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Art Basel Miami Beach: an NYC Curator’s Experience

December 7, 2015

ArtsGroup Exhibition | by Harry Seymour


It’s that time again, when the world’s leading Modern and Contemporary art galleries, artists and art fanatics alike descend upon Miami. This will mark the 14th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach – which continues to be the most distinguished art fair in the western hemisphere – with 267 galleries all under one roof, it is arguably the main art event of the year. We attended the VIP vernissage at the Miami Beach Convention Centre before the flurry of frenzied fair goers.

Tobias Rehberger, 1661-1910 from Nagasaki, Meiji, Setti, 2015 Digital print on PP foil, painted MDF, joint compound flowers (Beyeler Foundation C1 Art Basel) Credit line: Courtesy of December Projects
Tobias Rehberger, 1661-1910 from Nagasaki, Meiji, Setti, 2015. Digital print on PP foil, painted MDF, joint compound flowers (Beyeler Foundation C1 Art Basel). Credit line: Courtesy of December Projects

It is as ambitious as ever, encapsulating everything from heavyweights like Larry Gagosian and Victoria Miro to spotlighting emerging talents through their Positions platform. Especially composed for Art Basel, Villa Design Group joined forces with Mathew Gallery, Berlin to create a new series of illuminated gates, inspired by Gianni Versace’s death at his Miami mansion. Each gate, lit from within by multiple rows of multi-colored fluorescent tubes, lures the viewer into this vibrant cave of majesty. You’re led to believe this is a place of care-free fun, a welcome chance to escape the bustling crowds. Bianca Heuser of Mathew Gallery then explained that “the gates depict the scene of different murders and queer killers who enacted them”, interrupting that respite.

Adriana Varejão, Monocromo redondo Jun II, 2015 Oil and plaster on canvas (Victoria Miro Art Basel) Credit line: Courtesy of December Projects
Adriana Varejão, Monocromo redondo Jun II, 2015. Oil and plaster on canvas (Victoria Miro Art Basel). Courtesy of December Projects

An equally engaging space is that of the Beyeler Foundation, where German artist Tobias Rehberger has presented us with a new version of his installation and mural “1661-1910 from Nagasaki, Meiji, Setti”, 2015. It is made of monochrome squares of coloured tiles – which look like blurred pixels of a photograph to the naked eye –  but when seen through a smartphone, the colourful tiles reveal some erotic imagery. This booth serves as the ideal spot to perfect that ‘art selfie’.

Ellie Goulding performing at Edition Hotel. Courtesy of December Projects

Amid the forest of outstretched arms capturing moments, it’s definitely worth weaving your way through to the Victoria Miro booth, not only to experience work by an array of female artists including Celia Paul and Adriana Varejão but to also – try not to be too shocked – be welcomed by gallery staff with smiles instead of issuing that look as if to say, ‘did the cat drag you in?’. Fabian Lang of Victoria Miro describes Adriana “as one of the most well known South American artists”, boasting a strong CV. Her tile cracked paintings became quite an iconic series, where she mixed painting and sculptural elements. As he uttered the words, “her work related to the suffering of the artist” we knew we had to have it. Unfortunately, this piece had already sold, reminding us of the fast paced dynamism that we’ve come to know as Art Basel.

Five hours later we came up for air, and hit several parallel satellite art fairs. Newcomer, X Contemporary, aptly located in the Wynwood Arts District, was refreshingly calm. Highlights included Heisel x Scott Taylors’ “getLIT”, interactive installation, where the viewer is encouraged to flash and Keith Haring’s large Mickey Mouse, consisting of a 10-panel graffiti sign titled “Pop Shop mural”,  created in 1986, which had hung above Haring’s Pop Shop art boutique in Manhattan.

On Wednesday night, Ellie Goulding graced us with an intimate performance at the Edition Hotel. She performed her hit song “Burn” and closed the set with “Love Me Like You Do”.

The success of this years Art Basel, in spite of the rain, demonstrates that Miami is here to stay as one of the most prestigious locations for art, showcasing innovative artists and a new breed of collector.

By Amy Purssey