(Anish Kapoor #selfie)
In his press conference that opened the 12th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, Director Marc Spiegler could not have been more clear: Miami is thriving culturally, and the resurgence is partially due to the art world’s takeover of the area. His brief speech focused primarily on the redevelopment of Downtown Miami’s Wynwood district, which now hosts over 100 galleries and pop-up venues, in addition to the largely privately funded Pérez Art Museum, which ran its official public opening concurrent to the fairs. “We’re not going anywhere,” stated Speigler. “What happens here can not be copied and pasted elsewhere,” he said, hinting that Miami’s primary draw is its year-round warm weather (allowing for multiple outdoor festivities), and its place on the globe for being convenient to Art Basel’s international roster of dealers, collectors, critics, and patrons.
Try to calculate all of this—the hundreds of new galleries, the dozens of satellite art fairs, the emerging institutions—and multiply by the sheer force of Art Basel itself, exhibiting over 250 of the world’s leading galleries in an indoor arena. The result is a plethora of visual information, nearly impossible to fully digest.
Despite the stimulation level, Art Basel does offer distinctly organized sections. “Nova”, a selection of gallery booths that feature “strong curatorial juxtapositions,” each comprises work by no more than three artists made within the past three years. The art often comes to the fair directly from the studio, adding a further sense of discovery. Similar, the “Positions” section allows galleries the opportunity to present a singular new project—much like a solo exhibition—geared towards generating a collector base for emerging artists. These additional components allow for the work to become more accessible: they create an environment that facilitates developing lasting connections while providing a preconceived, visitor-friendly navigation system.
The following list of works were just a few that stood out to me as I roamed the convention center for several hours each day, prompting me to dig a little deeper into their origins. This list also serves as a personal reminder as to why I love going to art fairs in the first place: you are given the opportunity, even if for a brief period of time, to experience art from all over the world, insinuating various cultural exchanges. And with a bit of research and a desire to self-curate your own experience, you actually can leave a fair feeling refreshed, informed, and inspired.
Elisabetta Benassi: “Truth and Lies”
Gallery: Magazzino, Rome, Italy
In “Truth and Lies,” Benassi hung 19 Vietnam War-era Zippo lighters, presumably owned by American soldiers. Each lighter was etched with a poetic stanza, reflecting upon war, death, fear and turmoil. The tiny, reclaimed objects draw you in, building what the artist describes as a “strange and detached narrative of a crucial historical event.” When placed in the context of an installation, organized decades later, the lighters force you to question the fate of their owners: did they survive, or are these poetically laced objects all that we have left?
José Carlos Martinat: Isla, 2009/2013, Fake palm trees, thermal printers, automatic information searching program, thermal paper
Gallery: Revolver, Lima, Peru
The surface of the island is made up of tiny scraps of paper, falling from three printers attached to two artificial palm trees. The printers are rigged to convey an ongoing stream of political information based on the U.S. and its relationship to Puerto Rico.
Rémy Markowitsch: “… hast Du meine Alpen gesehen?” (Have
you seen my Alps?), 2013, Synthetic material, horn, leather trousers
Gallery: Eigen + Art, Berlin, Germany
Markowitsch’s series of work explores the history of the Swiss Alps from the late 1800s to the World War II era, when German and Austrian mountain organizations infiltrated the area with anti-Semitic thought. “Have you seen my Alps?” was allegedly spoken by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888), founder of Jewish Neo-Orthodoxy. The taxidermy stag, clothed in traditional German mountain wear, reflects upon mountaineering, nationalism, and militarism, with the stag itself becoming a metaphor for the hyper-masculine takeover of an otherwise peaceful, natural environment.
Simon Fujiwara: Dear Europe, The Winters Here Are Mild and Our Intentions Here Pure, but We Spaniards Know a Sickness of the Heart That Only Gold Can Cure, Yours, H.C,., 2013, Typewriter, print
Gallery: Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City, Mexico
A portrait of Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés spews out of a typewriter, as if he is typing his alleged quote to Aztec ruler Moctezuma II in real time. “He is known for his autobiographical explorations of identity and sexuality that blend fact and fiction into rich, absorbing narratives,” as described by the Andrea Rosen gallery, where the young artist had a solo exhibition earlier this year.
