Art Basel Miami Beach 2018 was bustling with crowds of people and visitors at the VIP and public days were rewarded with phenomenal work, both current and historic. Painting is back in a big way as drawing takes precedence over photography in the annals of art. Photography is still big, but is painted upon with cultural symbols embellishing work ranging from portraits of animals to landscapes to cultural figures.
At Art Basel, sculpture left the kitsch behind; the Mickey Mouses and Popeyes of last year are gone and the fine art of Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti prevailed. History is revered, imitated and commented on from the Egyptians’ art to more recent movements. Politics is current and past, as we compare and contrast our choices and ethics with those of past governments and rulers.
There was much to see and absorb, demanding several visits to take it all in. With 268 galleries from 35 countries, this 17th iteration of Art Basel Miami Beach in the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, held over four days from December 6-9, 2018, had strong representation by Latin America and the United States galleries with additional galleries from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
I could have used another week to process all that I saw and felt, as there was just so much to see. But despite the prolific amount of work, people did not rush around, flitting from one exhibit to another, trying to see it all, instead, they concentrated on the work, often silently contemplating the artistry and technical brilliance as they strived to find the implied message. That message was not blatant: the art demanded time and work to absorb it, and viewers were willing to pay attention and give time and effort to really see the artists’ intentions.
Technically, the perfection of the drawing, painting and sculpture at Art Basel Miami Beach stood out as did the trend toward representation. Way beyond numerous Warhol paintings and prints, beyond the Botero paintings and sculptures that we saw at Art Basel in Switzerland last June, the historic work produced in the 20th century by preeminent artists returned to the spotlight.
There were treasures to be found, including the singularly most arresting Giacometti painting I have ever seen, at Montreal’s Landau Fine Art. Standing entranced before Giacometti’s “Caroline” (1963, oil on canvas), and later reluctantly leaving it, its vision still stays in my brain, the view straight through the eyes into the soul. Similarly, Joan Miró’s “Femme rêvant de l’évasion” (1945, oil on canvas), also at Landau Fine Art, magically combines abstraction with a representational figure, whose face with its abstract features, seems sad while eliciting sympathy.