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Heading South to See and Be Seen

Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 (© Art Basel Miami Beach).


Artscope and New England Artists Prepare For Art Basel Miami Beach

by Suzanne Volmer

(Editor’s note: artscope magazine is proud to have been selected to be included at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach’s Magazines section, where we’ll be displayed amongst other leading international art magazines in its stands and collective booth. In this article, Rhode Island correspondent Suzanne Volmer provides a preview of what to expect and how some New England galleries are preparing for this year’s festivities.)

Art Basel Miami Beach, sponsored by UBS and held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, is the world’s leading art destination during the first week of December with adjunct fairs, including Art Miami, CONTEXT, Aqua Art, Miami Projects, NADA, Pulse, Red Dot, Scope, Untitled and Satellite, scheduled to operate that week in the surrounding area.

The adventure is in the willingness to look. Artists, curators and collectors consider this annual spectacle a crucial destination that informs their understanding of global direction while exposing them to new talent. It is a necessary “see and be seen” activity that combines rubber-necking with a buying spree. Combating over-saturation while enjoying the experience is part of the game.

As a full-blown happening, the landscape will be rich with “something for everybody” and a source of civic pride that fully embraces seeing, shopping and the party phenomenon. The fairs are an opportunity to look at modern and contemporary art as a conversation heard around the globe. As a bonus, the public is also invited to see some of the Miami area’s most  notable private collections, including the Margulies Collection, Rubell Family Collection and the Cisneros Fontanals Foundation Collection.

George Kinghorn, executive director and curator of the University of Maine Museum of Art and previously the director and curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville is a 12-year veteran of the Miami Beach Art Fairs. He spends a week at the Fair, a period he considers necessary to see all the locations exhibiting citywide. Kinghorn starts with a quick look at Art Basel Miami Beach and later returns for closer inspection. His assistant follows closely behind him to take notes, freeing Kinghorn’s attention to view art unfettered and to speak with gallerists and colleagues. Kinghorn feels that socializing is an important aspect of attending. Over the past decade, he has witnessed the scene develop to include many fair options. Kinghorn has also always enjoyed a stable of work at the Jack Shainman Gallery at Art Basel Miami Beach as he has curated two solo shows, one of Nick Cave and one of Radcliffe Bailey.

Beyond reconnaissance, this is a think tank environment for Kinghorn and a point of purchase situation regarding his institutional collecting. He spoke of his satisfaction in identifying talent early. Kinghorn purchased  Radcliffe Bailey’s work for MOCA Jacksonville (unrelated to the Art Basel Miami Beach fairs). Furthermore  Kinghorn  mentions a Cayce Zavaglia work that he purchased from one of the Miami fairs from Lyons-Wier Gallery a couple of years ago has since appreciated about three times its original purchase price. Purchases that Kinghorn makes tend to develop into exhibitions, as is the case with a painting by Jack Balas that he bought at Miami Projects from the Denver-based Robischon Gallery. This purchase will evolve into a 2017 solo show at the University of Maine Museum of Art. In addition to Art Basel Miami Beach purchases, Kinghorn purchases from several of the surrounding fairs.

The sectors included in Art Basel Miami Beach are Galleries, Nova, Positions, Edition, Kabinett, Survey, Public, Film and Magazines (which will include artscope magazine, following our participation earlier in the year at Art Basel Switzerland). In the gallery area, prestige galleries like Gagosian, with myriad locations worldwide, will share attention with individual galleries of merit that have been vetted for their commitment to represent art that fits into a schematic of international importance.

Getting juried into the main fair is rigorous, but it’s an attractive carrot for those who try. Boston’s Samsøn Gallery applied for this arena, but was wait-listed. Director Camilo Alvarez explained he also applied for NADA and was declined. He said he “won’t be doing Untitled as in past years, and probably will just go and walk with clients.” Often galleries aiming to move from one tier to another, after participating for a few years at one level, take a year off and return with freshness.

