Launched in 2019, the Meridian sector at Art Basel Miami Beach, curated by Magalí Arriola, features large installations presented by selected galleries invited to introduce large-scale work. Naturally, for an additional fee, 23 galleries, some working in partnerships, have 20 installations at the 2022 anniversary edition of Art Basel Miami Beach. These works allow visitors to explore the fair outside the endless Mondrian-grid-like corridors.
The balcony, located on level two, on the North side of the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC), provides a beautiful chilling view of the sea of white walls from the booths that one will be exploring with mixed feelings of excitement and frustration. No doubt that FOMO (fear of missing out) is beginning to build. There is so much to see and experience. What if we miss the best, the worst, or the ugly?
The balcony is also perfect for seeing the Meridian sector from above. As you go down the escalator to start the art pilgrimage, you see a human body floating from above, suspended in the air by cables. It is the body of a real woman sitting horizontally in a chair. The work, “Chair,” 2011 – 2022, is a durational performance by María José Arjona, a Colombian artist — one of the most remarkable contemporary performers working juxtaposed with sculpture and performance. The work is presented by Rolf Art Gallery.
A disciple and collaborator of Maria Abramovic, María José Arjona confronts visitors who try to make sense of her linguistic body and soul choreographies. The performance, which can last up to six hours, allows you to relax, calmly breathe, and observe. By synchronizing your breathing with the artist, you may experience her meditational, transcendental experience throughout her slow and subtle movements. It is a quiet space amidst a lot of loud noise — a perfect spot to start the day or to wrap up the visit.
Female bodies continue to be the focus of Meridian with the presence of Judy Chicago’s large-scale crochet textile “Birth,” 1984, presented by Jessica Silverman Gallery. Looking at it closely, this exquisite, massive monochromatic wall-piece portrays a woman lying down and giving birth. The piece works as a kaleidoscope of almost pixel-like small images that is revealed as you walk away to see the entire composition, like the grand finale of an opera.
The work includes one million stitches and is part of a collaborative series of 150 textile works, “The Birth Project,” which was a profound step in Judy Chicago’s earlier career development as a feminist artist. Today, the series that started in 1985 is included in many museum collections. Judy Chicago is mainly known for her colossal work, “The Diner Party,” 1979, at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, that pays homage to historical and mythical women in history.
Continuing with the themes of ownership, equality, advocacy, and artivism, contemporary artist Simon Denny, born in New Zeeland and based in Berlin, brings a new installation, “Virtual Property,” 2022, presented by Petzel Gallery.
Denny’s work promotes a dialogue between virtual property and ownership in the digital and physical worlds, among many other questions of new media works. Denny also reflects upon media production, distribution and consumption which sometimes require viewers to participate and be dazzled by his messages of environmental awareness and disturbing societal realities.
I was fortunate to talk with Denny in person as he shared information about his recent work with infectious excitement. “Virtual Property” is presented in three pieces, including a sculpture that requires the downloading of an app to engage with an AR (Augmented Reality) experience that shows, in his own words, an image of “a mineable planet Earth.” It is a simulated image, but not quite a false reality. Simon Denny has been one of the most prominent artists working with the NFT (non-fungible token) crypto art circuit.
During my walks at the fair, I have seen works sold and selling in the range of $25K – $19M (DM me if you want more details, as some galleries request privacy). If you follow the commercial art world, it is well-known that some buyers might not see the works after purchases are made as they go to storage locations or auction houses. Of course, some art lovers have very special spots for their favorite pieces in their residences or galleries. So, here is a current, timely question: Who owns the NFTs? NFTs and crypto art have exploded in 2020 and 2021, bringing a new language to the contemporary art world. Crypto art requires artists to develop new skills and art lovers to examine NFT works creatively. Although Albert Einstein wrote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” I am not convinced that imagination and creativity are sufficient to understand NFTs and crypto art. We clearly must learn more to enter this new art world.
(Art Basel Miami Beach is open to the public December 1-3, 2022 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach, Florida. If you attend, pick up a copy of the November/December 2022 issue of Artscope Magazine in the Magazines Sector. For information, visit artbasel.com/miami-beach.)