Erdem Taşdelen: I WISH TOO TO BE ABSORBED, 2010, Plywood and acrylic latex paint
Gallery: NON, Istanbul, Turkey
A play on words, the sculptural installation forms a half-circle that viewers can literally walk into (or be absorbed by). The piece evokes meditative qualities, inviting you to ponder for a moment the many emotions that claim your thoughts. Whether it’s a consuming relationship, a difficult memory, or just everyday woes, “I Wish too be Absorbed” helps you digest your feelings before spitting you back out into reality.
Darren Almond: Seen and Unseen, 2013, Aluminum, bronze, white paint
Gallery: Max Hetzler, Berlin, Germany
One of the many mirrored pieces, Almond’s “Seen and Unseen” does what the title suggests. The letters are cut in a way that allows viewers to get quick glances of themselves, but never allows a full form to materialize. You may catch a flicker of your eye or your hand, but your body’s reflection is certainly fragmented. The expression, “Remember Everything,” seems like a challenge in this situation.
Tony Matelli: Pussy, 2010, Enamel on mirror
Gallery: Koenig & Clinton, New York, NY
Like Almond’s work, you can just barely make out your own reflection behind the dust and enamel that coats Matelli’s mirrors. Layers of graffiti and simple shapes create an image that is conceptualized, covered up, and re-constructed again several times. “I like this idea of seeing yourself beneath all these layers of other people’s touch,” the artist recently told the Village Voice in a studio visit. There is a faint longing when viewing these works to wipe the mirror clean, find yourself, and promptly turn away.
Claire Morgan: Internal Bleeding, 2013, Danedlion seeds, fruit flies, nylon threads and glass
Gallery: Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Germany
One of my personal favorites at the fairs was Claire Morgan’s “Internal Bleeding,” a sculpture that featured hundreds of dead fruit flies, frozen in flight. “My work is about our relationship with the rest of nature, explored through notions of change, the passing of time, and the transience of everything around us. For me, creating seemingly solid structures or forms from thousands of individually suspended elements has a direct relation with my experience of these forces. There is a sense of fragility and a lack of solidity that carries through all the sculptures. I feel as if they are somewhere between movement and stillness, and thus in possession of a certain energy,” the artist quotes in her statement.
Yoan Capote: Isla (La Noche), 2011-2012, Oil, nails, and fish hooks on jute on panel
Gallery: Jack Shainman, New York, NY
One piece in a series of sweeping seascapes, these works were created in the studio with several dozen assistants on hand. The waves that form the image are precisely arranged fishing hooks, hammered into the panel, distorting their original form. Barely unrecognizable from a distance, it takes a close inspection to realize the aggressive presence of the objects. “The obsessive process of creation reinforce the meaning of the work, inspired in issues like isolation, collective fantasies and obsessions,” as described by the artist. This process made me fantasize of the political hierarchy on a historical ship, in which the sailors work tediously, but are unable to control the raging nature of open water.
Sheela Gowda: Cut Flowers, 2011, Metal
Gallery: SKE, Bangalore, India
Composed of metal, the decorative forms in “Cut Flowers” are reminiscent of the patterns found in typical Indian gate grills. Positioned haphazardly against a wall, the artist was exploring the parallel between the perfectly cut, human manipulated objects to the fragility of a wilting plant.
Evariste Richer: La Soustraction (Subtraction), 2011, Mixed media, metal and motor
Gallery: Meessen De Clercq, Brussels, Belgium
Taking the shape of an ancient rock-like form, the piece is wired on a contemporary turntable which completes one anti-clockwise rotation every 24-hours (Subtraction). Because it’s such a slow moving rotation, the subtle differences in appearance from minute to minute are nearly impossible to recognize. However, it does make you feel as if time is slowly inching backwards, in a way, attempting to uproot you to the time in which the rock depicted was crystallized.
Björn Dahlem: Sonne, 2013, Wood, lamps, light bulbs
Gallery: Guido W. Baudach, Berlin, Germany
Bjorn Dahlem’s beautiful light fixtures are remixed from thrift store finds, and are constructed to resemble scientific models and diagrams. The artist is “interested in the way the universe has been theorized and presented in popular science, and parallel presentations of utopias, spirituality, and human existence,” as described by Baudach gallery. The use of vintage objects hints upon the recycled, consistently changing dialogue regarding contemporary theory.