CHOOSING THEIR SPOT

Mike Carroll, owner and director of the Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown, didn’t apply for the main fair. “I think the artwork I represent matches well with the satellite fairs which are better suited to reach our viewers and clients,” he said. He’ll have a booth at Scope, which he said was “extremely successful” last year and whose curatorial arc and developing presence he’s been following. “People spoke enthusiastically of its beauty and the strength of the work that was exhibited.” Carroll will be showcasing the work of two Cuban artists, Adrian Fernandez Milanes and Alex Miguel Hernandez Duenas. “We think that Scope will be a great opportunity for a wider public to know more about their work and practices,” he said. “The preparations are interesting because of the logistics of the studios being in one place and the fair and gallery in another. We met recently for a week in south Florida to choose work and make production arrangements.”

While Milanes and Hernandez Duenas are his main focus in Miami Beach, he will also be looking for placements for the rest of his roster. “We are always trying to be a lens and a doorway to the studios of all of our artists,” Carroll said.

EDITED EXCELLENCE

Throughout Art Basel Miami Beach, and echoed in the other fairs, is the feeling of edited excellence. A collector in many ways functions as cultural steward of contemporary art encouraged to understand the significance of purchases, at times balancing consideration of a previous buy against a present instinct. Vetting is quite influential across the board. It is interesting to note that Miami-area collectors have considerable influence in their own right in shaping the conceptual direction of the smaller fairs. This influence gives the smaller fairs greater definition.

The thrill of discoveries beyond one’s region can be a refreshing perk seeing the unexpected can be profound, even fun. Globalism has always been a defining force in shaping Art Basel Miami Beach, and art from nearly all continents is represented. In the midst of Miami’s visual plethora, one sometimes gets the feeling that The Emperor Has No Clothes; however, sifting through it all is where the challenge of connoisseurship enters.

Vanphouthon Souvannasane, co-owner of Providence’s Yellow Peril Gallery, spoke recently about their choice to participate in Satellite, which is a pop-up mini-fair that is expected to take over a hotel for the duration of the week with a selection of solo shows. A climate of excess infests Miami Art Week, and tying into that sense of spectacle will be Yellow Peril’s solo artist offering at Satellite. Jennifer Avery’s fetishistic “The Beast Boutique” is an immersive installation crafted from Hermès fabrics enriched by her recent residency in France with the luxury goods company.

Boston’s Miller Yezerski Gallery will be a participant in the Pulse Fair. Howard Yezerski describes its involvement as an advertising expense for the gallery, while business partner Ellen Miller spoke of their curatorial decision to take three artists from their roster to Miami. This decision will allow their booth’s presence to have a focused visual profile. Included will be artwork by Heather Gill, Brian Zink and Christian Haub, each of whom uses types of transparent acrylic or Plexiglas to create colorful wall reliefs that read as paintings.

Adelson Gallery of Boston and New York will participate in Miami Projects with one artist, Federico Uribe, whose work in this case also reads as wall relief. The gallery expects to bring portraits made from piano keys by the artist to Miami Beach. In the Adelson booth at BARCU in Bogotá, Columbia, Uribe’s work received critical praise this past October for his bullet constructs, for which there is a high demand and low inventory.

Joanne Mattera, a New York artist with New England ties (she has a studio in Salem, Mass. and is the founder of the International Encaustic Conference), expects to show new paintings from her “Silk Road” series with Miami’s Projects Gallery at Aqua Art. Mattera has blogged about the Miami Fair experience for seven years. She has a sophisticated and refined perspective, and her explorations on the subject are deeply rooted in the practice of informing herself as an artist to support her evolving direction.

In addition to Art Basel Miami Beach, many collectors often gravitate to only their favorite sites among the smaller art fairs as a way of editing the art they will see. The synergy of the high and low, the socially conscious and the historically significant that flows into many creative statements is a good reason to visit Miami Beach during the first week of December.