In the USA there is something called the Super bowl, it is the most watched program and football game in TV, among 80 and 90 millions of people watch the game and it is almost consider a National holiday.
In the USA there is something called Art Basel Miami Fair, it is one of the most visited art convocations in the world, with 50.000 visitors during 4 days, 2.5 billion dollars is estimated to be sold in the 260 galleries that participated, now this makes this fair the super bowl of the art world, as Marc Spiegler the director of the successful fair joked about in his welcome speech. This event has made of Miami Beach a temporary art capital during the days of the fair, as at least other 5 fairs happen contemporarily and collectors open their houses (sometimes called Museums) for the public, Wynwood area becomes very active, an area that was recovered and became the 798 (Beijing art area) of Miami. Ten years ago Miami had only 10 galleries, now there are 69.
These are some statistics to explain the strong influence that this art fair has had not only in this city but also in the art world in the last 10 years. Interesting to notice that something like 40% of the galleries participating are from Latin America, it seems to be that crisis not only does not touch art fairs but countries like Brazil and Colombia seem to be stronger than ever in the art market!
Courtesy of Art Basel Miami
There are many artists to highlight but these are a few of the most interesting ones:
Sandra Vazquez de la Horra, presented by David Nolan Gallery, with her fairy tales characters drawn on waxed paper, words and drawings that relate strongly to her roots down in Chile, where she was born, her works speak about myths and popular tales, sometimes stating political views but they seem to always have a humor component which makes them very strong and even though they get presented as a whole installation, each piece stands for itself.
Sandra Vazquez de la Horra Graphite on waxed paper – David Nolan Gallery
Edward Burtynsky, the famous Canadian photographer, that plays with a contrast between the beauty of the picture and the ambiguous context, there is desolation in this industrial landscapes where no humans appear. A few pictures of the Oil series were presented by Howard Greenberg gallery. His work can appear sometimes so nice and clean that you can get distracted by that and only after you looked for a while you realize the content it’s very silent and almost disturbing. As Charlotte Cotton explains in her book “Photography as contemporary Art” Burtysnky photography is a deadpan expression, that presents facts, that can be related to political ideas by the photographer and that those ideas could be the reason for the author to pick up the subject but it is not explicit in the image, it remains very neutral.
Edward Burtynsky Oil Fields #19a Belridge, California, USA 2003 – Gallery Howard and Greenberg
Trine Sondergaard, she is one of the most interesting photographers I saw in the fair. The inhabited interiors where you can see open doors one after the other and get a very deep perspective gives you an intimate feeling with the space, it almost includes you in the space as if one can walk into it, it makes me reflect on the threshold, a never ending one that this talented Danish artist presents. Her work was presented by Bruce Silverstein Gallery.
Interieur – c-print on dipond / 120 x 120cm / 60 x 60 cm – 2007 – Bruce Silverstein Gallery
Berlinde de Bruyckere Her work was presented by Galleria Continua the most accomplished and interesting gallery in Italy. Berlinde’s pieces made in wax are so suggestive and delicate that one gets involved with the material immediately and that slides you into the meaning of these human figures that often are missing their head they have a touch of religious icons but also have a sense of pain and transformation going on, in a way they feel very much alive.
2007 – showcase, wax, epoxy – Opera unica – Private collection
Courtesy: GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin – Photo by: Ela Bialkowska
As far as the Chinese artists present in the fair, there was only one painting by Yu Hong, who seems not to be very well known yet in western world but she is definitely an accomplished painter in China, a female artist that develops her powerful paintings from her own life, she has been making a painting diary of all her life in the past 4 decades, each piece is confronted with the political/historical most important fact of the year in Chinese society that the painting is related to. The most impressive piece in my opinion is “Ladder to the sky”, the artist saw an ancient painting called ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent from Saint Catherine’s Monastry on Mount Sinai and translated into contemporary language, with contemporary figures that loose the ritual aspect of the painting she had been inspired but keeps the “divine” aspect of getting higher into the spiritual place, in this case the sky. The gallery representing her is Long March Space, directed by David Tung that I must underlined was one of the most impressive gallerists in terms of the attention he gave to visitors and his professionalism.
Yu Hong – Ladder to the sky – Acrylic on canvas – 2008 – Photos courtesy of Long March Space Gallery
Gideon Rubin a very talented painter from Israel, presented by German Gallery Karsten Greve. His small cardboard paintings presented famous people with no face, it made the people loose identity and get to be equal to anyone else and impossible to recognize as famous.
