Art Basel in Miami Beach is like the Fashion Week of the art world — a week-long international event in which all the major players in the art world gather to show, sell, and buy art. Oh, and party too.
This was my first year attending, so I made sure to visit as many fairs as I possibly could. First stop, was the opening preview for NADA, at the Fontainebleau Hotel. Each fair tends to cater to a different crowd and genre of art. NADA (New Art Dealer’s Association) is primarily concerned with emerging contemporary art from young, up-and-coming art galleries and is the only major American art fair to be run by a non-profit organization.
Lately, I’ve been really captivated with painting (no, I don’t think it’s dead but having a reemergence and I was drawn to the Brennan & Griffin (New York) booth, which displayed works by Guy Goodwin and John Williams. Goodwin’s ambiguous Dream Queens’ Salon tempts the viewer to reach out and poke it. It looked as it was made of some sort of soft material you can sink your fingers in, but upon closer inspection you realize that is made up of layers of rigid cardboard stacked and painted upon each other.
I also appreciated the large Williams canvas displayed on the outside of the booth with its expressive use of color and brushstrokes.
Other noteworthy works were a Katherine Bernhardt canvas of her usual 2-d miss-mash of objects, Puppies Puppies, Nolan Simon’s Earth which took up most of the What Pipeline (Detroit) booth, forcing fair-goers to squeeze into odd spaces and angles to view the paintings on the walls, and Mika Tajima’s spray-painted Jacuzzi-like structures at Eleven Rivington (New York).
The next fair on my roster was Art Miami, which was the complete opposite of NADA, in terms of the artwork and crowd. From my understanding and observations, this fair is less curated and booths are overhung with the idea to optimize selling. Closets within the booth are completely crammed with additional works, ready to replace the ones that sell on the walls. Most of the works shown are also secondary market so they are not original works from the artist’s studio, but rather works being re-sold. I observed a lot of the usual big names — Frank Stella, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons. There was even a booth with works by Banksy, which is problematic when you think about it.
Of the many Frank Stella sculptures on view (perfectly timed with his current retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), I snapped a photo of the 400 pound Goliath at the Galerie Terminus (Munich) booth, which had to have special reinforced walls to support it. At Leslie Feely (New York), I was drawn to a charming little Alex Katz collage of a bowl of tomatoes (only around 40 of these collages exist) and a Henri Matisse drawing that would look quite grand if I lived on the Upper East Side but would look rather out-of-place in my modern Williamsburg apartment. Art Miami was definitely not a Brooklyn crowd, and I don’t recall seeing a Brooklyn or Lower East Side exhibitor in sight, although there were numerous ones at NADA.
UNTITLED is a relatively young fair but has a reputation for high curatorial quality from its exhibitors. The fair took place in a brightly lit white tent, similar in feel as the Frieze art fairs. I observed a lot of interesting works, such as a sculpture of a reclining, strung-out looking girl (which perfectly described how I was feeling by Friday). I also liked the folded, origami-like works by Sébastien de Ganay at Company Gallery (New York) and enjoyed reading Octavio Abundez’s 64 things to do.
As I hurriedly walked past it and took a few snaps of the Devin Troy Strother neon works on my way. I thought the simple, linear but bold acrylic on plywood works by Jens Wolf at Ronchini Gallery (London) were striking as was Daniel Arsham’s deteriorating sculpture with protruding crystals.
Lastly, the small but eye-catching The Hole (New York) booth caught my eye since I recognized two works by Brian Willmont (having done a quick studio visit with him before I departed for Miami). I also managed to snap Bertie (the cutest art world dog ever – seriously, follow him at @bertiebertthepom on IG).
I also need to mention Taymour Grahne’s (New York) booth of fabulous photographs by Hassan Hajjaj and the booth’s exterior which encouraged selfies galore with his works.
My last stop in my week-long art fair pilgrimage was Art Basel Miami Beach at the Miami Beach Convention Center. At this point, I was admittedly feeling thoroughly “over it”. However, as soon as I arrived on Saturday morning and lined up with the other VIPs, the energy was infectious. Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (New York) immediately caught my attention with their bright neon “Who Run this Mother?” by Karl Holmqvist. Naturally, I took a few seconds to snap a selfie inside the mirrored Anish Kapoor work at the booth before I continued on my way. I was drawn to the Dana Schutz painting at Petzel (although not my favorite work by her, I felt obliged to photograph a work by a woman artist that I like).
The Perrotin booth was a hit with its fuzzy blue polar bear sculptures, and lastly I liked Jack Shainman’s booth with works by Nick Cave and El Anatsui, among others.
I spent a total of three hours perusing the various sectors at Art Basel, but even that was not enough time to fully absorb everything. There’s no way to really describe Art Basel unless you experience it for yourself. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to experience it (and emerge unscathed!) but it’s a relief to be back in New York. Let the art detox commence.
Nasim is based in Williamsburg and has experience working at numerous galleries in New York City. Aside from her interest in contemporary art, she enjoys travel, snuggling puppies, and a good party. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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