This year I was working for gallery Sensei, which was featured in the art UNTITLED fair, and I decided to do a short recap of the events taking place during Art Basel in Miami. Art Week in Miami is a great way to spend a winter break. During the week there are a number of fairs as well as lunches, brunches, dinners, lectures, and events to attend. I had my hands full between working at UNTITLED and attending the previews for the other fairs.
Art UNTITLED received some of the best press this year boasting record attendance and sales during Art Basel Miami. Throughout the five day event more than 18,000 visitors including major collectors and curators attended to view the over 90 international galleries and not-for-profit spaces. The fair itself was curated under the direction of Artistic Director and Curator, Omar Lopez-Chahoud. The pavilion, which had a spacious layout abundant with natural light and a prime location on the beach, was designed by the architecture firm K/R. I think that is one of the areas where UNTITLED stood out from other fairs. Due to the amount of space there was never overcrowding and the viewers enjoyed a nice open layout. To me, space seemed an issue at all the other fairs besides Miami Project. At Scope, Context, Art Miami, and Art Basel I struggled to keep from getting bumped into by the multitude of people.
UNTITLED held an extremely well attended private preview and benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in conjunction with the Marina Abramovic Institute on Monday night. The event was hosted by Abramovic with an attendance list of more than 1,800, including notable art world figures from art historian Diana Widmaier Picasso to collectors Beth Rudin DeWoody and Norah and Norman Stone.
There was a steady flow of visitors until the last day of UNTITLED, including art world figures such as Chrisse Isles from the Whitney Museum of American Art, Christian Rattemeyer of The Museum of Modern Art, Pablo León de la Barra of the Guggenheim Museum, amongst others. Collectors such as Susan and Michael Hort, and Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown were also in attendance.
“The second edition of UNTITLED has been an enormous success, so much so that exhibitors and visitors doubled this year. Our curatorial approach and the open floor plan really stood out to visitors. This year we have expanded to include more international galleries, with many coming from Latin America including Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Brazil,” said Jeffrey M. Lawson, Founder and Director of UNTITLED.
Significant sales were made throughout the fair. Among the most notable were paintings by Ryan Mosely (from $7,500 – $40,000) and sculptures by Malia Jensen (from $4,000 – $24,000) at Tierney Gardarin from New York; a work by Luis Felipe Ortega for $20,000 at Marso from Mexico City; and all mixed media tapestries by Ebony G. Patterson for $18,000 at moniquemeloche from Chicago. Strong sales were reported by Dodge Gallery from New York with works by Cordy Ryman; Dittrich & Schlechtriem from Berlin selling works by Julian Charriére. There was also museum interest in a major optical installation on Balzer Art Projects’ booth.
Galleries participating at UNTITLED for the first time were off to a terrific start including UK based Vigo, which sold out its booth of all existing works by Ayan Farah, and strong sales at New York gallery Kravets/Wehby. Romer Young from San Francisco sold its entire inventory by Letha Wilsons, while Michael Jon from Miami now has a waiting list for Sayre Gomez. Emerson Dorsch from Miami also sold multiple videos by Victoria Fu, whose work will be exhibited in the upcoming Whitney Biennial.
Galleries that have returned to UNTITLED for the second edition also reported healthy sales such as Buenos Aires gallerist Nora Fisch who sold work by Amadeo Azar to a major private collection in Miami, and Andrew Rafacz from Chicago nearly sold all works by Robert Burnier and Naza Farin Lotfi. Halsey McKay Gallery from East Hampton, NY sold a large sculpture by Graham Collins to a public collection in Montreal for $20,000.
As for gallery Sensei, I can report that we did pretty well in sales also, with purchases made by various collectors including one in London, as well as interest in the work of Juana Valdes by museums and magazines such as Vogue. A little about our C28 booth; we brought with us the work of many artists that we represent, however our shining stars were Sarah Anderson, Juana Valdes, and Hector Leonardi. The three of these artists range not only in age but the techniques they use in creating their artwork. We had a magnificent chair by Sarah Anderson made with foam and bleached plywood and paintings she made from encaustic and pigment. Juana Valdes in turn chose to work in porcelain, a material no one guessed while examining her work. Hector Leonardi, an artist in his 80s and former student of Joseph Albers, makes paintings by spilling out acrylic paint on Plexiglas and when it hardens he cuts strips and layers them onto the canvas creating different colors, shapes, and depths. While all three received compliments from viewers, Juana’s work no doubt was the favorite. Her beautiful execution as well as conceptual work wowed just about anyone who entered our booth. Juana Valdes is a Cuban-American artist whose work integrates the social-political discourse within the art object: to analyze relationships between contemporary and historical imagery, their connection to the social, political, and economical dominance of the cultures that produce them, and their impact on cultural memory. She addresses this from a Caribbean diasporic immigrant’s perspective and places it within the current post-racial American politics.
