THE ART WORLD TURNS UP THE HEAT
J. Fatima Martins
Art Basel, which hosts three events annually, celebrated its 15th season in 2016, concluding the year at its United States location at the Miami Beach Convention Center (the other two locations are in Hong Kong and its home base of Basel, Switzerland), continuing its status as the art market’s chief commercial event. Attendance this year was reported to be 77,000 visitors, with over 1000 registered news reporters and art writers from around the world covering over 270 gallery displays. This year’s Art Basel Miami Beach was curated to highlight and respond to world developments, global financial tension, gender inequality, political instability, censorship and environmental crises while at the same time serving as a platform, as expected, for billions of dollars worth of art buying and selling by independent commercial galleries and dealers
Familiar artists, both living and dead, were available for purchase, including Bill Viola, Yayoi Kusama, Sheila Hicks, Marina Abramović, Cy Twombly (who is having a critical rebirth right now), Louise Bourgeois, Edward Hopper, and ironically Banksy and Tracey Emin (who have cultivated a false and glamorous anti-establishment persona). The two most important exhibition sectors this year were Nova and Positions, where young, emerging, fresh talent was promoted. At the non-Basel fairs, work by Swoon and Obey Giant was available.
Artscope publisher Kaveh Mojtabai, who has attended several Art Basel Fairs both in Switzerland and Miami Beach, noted that during his examination of the fair, this year’s pricing on artwork was double, sometimes triple, that of previous years. “The energy is high, people are buying art, possibly as investment,” he said
Of the internationally respected artists involved this year, American artist Betye Saar, an innovator of the field of contemporary assemblage art, was physically in attendance at Art Basel in the Projects Sector, talking with visitors at the booth held by Roberts & Tilton gallery of Culver City, California. Saar was showing “Ritual,” an evolving installation of now-iconic aesthetics of primitive, found and functional objects inspired by, and borrowing directly from, mixed cultural history and global spirituality. Her installation was interactive — visitors were invited to participate in live-art by placing a personal offering at the base of the focal sculpture, called “Mti,” which was presented as a type of religious alter.