Dove Allouche: Granulation _23, 2013, Lavender essence, ethanol and petroleum vapors on silver-plated copper
Gallery: Gaudel de Stampa, Paris, France
Photography fans would love this series on silver plated copper by Dove Allouche, who used “the physautotype” photographic process invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre in the 1800′s. The process includes the use of lavender oil dissolved in alcohol as a photographic agent. The large format images are re-creations of historical photographs of solar granulation, the rigid texture you see on the surface of sun in telescopic images. This phenomenon is a depiction of the sun producing light, and the process in which the works were made inform their materials: the lavender oil, representing sunlight, and silver, which splits light into a spectrum.
RELATED REPORTING: BOSTON AT BASEL
Premiering at Art Basel, Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun, a portable lamp which uses the energy from the sun to generate light, was built as a reading tool for people in places without easy access to electricity. Merging art, philanthropy, and new technology, Eliasson will be presenting Little Sun in Boston this upcoming March at MIT.
Permission to Be Global: Latin American Art, opened during Basel week at Miami’s Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), and featured 61 artists from Central and South America and the Caribbean. The exhibition was curated by the MFA’s Jen Mergel, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art and Liz Munsell, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art & MFA Programs, in consultation with Jesús Fuenmayor, Director and Chief Curator of CIFO. The exhibition will travel to the MFA this March.
(Photo: Leonie Bradbury)
Autumn Ahn, who’s recently presented an ongoing body of work developed while in residency in Paris for Fourth Wall Project, installed a site specific installation for The Wayside. A pop-up exhibition in a Miami Beach hotel, the work consisted of new, simply arranged drawings hung alongside a graphic mural, stressing the importance the artist places on the body and it’s reaction to location.
(Photo: Art New England)
One of Boston’s own outdoor festivities incarnated in the form of DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park‘s annual party. Taking place at the lavish Fontainebleau Hotel, the event was set in an environment consisting of dimly lit palm trees and poolside relaxation nooks. The party was documented by the editorial staff of Art New England Magazine.
South End gallery Carroll and Sons gave Wynwood-based satellite fair Miami Projects a Boston presence. The Gallery exhibited represented artists including Joe Zane, Tanja Hollander, and Sandra Allen in a salon-style booth. Also exhibiting was Stephen Zevitas, presenting works by Alex Lukas, Ann Toebbe, Chuck Webster, and Peter Opheim.
Samsøn Projects installed at UNTITLED MIAMI, which turned out to be my favorite fair. UNTITLED was situated directly on the beach, with gorgeous views of the water. Thankfully, no art was harmed by sand. Samsøn exhibited recent work by Carlos Jimenez Cahua and Gabriel Martinez.
(Photo: LOT F GALLERY)
Vacant lots became ephemeral galleries in Wynwood, where traffic was literally backed up on the Friday night of Basel. People danced to live drums in the middle of the street, and walking around was similar to being at a carnival (only, the boys were cuter and had skateboards, and there was beer everywhere). Among the many artists contributing work to the district was Boston’s Geoff Hargaddon (aka Cash for Your Warhol), who unveiled a new piece and gave our group a fantastic tour of the area. LOT F Gallery curators James Wormser and Kate Ostreicher stole the show with their live coverage on Instagram, like the fantastic photo above of Nychos.
(Hao Ni, Residue)
One of my favorite pieces at SCOPE Art Fair was Residue by Hao Ni, represented by Providence’s Yellow Peril. The sculpture featured birdlike plaster objects set afloat in 3 light boxes (reminded me a bit of those bright florescent lights we use to kill moths). I felt a twang of hometown pride seeing a Providence gallery in the mix in Miami.
(Juan Travieso’s Endangered Species series / Photo via BDCWire)
There was no shortage of SMFA alumni at the fairs this year. I had the pleasure of running into Paul Kotakis and Stephanie Boyé who were down in Miami covering alumni work via SMFA’s twitter. BDCWire profiled three alumni as part of their Art Basel coverage, including Juan Travieso, who took DigBoston‘s cover earlier this year.