The crowds were thin, but the wallets were open at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 and the surrounding fairs at Miami Art Week. VIPs bought fast and furious during the first two VIP days and left after attending the night parties and exhibitions, the best of which was again at the Faena Hotel where an NFT auction and an inflatable iceberg in the hotel pool were the stars. As Artscope’s publisher, Kaveh Mojtabai, and I roamed the halls of Art Basel Miami Beach and the other art fairs in Miami, an insular world of joy and peace surrounded us despite the heavy vehicular traffic getting there, and the necessary health and safety check stations.
Again, Scope, in a tent on the South Beach, had work created during the pandemic, with an overall theme of glitz and color. Allover, the feeling reflected in the work was one of the last party before the world closed up again. Take the glitz and the color before reality sinks in, and we climb back into the dark shell of pandemic isolation. This time, however, we prepared by decorating our shells with the bright colors and glitter in work obtained from the shows at Miami Art Week.
The best work at Art Basel was Yinka Shonibare CBE’s “Moving Up,” 2021, at James Cohan. In Art Basel’s Meridians sector, a performance piece by Brendan Fernandez, “Contract and Release,” 2019/20/21, was a slow and beautiful ballet of performers seemingly impossibly balanced on points of painted stainless steel.
I loved Rafael Barrios’ “Obtuse,” 2020, of hand-made lacquered steel, reflecting a blue world unbalanced seeming about to crash down, but literally hanging by an edge, LED lights and double-sided glass at Mark Hachem Gallery at Art Miami. Similarly, Anthony James, at Opera Gallery, presented 78” Wall Portal of Solar Black finish, steel, LED lights and double-sided glass, reflecting people in front of it in a deep, seemingly never ending tunnel. Lluís Barba’s “America & Grant Wood, American Gothic,” constructed of Diasec at Also Castillo Gallery, was a spoof on a dour looking couple with figures balanced on the tines of a pitchfork, and superheroes coming to the rescue above their heads and the point of the barn. Alas, the superheroes are small compared to the frightened look of the farm couple.
There was beautiful photography, and gorgeous tapestries of various materials, mostly shiny. And there were new and big paintings covering the color spectrum. But the feeling of the shows was that eye of the hurricane before the coming storm. Let’s hope we don’t get caught up in it.
(Miami Art Week continues through December 6; for more details, visit artbasel.com/ovr/miamiartweek.)