Enter The Big Guns Art Basel Miami Beach Day Three

Art Basel Miami Beach

On The Third Day Of His Diary Ben Austin Discovers Size May Matter To Some But Reputation Trumps Size!

So, enter the big guns. The mega money and serious players are fully primed and ready to go trophy hunting. They want the big names, the blue chip stuff, artwork that needs no introduction. After all what’s the point of spending all that money when nobody knows who it’s by, right?

The main fair opened to the VVIPs and the press at 10am, but I had to wait until 3pm to get into the Convention Centre, that vast sprawling building that takes up a whole block and is currently housing art that runs into the billions.

I know the form, I have walked and walked these aisles before, I have smiled and I have greeted. I recognize some major work and draw a blank on others. I need to be strategic, there is much one can easily miss. One’s own movement is at times dictated by others in your group, as one wanders off to glance here and another meanders to survey something else. Not forgetting the countless and often meaningless conversations along the way.

First stop Acquavella Gallery, who is there? Larry Gagosian, as one of the biggest international dealers he is sniffing around. There are major 20th century pieces, second rate Picassos (but still a Picasso!) and a very beautiful small painting by Lucien Freud, half hidden away.  A fine Basquiat entitled ‘The Ring’ 1981 was taking pride of place. Across the way the Van de Weghe Gallery was also leading with Basquiats, for whom there seems to be a bit of a revival.

Over at Skarstedt Gallery was a handsome large scale George Condo, again another artist currently hotly in demand. They also had a couple of fine Cindy Shermans. Barbara Mathes gallery was showing a very impressive Anselm Kiefer. Paul Kasmin had staged a project space for the optical effect artist, Ivan Navarro. At Roberts & Tilton there was a strikingly bold portrait by Kehinde Wiley, entitled ‘The World Stage, Israel’ which I rather liked and at Two Palms was a stunning series of works on paper by Chris Ofili (the new Basquiat?) and a decent selection of work by Chuck Close, I mean how can you not like Kate Moss in gold?

We moved on and were amused by the installation on show at Frederic Snitzer, comprising of sculptured cigarette butts holding up comical signs.

This being Miami, there is a good representation of galleries from Latin America and the following took my eye – Galeria OMR out of Mexico and Galeria Millan from Sao Paulo. The later had some particularly strong work on offer by, Miguel Rio Branco, Tatiana Blass and Henrique Oliveira. Another stand out gallery from Sao Paulo is Casa Triagulo, they were showing work by Eduardo Berliner, Mariana Palma and the fantastic Joana Vasconcelos.

A recent gallery hailing from Cape Town, South Africa called Stevenson is making waves, having stolen the show at Frieze in New York and London. I would recommend a close look at their ongoing programme.London galleries are here of course, the stalwarts and the perennial exhibitors at all the major international fairs.  Stephen Friedman was showing the landscape painter of the moment, Ged Quinn and had a rather good Mamma Anderson as well a Yinke Shonibare figure laden down with globes at the entrance to the booth.

 Lisson Gallery had a wonderful Marina Abramovic photograph of the iconic performance artist holding a lamb. Also on show strong Ryan Gander and Anish Kapoor offerings (of course).

Over at Victoria Miro, there was an incredible tapestry by Grayson Perry entitled ‘Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close’, which is an edition of 6. I have always adored Grayson’s work and he is fast becoming a national treasure. They also had a large scale Chris Ofili piece taken from the National Gallery’s show – Metamorphosis: Titan project and a few works on paper not unreasonable at around $20K.  An installation piece by Sarah Sze, caught my eye as did a large painting by Chantal Joffe and a fine portrait by Alice Neel. One new artist on their rooster is talented painter called Barnaby Furnas, definitely one to look out for.

I was less impressed by the work shown by White Cube, apart from a very strong large scale Georg Baselitz, which seemed to dominate the stand.

Elsewhere the other big galleries had a few crackers, but with quite a lot of padding too. There was a good David Salle being shown Mary Boone. Pace had a decent Bosco Sodi and a strong Antoni Tapies. The Edward Tyler Nahem gallery had a medium sized Gerhard Richter on show and a decorative Raqib Shaw.

On piece that I found flabbergasting was a tiny Calder and unfortunately I forget which gallery was showing it, but apparently it was hand made by the artist as a model and was priced at an eye watering $2.5M.

Over at the young and up-and-comings at the Projects I was taken by the fabric/performance work that was taking place at Mother’s Tankstation from Dublin. I kno that I mentioned Anthony Spinello Projects in my last entry, but his solo presentation of Augustina Woodgate is something a bit special. Her work is so poetic and beautiful, with layers of maps and globes being sanded down and remove reveal a whole new topography and overwhelming sense of absence, truly a new way of approaching landscape. She is an artist with a great future ahead of her, I’m sure.

Tomorrow is the opening of the other fairs, such as NADA and Pulse, which I look forward to covering. I know that I have failed to mention hundreds of worthy artists showing in the main fair, but the whole thing becomes too much to take in one go, so I have to revisit it in due course. It seems to be that the act of viewing the fairs becomes a virtual performance and test of endurance in itself.

Words: Ben Austin /Photo LG on his CP © ArtLyst 2012


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