Fair and Fair Alike: Miami 2009. The Big One, Art Basel Miami Beach

Fair and Fair Alike coverage so far:
The crowd gathered on Sunday morning to enter at noon. (Cost of ticket for the day: $35. Cost for three days: $75. Press pass: Priceless)
Art Basel Miami Beach, ABMB for short, is many things to many people: a mecca for over-the-top consumerism; an object of derision by those who either can’t get in or who genuinely disdain its values (or both); and something like the current issues, in real-time and space, of Art Forum, Art in America, Modern Painters, Art& Auction and Art News, replete with the art, the ads, and the top 200 collectors in the world.

If you can step outside
the politics of the thing, it’s an opportunity to see, in one place, what you could never see in a dedicated year of looking. I love it (even though I don’t love everything in it).

This year, the eighth incarnation of the event, was the largest ever. The Miami Beach Convention Center, a hangar of a space, allotted 502,848 square feet of space—about the distance between 24th and 26th Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues—for 271 booths. Looking at the fair map you think you’ll be able to cover it in an orderly way, but no. The booths have multiple entrances, and if you follow your eye or stop to talk with friends, it’s easy to get disoriented. I spent at least eight hours in three visits, and I still don’t think I saw it all.
One example: On Sunday morning I ran into Ron Warren, director of the Mary Boone Gallery, taking in a bit of the fair before the doors opened for business. “You’re here!,” I said. I hadn’t seen the booth in the two previous visits. “We’re in D32. Come and see us.” Even with the map in front of me, it took 15 minutes to find it. The plan looks open, but the construction has walls where you don’t expect them. In other words, a maze. (I did get to see the booth, where I saw . . . trees.)

Looks easily to navigate, right? It's not
But there is a logic to the setup, as you can see from the map above. The blue-chips and big moderns are on the left; the big contemporaries are on the right. The pink inner ring contains smaller galleries, like ones from the Lower East Side, typically with lower-priced work or large experimental pieces. In aqua on the right are equally small spaces. In a venue where triple-wide booths can go for the mid-five figures, these smaller spaces allow modest galleries with interesting programs to be part of the action. The whole thing is reversed if you enter from the other direction, as at least 50% of the fairgoers did, so it's very easy to become disoriented before you even start.

From the mezzanine walkway you can peer down to the expanse of galleries on the floor. (This is the second year the shades were drawn; before that you could look down over the entire venue
Below, the down-to-earth view of the same booth, Galerie Luisa Strina, Sao Paolo

You’ll see my favorite favorites in dedicated upcoming posts, along with the work that relates to themes of home, craft and, of course, geometric abstraction. Here I want to show you something of the size of the venue and of what the booths looked like as you peer down the broad aisles. I got in early on Sunday—god bless the press pass—to shoot when no one but the dealers were there. There are some great installations, like the ones at McKee, Mathes, GreenbergVanDoren, and Pace Wildenstein. Not only did I like just about everything at Pace, I loved being able to photograph it; they’re rigid in their no-photo policy in New York.

What you’ll see here is what I perceive to be the range: blue-chip dealers selling primary and secondary-market work, to solid contemporary painting and sculpture, all the way over to modestly sized work on paper from galleries whose actual spaces are not much larger than the booths they were in.
What you won't see: There’s no video because, frankly, I’m just not interested in it. I didn't photograph Kehinde Wiley’s monumental painting of Michael Jackson in Napoleonic uniform astride a steed--with cherubim overhead, no less--but you can see it here. And if you still have any interest in Sunday painter Sylvester Stallone, you can see the award he received here, with appropriate commentary.
OK, let's hit a few booths.

The view as I walked down the B aisle

Below, at Van de Weghe Fine Art you know the lineup: Stella, Warhol, Haring, Hanson. I assume the irony of placement of Duane Hanson's worn-out waitress near Warhol's big-ass dollar sign was not lost on fairgoers

Corner lot: Jorge Pardo's installation--you could enter--at Neugerreimschneider, Berlin
Below, blue chips at Knoedler, New York

Anne Truitt, The Sea, The Sea, at Matthew Marks, New York. This columnar scuplture was hard to see amid the sea of people and columns. I would have liked to see it in a quieter spot

Below, a corner in the booth of McKee Gallery, New York: Martin Puryear sculpture, foreground; and from left, a bit of Philip Guston, Susana Solano wire sculpture, and Harvey Quaytman painting

Robert Mangold, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Sol Lewitt; at Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York.