Now a little gossip to liven up the article. Last year NADA Art Fair threatened galleries over being in competing fairs particularly those in art UNTITLED. NADA sent a letter to the galleries included in its 2012 Miami fair, threatening that those who have also signed up to participate in the new, competing art UNTITLED will not be asked to return to NADA next year, Christian Viveros-Faune, writer at The Art Newspaper, reports.
The letter, sent on October 11, 2012, asked the galleries to “commit to NADA solely” and stated, “Galleries that choose NOT to withdraw will not be able to participate in further fairs with NADA.” In response, UNTITLED issued a cease-and-desist letter to NADA demanding that it rescind the threat. Fortunately for the newer fair, NADA’s request was against the terms of its current contracts with galleries — organizers admit that there is no exclusivity clause in their 2012 deal. NADA has released a statement noting that “exhibitors in NADA Miami Beach may also exhibit at any other Miami fair this year, without prejudice to participation in future NADA fairs in Miami or elsewhere,” though the fair, which collects a strong group of young, emerging galleries like Lisa Cooley, Zach Feuer, and Rachel Uffner, says it intends to review its exhibitor contract next year.
The brief spat between (semi-)established art fair and the newcomer underlines the fact that the commercial art fair bubble continues to expand. As older fairs grow and new entries join the competition, fairs will have to struggle to retain galleries rather than galleries fighting to join fairs. The galleries that are the art fairs’ clients could gain power, a situation that would help all of us, given the ongoing prevalence of a few settled, stultifying fairs with no incentive to innovate.
This year NADA took place at the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach. Even though I was staying at the Deauville I did not get to see the fair, which was free to the public. Gallery Sensei however did host a party for NADA on December 5th. Amongst the chaos I saw every morning in the lobby of the hotel; I can assume that NADA did well in attendance, although I cannot confirm that. The fair took place in the ballroom of the lobby and was set up like a traditional fair with booths.
Our next door neighbor Scope met with mixed reviews. Personally I enjoyed the fair, although I must admit there was a lack of cohesion in the quality of works available. The fair was extremely overpopulated with very little space between the booths. Most of the artwork was extremely large or bold and colorful. Scope was definitely sensory overload at times.
However among the madness were some really great works. I loved the work of Drew Tal (I love middle Eastern Art and imagery as it was the topic of my Master’s thesis), I also enjoyed the craftsmanship of Jan Huling who showed with the Duane Reed Gallery, and I was captivated by the work of Anthony Lister who was featured by the Robert Fontaine Gallery. With the resurgence of popularity in street, due to Banksy’s wider spread fame and the controversy over 5 Pointz in New York, Lister’s work creates a sensual combination between street art and painting. Anthony Lister is a street artist by trade, who on his first day in Miami painted a giant mural on Club Space in Downtown Miami, way to start with a bang. However in his paintings he portrays prostitutes and strippers with the same energy, dignity and respect as he paints superheroes and ballerinas. Anthony Lister’s work challenges the viewer to consider what it means to judge another human being based on the context of their environment. Drawing attention to the similarities between high brow and low brow, graffiti and fine art, rich and poor, Lister illustrates that a dance is just a dance, whether you’re naked or not. And with today’s pop culture aggrandizing strippers and “video vixens” in the rap community, his work fits into the context of Scope’s ties to the music industry. Scope hosted a VIP party in conjunction with VH1 on Friday December 6th with various musical performances.
Every fair tried to carve out a niche that made it unique in one sense or another. While UNTITLED is curated, and Aqua takes place in small hotel rooms, Scope has made ties with television and music which might explain a lot of the mishmash of art. I noticed that the people with whom I have spoken to about the fair fell into two groups, the younger generation seemed to really enjoy the fair while the older generation seemed to dislike it. I was actually in a cab headed back to my hotel room after Art Basel with an appraiser I met from Boston who does consultation work for not only private clients but also for the Winston Art Group and she told me that she heard a lot of the people who attended Scope asked for a refund after viewing the fair. Whether that is true or not I cannot confirm, however there was much discrepancy between people I have spoken to about the quality of art at Scope.
