When Art Basel came to Miami Beach in 2002, art collectors celebrated. Miami, acting as a mid-point between North and South America, provided accessibility to art galleries from all over the world in one convenient location. Through the years, the Art Basel Miami Beach movement continues to grow and now the fair marks a remarkable time for art collectors, art lovers and even those just looking for a festivity.
There are many Miami locals, like myself, with no formal art training, who have become enamored with the flourishing art scene. For us, Art Basel Miami Beach serves as a special treat during the first week of December. Luckily, the fair provides enough diversity to satisfy individual tastes: whether the desire to be shocked, impressed or just taken aback by something beautiful, Art Basel Miami Beach serves as an allegorical umbrella, where we all meet underneath, to experience whatever it is that we are looking for.
JAMES EDWARD DEEDS, Jr. Hirsche and Adler Modern Gallery.
Latin American artists were beautifully represented at this year’s fair. New York’s Mary-Anne Martin Gallery, a specialist in Latin-American art, showcased some stunning pieces from Mexican artists including Leonora Carringtong’s The Lodging House, Diego Rivera’s Indian Girl, Maria Izquierdo’s Mujeres en la cárcel and Rufino Tamayo’s Two Children. There was also Galerie 1900-2000, based in Paris, which displayed thirteen pieces from renowned Mexican artist Marius de Zayas.
The Hirsche and Adler Modern Gallery, from New York, provided an interesting narrative for those who crave a compelling background anecdote by showing the work of James Edward Deeds, Jr, whose pieces were created while he was institutionalized at Missouri’s State Hospital No. 3. Deeds, who was diagnosed with dementia and schizophrenia, created small works of art on the official ledger paper of the institution. The pieces illustrate his life, from his early years as a farmer, to his later years in a mental ward.
WIM BOTHA. Stevenson Gallery.
Four impressive sculptures by Helgaard Steyn Prize winner, Wim Botha, were presented by Stevenson Gallery, with headquarters in Cape Town and Johannesburg. These remarkable sculptural busts are constructed using stacked books, usually bibles, encyclopedias and dictionaries. Botha continues to create these breathtaking sculptures, and there are many more on display inside the Cape Town gallery.
Acclaimed Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu was brought to the fair by Pace Prints, a gallery based out of New York. In her collection of nine etchings, Suite of Nine Daughters, Mutu combines collage into her work and uses both modern and traditional materials to add meaning and depth to her creations. The nine eerie pieces stand as symbols of powerful femininity.
MARK RYDEN. The Parlor (Allegory of Magic, Quintessence and Divine Mystery). Michael Kohn Gallery.
Los Angeles’ Michael Kohn Gallery, known for incorporating classic and emerging works, showed a larger than life painting by California-based artist Mark Ryden, The Parlor (Allegory of Magic, Quintessence and Divine Mystery). The kitschy painting, which depicts life in the 1890s, is part of Ryden’s The Gay 90s collection and is encased in carved wood frame that, in my opinion, is a piece of art, in itself. The painting, rich in details, proved to be a treat for a very diverse group; those with a fondness for vintage and history, those taken in by the beauty of the details and even those intrigued by death. In a very unique twist for those interested in the art process, a sketch of the painting is framed beside it.
Since its inception in 2002, Art Basel Miami Beach has evolved from a week where art collectors traveled to Miami hoping to increase their collections. Last week was hectic in Miami Beach, with locals and tourists bouncing from event to event. Sadly, it sometimes seems that, for some, Art Basel is more about parties than art, but that shouldn’t discourage art lovers. There is a world of magnificence that comes alive at the Miami Beach Convention Center every December. ■