Gideon Rubin – Oil on Board 2011
Adrian Paci the Albanian artist was present in the Italian Gallery Kaufmann Repetto with the documentation in video of the performance “Encounter” done in Sicli, Sicily. The action shows him in a repetitive handshake with hundreds of people that walk around the Piazza to handshake him, this act that represents the closure of an agreement becomes a ritual when done it in such a repetitive and obsessive way between him and unknown people, the action establishes a contact among people without really defining which reason the artist or the participants have to shake their hands and what is it that gets accomplished with this specific action.
The Encounter 2011 – HD video color sound 22’ – Photos Courtesy of Galleria Kaufmann Repetto
Thomas Schütte, United Enemies, a series of small sculptures and images where two grotesque figures showing anger and frustrations are attached together by something that seems bigger than them, sometimes it feels that it is the ambition of both figures that keeps them together beyond their differences and sometimes hate and pain you perceive while looking at these colorful small clay figures from different perspectives. These pieces were presented by Carolina Nitsch gallery that seemed to have done very well in terms of sales and public, the booth was certainly well curated and their choices accurate.
Thomas Schütte United Enemies Series – Photos Courtesy of Carolina Nitsch Gallery
Art Positions Area
The spaces called Art Positions where galleries had to choose only one artist were not always good choices and not very well curated, some of the galleries used it to be “spectacular” but weren’t, others chose projects that were hardly understandable and attractive unless you went through the process reading the whole statement of the artist.
One of the few galleries that succeed in this exhibition mode was the Brazilian Barò Galeria that presented Rosana Ricalde, with her maps made of words, words that became images and drawings into the space, like stating that famous bible sentence: “Before the time there was the word”!.
Rosana Ricalde – Cidades Invisiveis – Mixed media 2011
Photos Courtesy of Barò Galeria and Art Basel Miami
Of course as in every fair and exhibition there are choices that are not very successful, the blah blah paintings of Mel Boucher seemed to be all over the place though they have no real content and seem an easy way to go about painting text, no statement is really been done and as much as I tried believing the very intense discourse of one of the gallerists carrying his work, I couldn’t help stopping at one of his sentences, “It seems easy when you see it on this size but once he goes very big then it becomes another thing”.
Daniel Buren’s lines, don’t just work always in canvas they need to find a context and a space, when he did the one year project in the corridor of Galleria Continua, that was incredibly interesting, his work really made a statement in that space, when you see 5 canvases hanging on the gallery they seem not to be as strong in the white space of a fair.
People working in the galleries are supposed to be trained to be nice and great with audience as everyone can be a potential client, unfortunately as we all know it is not always true, many stories can be told and I’m sure a lot of people can confirm that once in a while one has not been treated well by a gallerist, as much as I have to say almost all the galleries I spoke to in the fair had very nice people in it, that was friendly and kind, I had the episode of the tired seller of the Swiss Gallery Peter Kilchmann that was sitting down in his chair like a tired king taking a nap and after I said hello wanting to ask for the price of the pictures documenting the performance of Adrian Paci that I mentioned before, he just looked at me like from the bottom to the top, made the gesture of “you are not a buyer I don’t care” and told me with low voice 30.000 euros, I asked, for each one or for the 6 pieces? And he didn’t even answer, so I said, thanks for your incredible kindness. A lot of these stories can be told, gallerists that judge people as non buyers and lost huge collectors wanting to buy in their booths because of having judged “non buyer” a potential buyer! not that I was a buyer but in any case I think that is an appropriate behavior and these things should be told as well.
Collateral events to highlight:
Matthew Akers, a successful producer, director, photographer and cinematographer, directed the film of the famous performance artist Marina Abramovic called “The Artist is present”.
Marina Abramovic “The artist is present” documentary screening at Soho Beach House
Photography by A. Bregnman
During the Art Basel Fair in Miami, a preview of the film for a few people was presented, 17 minutes of the film shown at the Soho House by Nowness group. The film shows mainly the audience relating to performance and the artist, which seems to be the most important and relevant characteristic of it, it definitively makes it a different documentary from what one normally expects when watching an artist’s life in a film, it also underlines the way performance art relates to audience. Marina Abramovic said during the presentation that people goes to a painting show and glances at a painting for a few minutes, during the performance retrospective people would stay to watch for a whole day and would return.
The film will be presented in Sundance Festival and the world will be able to watch it by the end of January.
Text Sandra Miranda Pattin