In Review: Art Basel Miami Beach

BY Ann Binlot / Dec 14 2016 / 21:03 PM

Politically-charged and environmentally focused works took centre stage at this year's Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB). Ann Binlot explores the highs of this glossiest of art fairs

In Review: Art Basel Miami Beach
Ghada Amer. 'A Golden Scar.' 2015. Ceramic. 58,4 x 96,5 x 30,5 cm. Photography of artwork by Brian Buckley for Ghada Amer. © Ghada Amer
In Review: Art Basel Miami Beach
Etel Adnan. Untitled. 2016. Oil on canvas. 12.5 x 16.25 inches (32 x 41 cm) (W19307). © Etel Adnan. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris
In Review: Art Basel Miami Beach
Ibrahim El-Salahi. 'Head II.' 1957. Oil on wood panel. 45.5 x 30.3 cm, 17 7/8 x 11 7/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Vigo Gallery
In Review: Art Basel Miami Beach
Brian Calvin. 'Florist.' 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 70 x 56 inches. (177.8 x 142.24 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York

“This Year,” read a phrase on a wall in mismatched lettering at New York gallery Cheim & Read’s Art Basel in Miami Beach 2016 booth. The artwork, made in 2016 by American artist Jack Pierson, sums up the tumultuous year in just two words. Compared to recent years, 2016 has been full of turbulence, from terrorist attacks in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Belgium, France and other countless countries across the globe to Brexit to the United States electing millionaire Donald Trump to be its next president.

“Especially in moments of great transition and change as we are experiencing in the U.S. at the moment, we are reminded of the fundamental powers of art to inspire hope and build communities, and we are honored to have the international art world on our doorstep in Miami Beach this week,” said Noah Horowitz, director Americas of Art Basel.

Politically fueled artwork lined the walls from November 30 to December 4 at the Miami Beach iteration of Art Basel, which also holds fairs in Hong Kong and Basel, the Swiss city where it originated. As visitors made their way through one entrance, a large-scale bright orange lightbox with the words “End White SUPREMACY” scrawled on it with black vinyl text by Sam Durant provoked thought at Blum & Poe. At Anton Kern Gallery’s booth, a painting of a smoke stack emanating green fumes with the directions “PROTEST AGAINST IT” by David Shrigley, told viewers to fight against pollution. Rirkrit Tiravanija collected newspapers the day after Trump’s victory and turned a collage of them into the backdrop for a triptych of three canvases at the Gavin Brown’s Enterprise booth that each read “THE TYRANNY OF COMMON SENSE HAS REACHED ITS FINAL STAGE.” At Art Basel in Miami Beach’s Public sector, which was in front of the Bass Museum and supported this year by MGM Resorts Art & Culture, Glenn Kaino’s “Invisible Man,” reminded fairgoers of the Black Lives Matter struggle through a mirrored silhouette of a person in the “Hands up, don’t shoot” stance.

A view of Art Basel in Miami Beach. Photography courtesy of Art Basel 

There were also works that played on the warm, sunny atmosphere of Miami Beach, like Derrick Adams’s Kabinett sector exhibition at Rhona Hoffman, which presented paintings of black people lounging on blow-up floats at the pool. Maurizio Cattelan’s TOILETPAPER X Fondation Beyeler installation kooky set-up of a household covered in prints, plates and more depicting the everything from piles of pills to spaghetti overflowing in the kitchen proved to be one of the more social media-friendly stands at the annual fair. Brazil’s Galeria Nara Roesler presented a shimmery transparent installation by Julio Le Parc, who also has an exhibition at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Ugo Rondinone’s neon-colored boulders stacked atop one another in Collins Park acted as a modern-day totem nestled among palm trees that also happened to garner countless Instagram posts.

Across the parking lot at DesignMiami/ Louis Vuitton displayed its Objets Nomades collection, unveiling two new designer collaborations: the Blossom Stool by Tokujin Yoshioka and the Fur Cocoon by the Campana Brothers. Gaetano Pesce’s exhibition of colourful smiling cabinets, tree vases and chairs at Salon 94 showed that good design can also be joyful.

That Friday, Bulgari debuted its collaboration with the late architect Zaha Hadid at the Faena penthouse — the Faena Arts District also officially opened that week – on Friday. Hadid’s interpretation of the B.zero1 Design Legend Ring, which looks like a stack of bands sandwiched between two thicker rings donning the Bulgari logo, was inspired by an architectural icon: the Colosseum in Rome. That night Bulgari sponsored a star-studded benefit presented by Madonna to benefit Raising Malawi. It capped off the most sought-after event of the week – only 400 seats were available at $5,000 a pop – with an exclusive after party at the Faena penthouse that attracted several celebrities, including benefit host James Corden, Sean Penn, Chris Rock, Courtney Love and David Chappelle.

Miami Art Week, which began 15 years ago with Art Basel in Miami Beach, lured what felt like an infinite number of luxury labels – Gucci, Loewe, and Moschino among them – to hold events there, while numerous celebrities from Leonardo Dicaprio to Adrian Brody perused through art or attended the swanky parties. Endless glasses of Dom Pérignon flowed at its annual fete at The Wall, while every night more than a dozen parties took place. Although the Zika virus was a worry on many people’s minds, it didn’t seem to damper the mood. This report could go on forever, considering the myriad exhibitions, artwork, fairs and events that took place, but I’ll finish on a simple note, Doug Aitken’s 2012 lightbox at Berggruen Gallery spelled out an appropriate way to finish off Art Basel in Miami Beach. 

For further information on Art Basel in Miami Beach click here