art contemporaries including Os Gemeos, Maya Hayuk, Shepard Fairey, Miss Van, Lister and Swoon.
Art Miami is the anchor fair on the Miami-proper side of town. It’s best described as “contemporary verging on edgy” with noticeable risks being taken by the galleries. Artists like Banksy that used the streets to circumvent Art World 101 protocol are now behind velvet ropes and mixed in with the likes of Pablo Picasso.
And speaking of Picasso, a 1956 $85,000 silver plate entitled Visage aux Mains and crafted by Pablo Picasso was stolen from the fair early Friday morning. A $5000.00 reward for its return was being offered by the organizers of Art Miami.
Art Miami also owns their own satellite fair, CONTEXT (as well as Aqua in South Beach), conveniently located next door. CONTEXT featured intrepid works by artists that are clever and not afraid to let their playfulness show as seen with the work by street installation artist Mark Jenkins or Moto Waganarl’s shadow-casting sculptures.
Be assured that art is alive and well around the world with no signs of stopping any time soon. If anything, art fair week in Miami gives you the inspirational shot you need to get back to work and contribute your best to make the world a little more beautiful.