Below, the Zenlike space with paintings by John McLaughlin; at Greenberg VanDoren, New York

In the previous post I told you Chamberlain sculptures were everywhere

Above, with Elizabeth Murray; at Pace Wildenstein, New York
Below, with Gerhard Richter and Sam Francis; at Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York

Below: Gerhard Richter, seen on the wall in the photo above

A monumental oil-on-canvas painting on four panels, from 1956-57, by Alfred Leslie; at Allan Stone Gallery, New York

Detail below


There was no ignoring this cyclopean stare: Fred Tomaselli at James Cohan Gallery, New York

Detail below


Gunter Forg's color-sploched fields were shown by four galleries. This painting was in the combined booth of Nagel/Grasslin of Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt and Milan

Tara Donovan at Pace Wildenstein, New York. The pairing was perfect: a painting whose circles are defined by pinheads, and the small sculpture made from gathered and folded Mylar

Two from the combined CapitanPetzel booth, Colone and New York:

Above, Joyce Pensato (I'm not a fan of her imagery, but the woman knows how to handle paint)
Below, Wade Guyton inkjet print on linen, installed in segments

.. Not all the paintings are large
Here, two by James Siena and one by Thomas Nozkowski; at Pace Wildenstein
Below, Nozkowski's Untitled (8-119)

Within the fair are a selection of Art Kabinets, small spaces in which usually a single artist is showcased. Here's it's Sandra Vasquez de la Horra, with an installation of wax-dipped drawings on paper; at Kewenig Galerie, Cologne
Below, single image. Note the modest hanging method


More small: a wall of constructions and objects by Fergus Feehily; at Green On Red Gallery, Dublin
Below, an individual work made with modest materials


Sara Greenberg Rafferty watercolors; at Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York
I saw this artist's show on the Lower East Side recently. The gallery is modest, as are the work and its prices
The last word at ABMB goes to Mel Bochner, whose commentary was seen in a number of venues; here at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago. And--move over Elvis--it's oil on velvet

Next up: Pulse


Stephanie Sachs said...

LOL funny that you put the Mel Bochner at the end. They did not impress me during the fairs but after walking around for days talking about art those were what stood out to me in the end.
Wonderful post.

S.A. said...

Joanne -- you're the best! And you're outdoing yourself again. Don't know how you do it, but I'm pleased to be along on the ride. Many thanks.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks, Steven and Stephanie.
It's nice to get some responses. I know folks are looking--Stat Counter tells me so--but I enjoy the feedback (especially when you say nice things)

Oriane Stender said...

Joanne -

I love your fair coverage! It really makes me feel like I'm getting the flavor of it without having to go.

¯\(°_o)/¯ said...

the gallery you don't know the name of is probably greenonred in dublin, the artist is Fergus Feehily in any case, blogged abt his recent show @ douglas hyde here:

great post btw!

Diana Parkes said...

Great experience! Would love the opportunity to attend.

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks, Joanne. Great to have You as the tour guide!

LXV said...

Joanne, I'm not even going to ask how you do it. You are indefatigable and generous. There's no way I could have managed the trip, let alone seen and processed all you have done. Thanks for sharing!

Joanne Mattera said...

Let's just call it my little annual locura, pazzia, craziness.

nemastoma said...

Thanks, Joanne. Wonderful coverage.

peggy said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. It is greatly appreciated.

KRCampbellArt said...

Joanne, thank you so much for this.
Living vicariously can be great!

Kate Beck said...

Thanks so very much, Joanne -- you said it, priceless...


Ted Larsen said...

I really enjoy your posts throughout the year, but particularly like the massive effort you put in for the Miami Madness! Keep them coming....

-Ted Larsen

Matthew Beall said...

Like everyone else, I am thrilled at your coverage of the many fairs you attended. A big THANKS for your commitment to all us readers.

The McLaughlin pieces and Lesile piece especially stand out in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

nice seeing you there, I've worked out a technique to see most of it w/o going blind that you might enjoy - I took the map, did a sweep from A to G putting X's on the spaces I didn't need to see again, and O's on spaces to revisit (which took six hours). then I went back the next day and saw a much more manageable version of the show...

PS: love the mclaughlins, those were one of the high points of basel for me, and only 90K for a large one LOL

Joanne Mattera said...

I like your system. I'll do that next year.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy seeing your posts. (I guess there are other years posted re Miami but not sure how to find them)

Joanne Mattera said...


Click on the "Art Fairs" link just under the Header. Voila!