Vini vidi vici. Okay, perhaps “conquer” may be a strong word for my attendance at the Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) 2021 fair held in the cavernous MB Convention Center. Armed with camera, pen, pad of paper and eyeballs I did go, and most certainly did see…reams of ideas translated with paint, technology, metal, live humans, fabric, wood, wool, plastic…an international smorgasbord laid out for consumption.
The Media Conference kicked off, kicked in, kicked through any ennui that may have gathered in its absence, as the distinguished panel geared up to get on with the business of art and the art of business.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber spoke of over 80,000 predicted whooping attendance. Of the 253 galleries over half are from the United States.
Us locals may not be aware that we (Miami Beach) owns $20 million in public art.
[RELATED: A Visit To Basel's Sister Fair, Design Miami]
Marc Spiegler, Art Basel Global Director shared that ABMB 2021 marks the first real full scale international fair since the pandemic. Galleries that previously cancelled, un-cancelled when restrictions were lifted. People that might have been affected by the Omicron situation had already arrived or en route by the time the latest drama weighed in.
This year the Art Basel team focused on diversity in choosing galleries to participate. "Technicalities that kept galleries out were changed so smaller galleries can attend," said Spiegler.
And it shows. Works were exciting, raw, delicious. It seems appropriate given that we have been grabbed by the neck and shaken hard…and in so many arenas. We need the guts and new thoughts to spill out. As Spiegler spoke, I felt the rumble of a new day, the ambience of exploding creativity. Lesser known artists, high quality younger artists are able to be front and center with the new guidelines in place.
John Mathews, Head of Ultra High Net Worth Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management (I must stop here and digest this title. It’s a winner to trot out at cocktail parties). UBS is Lead Partner of Art Basel, supporting the organization for almost 30 years. Mathews had the lowdown on the business end, expressing the strong sign that collectors are very optimistic. He suggested we visit the online USB art Collection: www.ubs.com/global/en/our-firm/art/ubs-art-gallery.html. Mathews says the site shows “where the art world is going.” Add that to your to-do list.
Magali Arriola, Curator of Meridians, imparted they curated this year keeping in mind “societal concerns and realities”.
Moving on to the vast new-ish convention center floor: Luckily, miamiartzine founder/publisher Harvey Burstein offered his chair-pushing-services since I inconveniently broke my foot last week.
We careened about the cavernous aisles, up and down and around each and every wide aisle in a convention-center-issued-chair-on-wheels.
Burstein and I discussed, pointed and pondered various works, first stumbling over the cryptoart/NFT minting exhibition by the blockchain platform Tezos. Now, I’m finding my full understanding of the new art platforms slippery at best, but fully prepared to stick with ongoing education.
I took advantage of the moment with German artist Mario Klingemann (Quasimondo), and had an “interactive experience” generating an AI portrait where I can then apparently use the open-source blockchain Tezos to mint NFTs of the digital artwork. The exhibition ‘Humans + Machines: NFTs and the Ever-Evolving World of Art,’ awaits your participation. I will need to attend the talks because I am loosing my train of understanding here. See talks times/dates here: https://tezos.com/events/art-basel/
We headed over to a strong piece that caught my eye from afar. The gallerist from Mayoral (Galleries section) was fresh and alert, giving an impassioned explanation that dovetailed with the here and now of current thoughts. Mayoral specializes in “Post-War Spanish art, founded in Barcelona in 1989.” In 2019, Mayoral opened a second venue in Paris. A 1960 oil on ripped canvas by Manolo Millares fairly leapt out of its stretcher with depth and meaning.
A large installation, beautifully executed, by Yinka Shonibare CBE (Meridians sector) took some time to separate visually into elements. Three figures with hand painted world globe heads ascend a golden staircase, in a visual discussion of the Great Migration. I need to go back and sit with this piece for awhile. The problem with a show of Art Basel’s scope is absorbing all you need to absorb in a short flash before moving on. Too much candy at once. Some thoughts need to be saved for later.
Movement is ongoing at ABMB 2021, whether in video form or actual. Monique Meloche Gallery utilizes human bodies on pedestals with sculptural devises by sculptor Isamu Noguchi to show artist Brendan Fernandes live site specific pieces.
“Contract and Release” collaborates with Martha Graham choreography. While Borna Sammak at JTT Gallery shows an arresting 30 second loop video of overlayed snippets of his New York branded world.
As a post script, we rolled into a gallery of A-list pieces. Amongst the aristocracy was a small sweet lead sculpture at Galerie Thomas. Anselm Kiefer’s “The Argonauts” sitting quietly alone on its own pedestal is from a series of 90 unnumbered, different works.
We have reached a new level in our lives anew as some declare that we’re “back” from whatever the last 2 years were for each and every one of us. First of all, why can/should we ever return to what we were, life moves on as it educates its secrets, some charming, some an enigma of problems to sort out and move through to discovery.
Artists involved in Miami Art Week attempt to make some sense of the business of life, evolution and all its toils, troubles and joys. If you can thread/inch through the street traffic, the art will enhance every cell in the body once we gain control over sky high blood pressure from the frustration of parking.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Albert Einstein
"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it." Kurt Vonnegut
Art Basel Miami Beach 2021
Public Days: Thursday, Dec. 2 and Friday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m. 6 p.m.
Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach.