By Nancy Nesvet
Starting the day in the beautiful Botanic Garden for the press conference before the press and VIP opening for Art Basel Miami Beach 2017, we heard about the number one art event attended by United States collectors, with 180 cultural institutions represented and 70,000+ people expected to attend. The news that a seven-year contract was approved for Art Basel Miami Beach’s stay each year at the Miami Beach Convention Center was announced by the UBS representative sponsoring the fair. Banyan trees, palms and art made the morning.
Artscope went on to preview Art Basel Miami 2017, noting a high percentage of work by hot, contemporary artists. We observed that the numbers were reversed with about 60/40 hot younger artists to older, established artists or those no longer practicing, here as opposed to Art Basel 2017 in Switzerland with the 60 percent being older, established artists, and those in the canon. Standouts among older work included Alice Neel’s portrait, “Robyn Evans” (1968, Xavier Hufkens), reflective work, Olafur Eliasson’s “Color Experiment #3” (Neugerriemschneider), showing prismatic color on a metal disc, devoid of his mirrored approach, and Ian Davenport’s “Poured Triptych Etching: Premavisi (After Klimt),” 2017 (Alan Cristea Gallery, London). Tom Wesselman’s 1997 Screen Print, “Still Life with Lilies and Mixed Fruit,” reminiscent of Dutch 17th century still lifes, was surprising proof that Wesselman sees beauty in pop art figurative work and Dutch Still Life. Sure, why not? It’s all art. Underlining that is Sara Cwynar’s photograph “Red Rose” (2017, Foxy Productions). Red Roses, Dutch Still Lifes, beauty, joy and color, in a naturalistic, non-technicolor spectrum. It’s all here.
The question posed in Mel Bochner’s “Obvious,” 2017 (Two Palms) reading, “IT’S OBVIOUS PLAIN AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE DO I HAVE TO PAINT YOU A PICTURE? DUH.” is the best statement empowering the artist. Yes, he needs to paint a picture, because it’s the best way to get the info through. Mark Bradford, whose work has recently been seen at the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale and is presently in a solo show at the Hirschhorn Museum, whose practice encompasses repainting to make the work relevant to himself, presents his “Triptych.”
We are seeing a lot of handicrafts, from rope hanging baskets, with all the ramifications of the hemp symbolic rope and the history and anthropology of baskets, rugs and fabric sculpture. The best is Yinka Shonibare’s fiberglass sculpture, “David (after Michelangelo)” (Stephen Friedman Gallery) with hand-painted Batik pattern covering it, and Manish Nai’s “Untitled,” (2017, Kavi Gupta) a minimal work of dyed jute. There is also reflective work, the best being Olafur Eliasson’s Glass Spheres Installation, “Collective Decision,” 2017. Metals are featured in Hague Yang’s “Sonic Sphere with Enthralling Trio-Diagonally Ornamented Brass and Nickel,” using industrial materials to construct an art object.
Tony Tasset’s “Fallen Snowman” (2017, Kavi Gupka) sets up a quandary. Has this resin, glass and polystyrene snowman fallen under the weight of industrialization? It just lays there, never melting, never changing. Is environmentalism showing up here? Like all our industrial waste, it will never decompose. Frosty, the Snowman, if you remember, was a mighty happy soul, so maybe we should be a little more serious so as not to match his fate. But Frosty here is sad and beautiful and interesting, all at the same time.
From time immemorial, artists have used natural materials to produce beautiful craft. We now see artists using industrial materials, metals, plastics, alkyd to ornament, with no technological use but to make art that people revel in when they see them. Not that the use of new materials to make art is revolutionary, but the plethora of materials is so large now, and the connection to industrialization and technology so apparent, that it is surprising to see how effectively these materials are used to produce beauty.
(Artscope Magazine is reporting live from Art Basel Miami Beach throughout the week of December 4-10 on its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages as well as ArtscopeMagazine.com. You can see all of our reports in one place on the Artscope Magazine app, downloadable on itunes).