While the rest of America watches leaves change color and go dormant for winter, Miami in December comes to life. After a tumultuous 2020, the Miami Beach art scene flourished in 2021 with Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB). The 2019 discussion of “inclusion” at ABMB seems no longer an issue. Conrad Eqyir’s 700 Cycles of Somatic Renditioning was featured as the largest installation in the Meridians section, which touch on the urgency of our time.
The relevance of this fair is not lost on Zimbabwean artist Troy Makaza, who says ABMB “is the best platform for me to engage my audience and the world. Coming from a country suffering from being disengaged from the rest of the word through sanctions and power struggles, this is an opportunity for my work, fresh and rich in its nativity, to be seen as part of a global conversation and not coming from a secluded place.”
It is difficult for Marcus Gora and Valerie Kabov, who represent Makaza at First Floor Gallery Harare, to expand the local market that they have created together since 2009 without such global fairs as ABMB. They were able to report that their first attendance at the convention was truly a success.
ABMB’s influence goes beyond the walls of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Artists and gallerists that cannot afford to spend some $100,000 for an ABMB booth benefit from the whirlwind of activity that is Art Miami Week. Satellite fairs are created in Wynwood warehouses and makeshift beach tents on South Beach. I was lucky enough to catch the hotel pop-up hosted by Maxence Doytier of Twenty6North Productions, and also a show of King Redd’s Pop Art (Instagram: @ reddrunit).
Under the supervision of Frost Professor, David Chang, Florida International University hosted a student-curated show of 18 silver gelatin prints by Christopher Makos portraits of Andy Warhol during his trip to China 40 years ago. Miami art critic, Elisa Turner, 21-year veteran reporter for the Miami Herald, who now writes for other publications, has reported on Art Basel since prior to its commencement in 1999, when the Swiss exhibitors first approached the city of Miami to collaborate.
She points out how vastly different Miami has become since its inception by saying, “The surrounding art community has made leaps forward in size, sophistication and financial support in the nearly two decades since the mega fair arrived. Miami is an art community once wrongly dismissed as a backwater before Basel that has now matured considerably to add four art museums [and also art colleges] since the first Art Basel Miami Beach.”
growing attention to Miami-based artists, non-profits like Locust Projects, and venues like Little Haiti Cultural Complex and the Bakehouse Art Complex (providing affordable housing for artists in conjunction with the Margulies Collection). The expansion of Miami’s cultural landscape owes much to private collector and donor philanthropy. Dennis Scholl, CEO of Oolite Arts and a leader in the South Florida contemporary art scene, says prior to the advent of ABMB. “We had been showing our personal collection in our home to museum groups, the arrival of Art Basel put that into high gear. In the 20 years of Art Basel we have had close to 25,000 collectors, curators and gallerists visit our home to see the collection.”
In lieu of creating public exhibition spaces in other cities, Scholl has opted to travel with his exhibitions and catalogues to venues across America, such as the sixteen museum venues which showed his collection of contemporary Aboriginal Australian art.
The artwork of Indigenous American artists saw a lot of success at ABMB this year as well. Broadway Gallery of New York has seen private and institutional success with the sales of Sky Hopinka’s work, a favorite of the convention. A three-channel HD video on three screens sold before I had a chance to watch the preview link, but I congratulate him on bringing awareness to languages being lost and nations being displaced amidst contemporary and historic growth along the Hudson River area.
Jeffrey Gibson, an Indigenous Native American artist, shed light on First Nations contemporary art while exhibiting with Sikkema Jenkins & Co. During a public conversation we learned, although he can identify with his ethnic background, bringing attention to any specific tribe when talking about his artwork denies contemporary construct as to what family and culture
means. He prefers to think of his family as grandmother, brother, or friend, before labeling them as Native American. People Like Us, from his multimedia technique involving beading, sold as soon as the convention opened for $95,000 to an, as of yet, undisclosed institution, and was replaced immediately by Eye of the Storm, with an asking price of $230,000. The success of these artists encourages 19-year-old Canadian Sunchild First Nation artist, Lilly Daychief, who travelled from Alberta, Canada to showcase her NFT artwork at a satellite art fair. She says she is grateful for the experience and to help add Indigenous representation to the week of art in Miami.
Kevin Doyle, former vice president at Sotheby’s and current director of the Jackson Hole Art Auction, says: “As the art market has seen a considerable uptick
in sales for African American artists over the past few years, I see there being the same potential for Indigenous American artists. This market is of interest to the Jackson Hole Art Auction as we look to develop new auctions in categories other than traditional American fine art. Art collectors are naturally curious and seek to learn about other cultures and how they approach art.”
If curiosity is what collectors like, South Beach in December had all the diverse international galleries and artists they were looking for, from the expensive high-end to punk. Art Basel Miami Beach is a contemporary art world hub, and don’t skimp on the four day pass. See you there in 2022.
Recently seen Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 Miami Beach Convention Center