Miami Art Week

Miami Art Week

Miami's reputation for beach bling exists peaceably alongside its emerging position as an international hub for art and design. 

Walk up Collins Avenue toward Art Basel Miami Beach and you might see the following: a green and orange spray painted Ferrari, a tray of Jell-O shots, a fallen palm leaf, and a poodle with a gold-plated collar. Miami is a city of juxtaposition, and today its reputation for beach bling exists peaceably alongside its emerging position as international hub for art and design.

In addition to Art Basel, Miami now hosts America’s installment of Maison&Objet.  It is also home to over 100 galleries and a dozen art museums, not to mention a slew of new buildings designed by international ‘starchitects’ like Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano.

This isn’t the city’s first crack at reinvention, of course. Miami has had its fair share of ups and downs. The latest, a market crash during the financial crisis saw real estate values plummet and construction come to a near standstill. But the bounce back, bolstered by new financial regulation and an influx of (largely cash) buyers from Latin America has been equally remarkable. And the city’s renewed sense of identity is linked to the cultural renaissance that has accompanied the latest building boom.

Local developers, many of them avid art collectors, are even incorporating art pieces into their luxury buildings. At Oceana Bal Harbour, a new luxury tower currently under construction on the north end of Miami Beach, Argentinean developer Eduardo Costantini purchased two Jeff Koons sculptures, ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Pluto and Proserpina’ that will become permanent fixtures in the building.

The pieces will be on display in a central open-air breezeway facing the Atlantic Ocean; and, as part of their property purchase, residents will own a stake in the sculptures as well as a selection of additional yet-tobe-determined art pieces on display in the lobby. “Today’s affluent homeowners are well travelled, cultured and appreciate fine art more than ever,” Eduardo Costantini says, “Many of them are art the collectors in their own right.”

While art is finding its way into an increasing number of private and public spaces around the city, Art Basel Miami Beach remains the eye of the storm. And each December the world’s most influential designers, gallerists, enthusiasts and collectors gather to attend everything from commercial projects to cultural programing.

In the high-octane art market of recent years, the first hours of the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair were generally marked by a frantic rush at the door followed by fierce competition in the more-than-200 booths that fill the convention centre. This year, however, the mood was muted. At the VIP preview the aisles were noticeably less crowded – the fair reported attendance was down by 9.4% compared with last year.

Still, most dealers reported steady sales, even if the deals took a little longer to close. Paul Kasmin Gallery, which was showing works by several artists for the first time, including Bosco Sodi and a large-scale work by Lee Krasner, sold the latter titled ‘Storm’ (1963) for US $6 million. Acquavella Galleries also enjoyed a successful opening day, including the sale of a 1964 Kenneth Noland, ‘Mach II’, in the region of its US $1.25 million asking price, as well as a 2014 Miquel Barceló painting, ‘Little Big Bang’. 

As always in Miami, the fair included a strong Latin American flavour. In particular galleries from Mexico and Brazil showed intriguing works from artists not widely known outside of their home countries. Of the 269 galleries who exhibited, 21 were newcomers; these included Simões de Assis Galeria de Arte, from out of Curitiba, Brazil, which showed 16 works made from the 1930s to the 1950s by the Uruguayan artist Carmelo Arden Quin; Galleria d’Arte Maggiore from Bologna, Italy, focused exclusively on the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, who became an icon posthumously for his serene tabletop scenes; and Leo Xu Projects, from out of Shanghai, which previously exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong, staged a new show entitled ‘Shanghai: A New Ballardian Vision’, a reference to the dystopian vision of novelist J.G. Ballard. The show includes works by Aaajiao, Cui Jei and Liu Shiyuan.

But visitors are likely to remember Art Basel as much for what took place outside of the air-conditioned convention centre aisles. Inside the manicured gardens of luxury hotels, star-studded poolside soirees were furnished with buckets of champagne, grapefruit and tequila. There were international guest DJs, elaborate multimedia installations, and at the newly completed Faena District, private performances from Madonna and Bon Jovi.

A plethora of satellite exhibitions took place too. Smaller shows that focus on underexposed art, including NADA, Scope, Context, Pulse and perhaps the most captivating, Untitled, housed in a sun-filled tent on the beach. At Design Miami, galleries traded in collectable furniture and décor. Stand-out pieces included sculptural shelves from the Irish artist Joseph Walsh who manipulates wood into free form compositions, and antique silver trays purchased on eBay by artist Jaden Moore who carefully sawed them apart and fused them back together again in new forms.

Also memorable were two giant canopies in the public piazza at Design Miami’s entrance designed by SHoP Architects. The studio is known for its sustainable and innovative practices and for this installation, the firm developed a special 3D printing technique that uses biodegradable bamboo and can produce forms to an unprecedented scale. The series of arching bamboo legs were the largest 3D printed structures in the world.

The hanging garden at the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) was also a striking sight. Inside, the museum showed a large and hallucinogenic retrospective of the Argentine-born, French-based artist Julio Le Parc. Outside, the perforated canopy, which is designed to let light and lush vegetation in among columns, transformed the veranda into a multidimensional garden. At one of the week’s most impressive cocktail events, hundreds gathered on the terrace overlooking Biscayne Bay and the hanging foliage was illuminated against the night sky like giant green fingers of light.

But while the week included plenty of revelry and air kisses, the recent American presidential election was the topic of many less jovial conversations and artists and galleries also seemed more political than in years past. For New York’s Enterprise gallery, the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija produced three large text-based works, each stenciled on pages of The New York Times from the day after the election. Each of them bore a dark, obliquely narrated statement: “THE TYRANNY OF COMMON SENSE HAS REACHED ITS FINAL STAGE.” If Miami can contain multitudes, that now includes politics too.


This story appeared in the January 2017 issue of Art Republik

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