Certainly top collectors dominate the calendar, stir up the selling floor and preside over what are sometimes ludicrous displays of privilege. But some also open their houses, or at least their warehouses, to the masses.
And although you might need a V.I.P. card to party alongside A-Rod or celebrate the latest Ferrari model, as some revelers did this year, those who want to make art viewing the main activity have plenty of more accessible options. Not the least of them is the fair itself, which has swelled to include some 260 international exhibitors and a full program of outdoor sculpture, video and performance.
And whether you want to be occupied by Art Basel or Occupy it, you can’t deny the event’s role in revitalizing Miami culture over the past 10 years. (Both the Miami Art Museum and MoCA North Miami have new buildings in the works, and the Wynwood district is chockablock with galleries, studios and street art.)
All that said, a backlash seemed possible this year. There were rumors of an Occupy Wall Street-style protest, and a high-profile collector declared an intention to boycott the fair (Adam Lindemann, in his column in The New York Observer).
Mr. Lindemann showed up anyway. And the only activism I saw was folded, shrewdly, into the fair’s “Art Public” section: a gathering space for Miami community groups, courtesy of the artists Andrea Bowers and Olga Koumoundouros, where you could pick up a leaflet or buy a T-shirt that said “99%.”
No one seemed particularly worried about protests or the euro zone at the fair’s V.I.P. preview in the Miami Beach Convention Center. The work, though, appeared more conservative than in years past.
The blue-chip selections were plentiful, among them an elegant display of Calder and Miró sculptures (at Helly Nahmad) and a stuffy-looking but rewarding exhibition of Modiglianis, Soutines and other School of Paris artists (at Galerie Thomas).
Those looking for more of a party atmosphere could find it at Mary Boone, where Barbara Kruger’s huge wall texts shouted “Money makes money” and other turns of phrase on the topic of filthy lucre. Just across the aisle, LM had an equally snazzy booth wallpapered with Warhol’s cows and festooned with a broad selection of his drawings.
Many other exhibitors relied on size to make a statement. Edward Tyler Nahem gave most of its booth to a 12-foot-long Frank Stella, “Khurasan Gate Variation III,” from 1968. Everywhere, dealers were pulling out their tape measures.
The message, over all, was “We’re here to do business,” not “What does this all mean?” Only a few dealers, like Peter Blum, took shots at the fair environment. At his booth two paintings from a series called “Bankrupt Banks,” by the Danish artists’ group Superflex, caused many double-takes with their prominent corporate logos.
Some of the most ambitious displays could be found in the “Art Nova” section, where the official restrictions — only art made in the last three years, and no more than two or three artists per exhibitor — seemed to foster creativity.
The smallness of the booths was no obstacle to Untitled, host to an enthralling maze of painting, photography and drywall by Brendan Fowler and Matt Saunders, or to Overduin and Kite, dominated by Dianna Molzan’s marriage of dainty pastels and muscular formalism.
“The Art Kabinett,” single-artist shows scattered throughout the fair, were uneven. The better ones could be hard to find, as was the case with the Francis Alys slide show “Sleepers” (at Galerie Peter Kilchmann); others, like Elmgreen and Dragset’s “idealized gay sauna,” at Galeria Helga de Alvear, took over entire booths.
Art Basel Miami Beach runs through Sunday at the Miami Beach Convention Center; artbaselmiamibeach.com.Similar Posts:
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