Miami Art Week officially opened Tuesday with a surge of VIP-status collectors reveling in their first full-scale reunion since the pandemic.
For the 20th time, the doors of the Miami Beach Convention Center opened on the art fair that civic fathers once eschewed and has now come to redefine the Art Basel fairs and the city itself.
The pre-opening press conference was a lovefest, with officials from Miami Beach and the Art Basel fairs proclaiming themselves in “a long-term committed relationship” destined to last at least another eight years, according to current contract, and “for many years to come.”
The fair is the grand finale for Marc Spiegler, the global director who recently decided to step down after 15 years. He will be succeeded by art historian Noah Horowitz, Art Basel’s new CEO.
During the press conference, Spiegler reflected on the last 20 years of Art Basel Miami Beach. Two decades ago, he said, Miami’s reputation was riddled with crime and scandal.
People questioned if the art fair could fill up hotels. Collectors wondered why Art Basel would launch its first outpost outside of Switzerland in Miami, not New York City. Even Spiegler, who came to Miami Beach for the first time in 2002 as a journalist, was skeptical.
“Rarely have so many people been proven so wrong so rapidly,” he said.
‘We’ve missed this gathering’
Inside Art Basel’s largest-ever Miami Beach fair with 282 galleries, VIP collectors from across the U.S., Europe and Latin America greeted one another like long-lost cousins as they perused work by household names — Pablo Picasso, Alex Katz, Alexander Calder — as well as newer stars including Amoako Boafa, whose work has shot from $18,000 to $300,000 since the pandemic began.
“We’ve missed this gathering as a tribe,” explained Miami collector Dennis Scholl.
Celebrity art lovers graced the halls — Venus Williams, Leonardo di Caprio, Jon Bon Jovi. Pharrell Williams carried on long conversations with artists at the Jeffrey Deitch booth and gracefully posed for photos.
Several younger artists, who are the real stars here, were on site as well, including South African photographer Zanele Muholi, whose image graces the exterior of Miami Beach City Hall, and Miami-born Woody De Othello, who is helping to make ceramics intriguing again. Miami’s Jose Bedia greeted fair goers next to his newly created monumental installation in the Meridians sector, complete with a vintage crocodile skin he found in an antique shop.
Even the art seemed to be in a cheerful mood. While issues such as diversity remained part of the conversation, the gloom of war, politics and strife that dominated some previous fairs was all but gone. Booths burst with color. One of the most striking: Berlin’s neugerriemschneider booth papered with a red-and-yellow pop-art image by the late Michel Majerus; a massive head “portrait” by Thomas Bayrle, Jorge Pardo’s hanging shades and a giant disco-ball-like sphere by Oluffur Eliasson.
And despite early caution from some insiders about an uncertain economy, gallerists reported robust sales at VIP previews Tuesday at Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Miami.
“Sales will be strong,” predicted Miami art consultant Lisa Austin. “You can tell by the high number of works on hold.”
Within a few hours, her prediction proved correct, at least for some galleries. “We’re very, very, very happy,” said Sean Kelly, of his eponymous gallery.
“After the last art auctions, everybody thought sales might moderate,’’ said an already-exhausted Marc Glimcher, owner of New York’s Pace Gallery, just four hours after Art Basel opened its doors. “I spent today trying to put out fires from people wanting the same work. I could have sold Noguchi’s lunar landscape (priced $850,000) five times.” Among the $1 million-plus sales: Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #14” painting from 1998 for $7 million; Andy Warhol’s iconic 1964 painting “Flowers” for $3.8 million and Beatriz Milhazes’s painting “Roda Coração III” for $1 million.
Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, said the gallery sold $18 million worth of art in the first few hours.
“A booth devoted to American masters seemed to us the ideal approach to the premier American art fair. And the response has been euphoric,” he said. “We’ve placed more works today than in any previous Miami year. . . Such positive energy at the fair seems a harbinger of great things ahead for the art world in 2023.”
Sales were also strong at Monday’s UNTITLED fair preview, which showcases work by emerging and mid-career artists. Attendance on the VIP day was slightly ahead of last year, said fair founder Jeff Lawson, with about 5,000 visitors.
‘Everyone is so happy’
Even early in the evening, Art Miami was buzzing, with many collectors coming from Art Basel back to the mainland, others having skipped the beach fair.
Art Miami’s 165 galleries offer something for nearly every collector: abstracts, sculptures, street art, a Calder tapestry, Warhols, a rare print with a hand-drawn section by the elusive Banksy, a booth filled entirely with work by Alex Katz — and of course, work by last year’s wunderkind, Andreas Valencia, who has just turned 11.
“I like that people appreciate my work,” said Andreas. Nearly every one of his works at Chase Contemporary Gallery was sold within a few hours of opening.
Art Miami Director Nick Korniloff said early ticket sales and VIP reservations for sister fairs Art Miami and Context were well ahead of last year. Before opening hours, he had already conducted a dozen private tours (one to Jon Bon Jovi). Carl Icahn, fashion designer Ariana Rockefeller and noted Warhol collector David Mugrabi were among early VIP guests.
“Everyone is so happy. They’re happy to be out, and happy to be looking at art,” said real estate and street art maven Jessica Goldman. “It’s great for our city.”
Spotted at Art Basel
At Art Basel, Colombian artist María José Arjona had everyone looking up.
Arjona reclined in a horizontal chair several feet above the gallery floor, moving her arms and legs slowly. Visitors stopped and grabbed their phones to film what they suddenly realized was not a stationary sculpture. Others walked right past Arjona, unaware she hung suspended above their heads.