Aqua art fair was interesting. It had its ups and downs. I know most people I spoke to really enjoyed it, however it was not my personal favorite. I found the spaces crammed and small. Each gallery had its own small room, like a hotel room, and the fair spanned two floors of the Aqua Hotel. The hotel had an outdoor atrium around which were the spaces of the galleries. I was just thankful it did not rain. There were of course some bright stars just like at any fair. This was definitely a satellite fair for galleries in the more obscure areas of the United States such as Arizona, Missouri, Massachusetts, Georgia, etc. They seemed like those long distance relatives that you only get to see on holidays.
Some of the eye catchers were Marie-Eve Proteau, Mari Kim, Eric Finzi, and Matt Lively. Just to name a few.
I really enjoyed Context, I thought it was a great satellite fair of Art Miami which had a lot of interesting and provocative work mixed with secondary market works. Everywhere I went this year for some reason I loved the art being shown by German galleries or work by German artists. One artist caught my attention because I came across a statue of a mechanical looking man-rabbit which reminded me of the movie Donnie Darko, a movie which made me fear anything that resembled a mechanical man-rabbit. However, one of my favorite artists in all the fairs turned out to be Lutz Wagner aka Moto Waganari. He creates transparent network-sculptures which outline a delicate body frame. By illuminating his sculptures the artists multiplies his three dimensional objects by a two dimensional shadow revealing the immaterial alter ego of every figure. His characters seem to visualize a surreal, parallel world filled with surprise and enigma. Waganari’s sculptures seduce the spectator with their appealing beauty and sophisticated weightlessness. They were astonishingly beautiful in person with a flawless execution as well as extremely witty and clever pun-based titles.
There was also the work of Arnix Wilnoudt, an artist from Holland, which makes a commentary on religion and society with crosses and holy objects penetrating the female and male genitals. The pieces were titled “Hoc Est Enim Corpus Meum” or “This is my body,” a phrase said by the priest while giving out the host during Communion. It was obviously extremely provocative in its statement but each of the pieces had a beautiful charm to them, faces placed in golden chalices and accentuated by gold detail. His work reminded me of the Piss Christ by Andres Serrano, whose work, though provocative in context, was still executed within the art historical canon with creativity and precision.
Art Miami was large, with many great works, a lot of which were mostly secondary market works. I saw that Botero and Wesselmann were featured in different galleries among the different fairs this year and I found their work at Art Miami as well. Banksy’s work made an appearance as well. I feel like Art Miami and Art Basel operated under similar pretexts in terms of the artwork that was featured and the way booths and sales were set up. The two fairs almost became like auction houses selling known secondary market work. It was the smaller galleries at the satellite fairs that took more risks with the artists they exhibited, putting their livelihood on the line in promoting new and fresh talent. Having worked for Christie’s and being around the auction house circuit, I was familiar with most of the artists featured at Art Miami and Art Basel, some of whose work was at a quality lesser than you might see being sold at a prominent auction house. This is why, though I really enjoyed Art Miami and Art Basel, I was more drawn to the smaller fairs, which featured work by artists I was not exposed to. If you want to see the caliber of the future of the art world this is where you’ll find it. If you are more interested in the dynamics of secondary market works and what might come up at a future auction or what would be a safe investment, I suggest you visit Art Miami and Art Basel.
