By Nancy Nesvet
I hope you all read Artscope’s preview article of Art Basel Miami Beach 2017 in our November/December 2018 issue. If you didn’t, refer back to it because this Artscope writer was right on the pulse of this Art Basel. Not only is the world of the artist becoming self-and community-centered, but it is now becoming territorial, the buzzword and title of the Public sector.
Although outside, territorial is the name and the game, with each installation concerned with its own world, and content within its borders. According to Philip Kaiser, curator of Public, each installation artist lays claim to part of the beach. Whoa! So, we have gone from cooperation between artists in common projects and restaurants at the last Art Basel (in Basel, Switzerland, in June 2017) to demarcation and territorialism. This doesn’t say a lot to dismiss selfishness in the art or greater world. Each individual expression stands alone. Indeed, each person is an island.
This is not to call Art Basel Miami Beach 2017 or its curator selfish, because his picks only reflect what is available and important in the art world. It is this writer’s belief that he has his eye on the pulse of the art world, and has produced his sector accordingly, although the name Public is strangely incongruous with the private nature of some of the artwork and of the paid admittance only policy, on what is a public beach. The Art World at the fair today is multi-cultural. We are not one world, but a fair of many worlds, all on display by artists who inhabit each.
Starting with the Kabinett sector, themed group exhibitions and solo shows by established and emerging artists are largely concerned with the self. Etel Adnan’s paintings and tapestries draw from her culture and geographic place (Sfeir-Sempler Gallery); Chen Ran’s “DD-MM-YYYY” (2017) illustrate Chen’s history in the three cities he has lived in, New York, Hong Kong and Jerusalem (Galerie Urs Meile). Brigitte Kowanz’s Cable Series (Galerie Krinziger) combines light with linguistic codes, showing human power controlling nature, but also localizing the work with light and language specific to a geographic region.
Kabinett is big on photography, showing a domination of the personal. Not only is the photograph of a specific region and populace, but the viewpoint is from one specific view at one moment in time, with examples including German-Argentinian Grete Stern’s photomontage Suenos series (Jorge-Maria La Ruche), and work by Iranian photographer Shirana Shabbazi (Galerie Peter Kilchmann). Drawings are also personal with Kim Jones’ “War Drawings,” of his time in Vietnam (Zeno X) and Irene Kopelman’s documentary drawings of her month-long residency at an UNESCO site, Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru. Pavel Peppersteins’s drawings, illustrating his short stories (Kewenig), combine views of the cultural legacy of his youth with present day images and current events in his native Russia.
Much of the work here is documentary, lending credence to photography and drawing as real news reporting in an era when fake news proliferates. Art is even more informative and true when it includes the artist’s personal viewpoint. Even Yayoi Kusama, famous lately for room-size art installations imagining the cosmos, here offers a self-portrait, “Tobblo” (Victoria Miro). Even Carl Mannov’s sculpture with printer head (Christian Andersen, Copenhagen) is figurative and questions the journey we all are taking toward the technological.
What are artists and galleries doing here at Art Basel Miami 2017?
They are informing, showing how they are personally reacting to changes in our world, whether that means retreating, or describing their small communities and those they thrust themselves into. Although they are not, as in recent fairs, coming together to make experience communal, they are showing that diverse viewpoints and experiences exist. That is valuable.
(Artscope Magazine will be 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.)