The performance, called “Chair,” is about objecthood, memory and the body’s movement. When Arjona performed the piece before, it lasted up to six hours. On Tuesday, she went up at 9:30 a.m. and came down by 12:30 p.m.
Several visitors speculated on how she got up there. One woman asked if she wanted any water. Another said she thought the person was a robot.
Sandra Taylor, a sommelier, said she didn’t realize the person in the chair was real until she saw her blinking. The artist struck Taylor as daring and patient, she said, gazing up at the chair as she pondered the work’s meaning.
“Life upside down?” she guessed.
Over at Booth E8, run by European gallery White Cube, a giant yellow bowl of eggs the size of mini fridges was the center of attention.
The piece, by famed contemporary artist Jeff Koons, has been especially popular among visitors, said Mathieu Paris, the senior director of White Cube London and Paris.
“It celebrates life, opportunity, growth, birth,” he said. “It’s extremely joyful and full of hope. It’s one of Jeff Koons’ masterpieces.”
Paris said pre-sales and sales from Tuesday morning have been exceptional for the gallery.
“We are extremely enthusiastic about the quality of the visitors and the great selection that’s been done in terms of inviting the VIP,” he said.
At The Perrotin Gallery, a 30-member Brooklyn-based collection called MSCHF installed a fully functioning ATM just outside the booth at Art Basel, complete with a leader board that ranks people who use the machine by order of the amount of money in their bank accounts. An image of each individual using the machine appears above the ATM, complete with bank balance. The installation also celebrates each transaction with cheers and confetti. The bigger the balance, the bigger the celebration.
Pat Stahl, 35, from San Francisco, was immediately drawn to the ATM and withdrew $20.
“Did I need money out? Absolutely not,” he said. “Was it so interesting, I was drawn in? Yes.”
Kevin Wiesner, one of the artists in the collective, sees the ATM as a social experiment.
“It’s a very pure visualization of status symboling,” Wiesner said. “It’s the same impulse as, ‘I can wear a Rolex,’ or around here, ‘I can rent a Lamborghini for the day.’” The work also explores the vulnerability people feel with regard to finances.
Over at Satellite Art Fair in Indian Beach Park in Miami Beach, around 200 artists from across the country came together to show off their cheeky, eclectic works in giant shipping containers on the sand.
The artist-run and independently owned fair features a bunch of immersive installations, including an RV called “Indiana Beach,” a funky home on wheels with surprises scattered throughout (be sure to open the microwave, look in the sink, and even peek in the bathroom). You can also get your portrait scribbled or rest awhile on a brightly colored twin bed.
The best plan for Satellite is not to have one, because this show is more amusement park than fancy exhibit. Organizers readily acknowledge this; in one post teasing what is to come, they add the hashtag, #notbasel.
“We’ve been hustling on no sleep to get this together,” said the show’s co-founder Brian Whitely, dressed in just swim trunks and chugging from a keg (that’s art, too). “We want to make sure this is something people remember.”
Other fairs around town
At Superblue Miami in Allapattah, diners donned virtual reality headsets for “Aerobanquets RMX,” a delicious if disorienting culinary-VR mashup by Mattia Casalegno, who partnered with Chef Chintan Pandya to create a menu of multilayered amuse-bouches to complement the VR journey.
Also new for Miami Art Week was the stunning new installation “Pulse Topology” presented by BMW in partnership with Superblue by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The installation uses 3,000 lights to mimic the heartbeats of different participants (you can add your own to the mix).
Virtual reality was also on display at Design Miami, where visitors can take a journey on the Orient Express. Visitors strap on a headset and experience a VR trip to Istanbul. The show also offers a look at Jomo Tariku’s curvaceous Nyala chair, which steals the show in the newly released film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and achingly beautiful tea ceremony ceramics at Ippodo Gallery, where guests participated in the daily tea ceremony at Booth G/36 through Dec. 1 (sign up online at the gallery’s website).
At Prizm Art Fair on Flagler Street, Athlone Clarke raced to his piece “Quantam Field” to add a bit of glue to a necklace on the work, an ode to the Dogon people, an ethnic group mainly from Mali, who possessed knowledge of astrology ahead of their time, Clarke said.
“We’re from people of mystic origin,” the Jamaican-born artist said, adding that he wanted to push back against the idea of Africans being primitive.
Now in its 10th year, Prizm gives artists of African descent the opportunity to showcase their work.
“The market doesn’t generally highlight and celebrate enough Black artists,” founder Mikhaile Solomon said. “This is a place where you can come to see all of the best artists who are emanating from Africa and its diaspora.”
This year’s theme is “Vernacular À la Mode,” which Solomon deemed a way to honor all people of African descent.
“We wanted to celebrate all the ways in which people of African descent exist in various parts of the world,” Solomon said.
But not everything at Prizm was for sale. Ali Richmond’s installation “Black Life at a Glance” is a collection that includes an Assata Shakur wanted poster, W.E.B. DuBois’ “Black Lives 1900: W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition” and an original March on Washington pamphlet.
The piece explores contemporary life for people of African descent and was inspired by the vignettes Richmond used to create as a kid with his toys. It’s also a way for him to share his passion for archiving while promoting his organization Fashion For All Foundation, which sponsored 15 Black and brown creatives’ trip to Art Basel.
“It’s a pleasure to be able to give that to them but also share part of my passion and archive with everyone,” Richmond said.