There was a large quantity of sculpture at all fairs and even canvases became grounds for three dimensional manipulations of materials. Miami Project, probably my favorite fair because it combined the spacious layout of UNTITLED and the quality of art found at Art Miami and Art Basel, boasted a multitude of sculptural artworks. I was particularly excited to see the work of Kate Clark featured at the Muriel Guepin Gallery because I fell in love with her work about a year ago at a studio visit in DUMBO. Her hybrid creatures combine human and animal features to question which characteristics separate us within the animal kingdom, and more importantly, which unite us. The sculptures visually, emotionally and intellectually explore this overlap that exists across cultures, along histories, and within societies. Our current lifestyle does not necessitate physical interaction with wild animals. Yet we revere the natural world and are seduced by characteristics we no longer see in ourselves, such as fierceness, instinctiveness, purity. She works with hide to create traditionally mounted animal bodies, utilizing the impetus for taxidermy: our endless curiosity to see animals, and our desire to celebrate their unique features. The unexpectedness of the human face on these animals also evokes curiosity. They are obviously reconstructed yet they are not monstrous, they are approachable, natural, calm, innocent, and dignified. The facial features are believable and the skin, which is the animal’s skin, has been shaved to reveal porous and oily features that we recognize as our own. The viewer has an intimate relationship with the face and then identifies with the animal, acknowledging the animalistic inheritance within the human condition. (Artist Statement)
Margaret Thatcher Projects also had some great work in their booth, particularly the work of Omar Chacon and Venske & Spanle. While Omar reconstructs the definition of a painting, Venske & Spanle work to create organic sculpture creatures which fuse and become a part of the environment around them. The use of marble in these sculptures is interesting in that it calls on a traditional medium and transforms it into something that looks mobile instead of static. The sensuous, curvy and smooth forms appear life- like in front of the viewer’s eyes, sharing our space just like any other living form. They are currently working on a larger outdoor installation.
Yossi Milo featured the photography of Mike Brodie whose work like that of Nan Goldin and Larry Clark has an insider’s view of an outsider’s life. His photographs almost read like a documentary of the lives of young hobos riding the rails. It is poignant in that it combines you-are-there authenticity with just enough distance to see through youthful bravado to moments of confusion, tenderness, and pain. Steven Kasher also featured artwork by renowned photographers such as Diane Arbus and Daido Moriyama. There was also a beautiful light installation by Cathy Cunningham-Little titled “Radiance.”
Art Basel. It took me four hours just to have enough time to make it through the whole fair. By the second hour I already wanted to leave, not because I was exhausted from the week’s activities but because there was so much visual stimulation. I left Art Basel for last because Sunday was the only free day I had. After being to all the other art fairs, leaving Art Basel for last was definitely not a wise choice. It felt like I had an art hangover. To keep it brief, there were mostly secondary market works by Wesselmann, Picasso, Miro, Calder, Fontana, Koons, Kusama, Sherman, Botero, Chagall (who has an exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York; well played Hammer Galleries), among many others. I was happy to see Emilio Perez’s work featured at Galerie LeLong because his work is done so intricately, which I got to see first-hand at his studio in Brooklyn about a year ago. His process is truly unique and fascinating especially when considered within the context of what really defines a painting. Jack Shainman brought a great piece by El Anatsui, there was a whole room dedicated to the work of Marilyn Minter, an installation piece by Mounir Fatmi, a great video by Mika Rottenberg, beautiful pieces by Dirk Bell, Bharti Kher was featured at Hauser and Wirth, a piece by Douglas Gordon wound up being one of my favorites, and there was also a series of photographs by Andres Serrano. It was great to see the work of Michelangelo Pistoletto, as I recently attended a panel discussion at BOSI Contemporary about not neglecting the Arte Povera movement as well as Italian artists in art historical studies. However, by far, my favorite piece at Art Basel was Louise Bourgeois’s C.O.Y.O.T.E. sculpture at Cheim & Read, for reasons I will dedicate my next blog to.
One of my favorite parts of Art Basel was watching the less than obvious competition between David Zwirner and Gagosian. We all know that Gagosian lost Yayoi Kusama to David Zwirner earlier this year, and of course to commemorate that, and also to promote her current installation at the gallery, Zwirner brought a huge Kusama sculpture to the fair. Zwirner and Gagosian also played the “who has the bigger Koons” game, in which Gagosian won. Both Gagosian and Zwirner had personal security guards for their Koons’ and an additional one for Kusama’s sculpture. I feel like this may turn into a day time soap opera at any moment. It is not an unknown fact that David Zwirner has been in competition with Gagosian for some time now but we have yet to see what will unfold between these two in the future. Let’s just hope David Zwirner does not employ the same amount of pretentious gallery assistants as Gagosian, who make anyone who asks who the artist of an artwork is (the artworks had no labels) feel like an imbecile. I truly felt remorse for some of the viewers who no doubt returned to their daily lives believing that the art world is in fact full of art snobs.
I really wish I got to see the Bass Museum of Art and the Rubell Collection but I simply had no time. When coming to Miami during Art Week it is best to have an itinerary already planned as it can get overwhelming and hectic with all the events taking place.