Art Basel Miami Beach and the rest

[08.12.2015]

 

As is customary every year, the capital of the global art market moved to Miami for a short week leaving New York somewhat in the shadows. Art Basel Miami Beach hosts the best of Modern and Contemporary art in a humid and occasionally diluvian Florida climate. The original seed of the American version of Art Basel was planted in 2002 and it has continued to grow over the years. According to Noah Horowitz (the new Director of Art Basel for the Americas), the fair attracted 75,000 visitors last year from 100 countries and it will likely announce an even larger audience for the recent 14th edition. Offering outstanding quality and a wide variety of extremely fashionable and festive sideshows, the fair is a magnet for art professionals and collectors from all over the world.

The reality on the ground is not 1 fair, but rather 19 ​​fairs — for better or for worse — with some of the Offs tending towards the unashamedly bad taste. However, notwithstanding the inevitable bling-bling that is part of the Miami life-blood, the best quality works were concentrated in the Art Basel and Art Miami shows. The core fair, Art Basel, hosted no less than 267 galleries from 32 countries, showing works by a thousand creators, mostly recognised artists representing relatively safe investment opportunities. This was also where the prices were the highest, with several works selling above the million-dollar line.

In the Art Miami space, it wasn’t difficult to identify some of the major trends by observing recurrent signatures on several stands: apart from the unavoidable giants of American art like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein, the market has firmly refocused on artists like Jim Dine, Frank Stella (currently the subject of a retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum), Ed Ruscha, but also the Surrealist Joseph Cornell, the Cuban Wifredo Lam (whose retrospective is underway at the Centre Pompidou in Paris), the American Wayne Thiebaud, the great Abstract Expressionist Helen Frankenthaler, the Minimalist Robert Mangold, Robert Condo and the Korean Kwang-Young Chun.

With Miami being a gateway to both American continents, Latin American art gets better exposure there than anywhere else, and we noted some sharp works by the Cuban contingent, including Manuel MENDIVE, who signed three new auction records in 2015 (works sold between $68,000 and $100,000), and Tania BRUGUERA. The latter’s sculpture Destierro (Displacement) was on the stand of the Cernuda Arte (a Florida gallery specialised in the Cuban scene). A sign attached to the work reminded us how the artist was arrested and deprived of her passport on December 31, 2014 and again on May 24, 2015 during the Havana Biennial. The gallery was asking $190,000, although the sign did not specify that an identical piece fetched $110,000 less in May at Philips ($81,250 including fees). But that is how these fairs work: they offer the best works at very high prices.

Although Miami is not a major hub for the auction market (9th American city with Fine Art turnover of $9.3 million in 2014), the seafront city manages to create a globally attractive microclimate every year that reiterates the hegemony of American artists while stimulating the Latin American art scene and superbly animating the arty district of Wynwood.