Art Basel Miami Opens To The Public In A Wave Of Optimism – Review

Art Basel Miami

The art world has descended on glamorous Miami Beach for this year’s Art Basel Miami, which opened for a VIP and press preview yesterday and to the public today (Thursday). This is one of the most important events on the international art calendar and a place to catch up on the trends and directions for collecting art on many different levels.

Art Basel Miami represents the high end of the collector’s market but also encourages a hand full of emerging galleries to exhibit their work in the Nova sector which is designed for galleries to present one, two or three artists showing new works that have been created within the last three years. The Nova sector often features never-before-seen pieces fresh from the artist’s studio and strong juxtapositions. Of particular note was Jose Davilan’s cowboy themed photographs based on Richard Prince’s work but with cut-outs at Max Wigram, London.

Positions is another sector which allows curators, critics, and collectors to discover ambitious new talents from all over the globe by providing a platform for a single artist to present one major project. There was no UK representation in the Positions section. Of particular note was the installation of postcards of sunsets by Oriol Vilanova at Parma and Romero from Madrid/Ibiza.
Kabinett is another interesting sector of the fair where participants are chosen from the Galleries sector to present curated exhibitions in a separately delineated space within their booths. The curatorial concepts for Kabinett are diverse, including thematic group exhibitions, art-historical showcases, and solo shows for rising stars.

The overall impression of the fair is definitely a quality event – less gimmicky than Frieze and full of interesting new names to follow alongside the familiar stalwarts of the contemporary art world.  Abstraction is a strong trend with neo-Abstract Expressionism in abundance together with numerous hard-edged and shaped canvases.  The most cutting edge comes from a variety of Berlin galleries such as Olaf Metzel’s crumpled aluminium art forum magazine from Wentrup and David Zink Yi’s ceramic coated copper and lead giant squid from Johann Konig. Also of special note are the abstract colourful canvases by Eddie Martinez from Michael Kohn, Los Angeles and the broken glass cabinets beside Fedex boxes from Walead Beshty at Thomas Dane, London.

UK galleries and artists are well represented with all the usual big names in attendance.  On the opening morning White Cube, Victoria Miro, Lisson and Sadie Coles were throbbing.  British artists represented included Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg, Sarah Lucas, David Nash, Roger Hiorns, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, David Shrigley, Peter Doig and Ryan Gander amongst others. Ingleby Gallery from Edinburgh had an interesting one man show by Antiguan born Frank Walter which included a Caribbean shack that was rebuilt and kitted out.  McCaffrey Fine Art, New York had a stunning mini exhibition of William Scott’s paintings to celebrate the centenary of the artist’s birth.

Larry Gagosian was personally holding court and Jeff Koons was posing for pictures with attractive women. Gagosian is showing one of Koons’ kitschiest works to date in the form of a giant turquoise metallic easter egg with magenta ribbon.  What does it all mean??  Art advisors could be overheard asking about their position in the holding queue for various art works.  The VIP lounge was filled to capacity and there was no place to sit as everyone in the entire fair let in at that ‘exclusive’ time was a VIP.

As the sun went down we were exhausted at the end of a very busy day.  The fair is enormous and it was a welcome relief to chill out on the bean bag chairs at the SoundScape Park watching Londoner David Gryn’s curated films.  Of particular note was Mickalene Thomas’ film documentary about her mother and Martin Creed’s humorous short about crossing a New York street.

Today we are off to the Wynwood District in Miami with more to follow.