Fair Fetched: Navigating Miami, Part 1

Five days of relentless heat and humidity, frequent rain, and occasional torrential downpours—enough to have turned the section of Collins Avenue in front of my hotel into a gushing river—unmoving traffic and impossible-to-get taxis turned this year’s Miami experience into nightmare of navigation. It’s no exaggeration to say that the weather really put a damper on things. I don’t report on fair business, but anecdotally I heard that sales were slow, even if some galleries did more than all right. Certainly visitor traffic was light in every fair I went to. But there was a lot of interesting stuff to see, and this overview will introduce you to my viewing experience.

I felt like this car by the time I left Miami on Sunday
ABMB: Jimmie Durham sculpture at Peter Freeman, New York City

A quick Miami overview
I visited nine fairs in five days. Thumbnail reports on each follow, to give you a flavor of each venue. In successive days I’ll post separate thematic posts. This is a busy month for me, so I expect the reporting will stretch out through the end of the month.

Say What? One thing I noticed were the political statements. I don’t think I would call them a trend, but they were in evidence. For all the art-as-commodity on display, these sentiments felt real. There was some snark, too. It's pretty obvious below which is which.

ABMB: Barbara Kruger at Mary Boone Gallery, New York City

ABMB: Nari Ward at Lehmann Maupin, New York City

ABMB: Hank Willis Thomas at Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

ABMB: Andrea Bowers at Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York City

Scope: Camilo Matiz at Indiana Bond, Bogota and Miami

NADA: Cary Leibowitz at Invisible Exports, New York City

Trends: Some trends as I saw them throughout the fairs: pink paintings, a lot of them; punctured surfaces; the strong presence of materiality, especially fiber; a lot of great small sculpture; tons of interesting painting; and the occasional glorious oddity.

Pink at ABMB: Bosco Sodi at unidentified gallery

Punctured at ABMB: Lucio Fontana detail at Massimo De Carlo, Milan and London

Fiber at NADA: Josh Faught at Lisa Cooley Gallery, New York City

Painting at NADA: Dona Nelson, foreground, and Rose Wylie at Thomas Erben, New York City

Sculpture at Miami Project: Ted Larsen, foreground, and Derrick Velasquez at Robichon Gallery, Denver

Work on Paper:  There's always work on paper at the fairs. This year there was even a dedicated fair, Art on Paper organized by the same promoters of Miami Project and paired with it at the Deauville Beach Resort. But my favorite work on paper was at Pulse, below.

Paper at Pulse: Diane Samuels, "They left a great, wide wake," 2015, the artist's transcription of the entire novel, Moby Dick, in ink on collaged handmade paper, at Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York City

Detail below

Art Basel Miami Beach
I spent seven hours there, going through the aisles methodically so as not to miss anything. There’s no way to describe it in a word or two except to say that it’s enormous—the Miami Convention Center where it’s held is the size of about four football fields— and interesting. You focus on what beckons, passing by the rest, bearing in mind that one woman’s junk is another’s treasure. The booth sizes offer the perfect opportunity for installations, and a few galleries delivered just that. Big spaces also mean big paintings and sculpture, but I also appreciated the small works, often grouped on a wall. Fiber and odd materials were much in evidence.

There's some discussion among artists and others about whether art is made specifically for the fairs. I've seen many similar works at galleries in New York, so I'm guessing the dealers simply take their biggest and most dramatic works. There is, however, a "fair installation" that places a sculpture--often a John Chamberlain--before a large-scale painting. The arrangement is so predictable it's almost laughable. You don't see that in the galleries.

View from the skywalk. You're seeing about one quarter of the floor space

I am not one to bemoan the presence of so much secondary-market art on exhibition. How often outside of a museum do you get to see a Brancusi placed before a Stella?
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City

A number of galleries created dedicated spaces called Kabinetts in which they spotlighted the work on one artist. Here, above and below, it was Louise Nevelson at Pace Gallery, New York City and elsewhere

One antidote to fair fatigue is a good installation. In this one you passed under Philippe Pareno's cloud of fuchsia speech bubbles to enter through Liam Glick's copper-chain screen

Below: View from inside the booth at the Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin

Fritzia Irizar at Arredondo/Arozarena, Mexico City
There's a story to this cap, and I'll have it for you next week

And then there was this odd coincidence of color and composition
Above: B. Wurtz: Untitled painting on aluminum baking pan at Metro Pictures, New York City
Below: Frank Stella at Mnuchin Gallery, New York City

In a spectacular tent on the beach, Untitled was the best of the satellite fairs: diverse, spacious, and curatorially interesting. There's plenty to see, all of it curated by the team of Omar Lopez-Chahoud with Christophe Boutin and Melanie Scarciglia. I'll have plenty to show you from this fair in thematic posts coming through the end of December, so here let me show you some installation views.

The view when you walk into Untitled

Judy Ledgerwood, left, at Tracey Willians, Ltd., New York City; on wall in the distance, Scoli Acosta, Galerie Laurent Godin, Paris

Lauren Clay and Robert Chase Heishman at LVL3, Milwaukee

Jens Wolf at Ronchini Gallery, London

Saving the best installation for last: Dannielle Tegeder at Carrie Secrist, Chicago


Last year Pulse was moribund—poorly sited in Indian Beach Park about a mile up Collins Avenue from ABMB and sparsely attended. The mood seemed glum. But this year was a different story entirely. Two adjoining tents in the park held a range of good galleries with plenty of aisle space. Many of the galleries that had decamped from Pulse in previous years to participate in Miami Project were back.Pulse was pulsing again.

Ann Hamilton, foreground, at Elizabeth Leach, Portland, Oregon; and Markus Weggenman at Taubert Contemporary, Berlin

Sharon Louden, foreground, and Thomas Muller at Patrick Heide, London

Christian Maychak at Gregory
 Lind Gallery, San Francisco

Helen O'Leary at Lesley Heller Project Space, New York City

Ronnie Hughes at Rubicon Projects, Dublin
Installation wall below 

Installation of Kelly Ann Burns and Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art, New York City

Don Voisine

Kelly Ann Burns

Sakir Goelcebag at Conrads, Dusseldorf
Detail below

A tree grows in it. The Pulse tent was the only venue with its own indoor tree. (When the tent comes down, the tree is back in its natural element)

Navigating Miami, Part 2 will appear in the next couple of days.

Friends: If you are enjoying my posts, please consider donating to this blog. It costs an enormous amount of money to travel to and stay in Miami for five days, and while I'm writing these reports I'm not painting, which is how I earn my living. If you find this series of value to you, a modest donation is most welcome. The PayPal link is on the sidebar right, just under the header. Thank you.


ruth hiller said...

Thanks once again for fabulous photos and keen descriptions!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for these valuable overviews. Much appreciated by someone like me unable to attend!

K Bradford said...

Even tho I was there this is a terrific way to experience the Fairs

Angeline said...

I wondered how you faired (all puns intended) this year with the weather.

The rain and flooding was so heavy during my drive that I quit when just 1/3 of the way to the first show I wanted to visit. I drove home...and had some studio time instead.

I regret not attending this year...but I would regret the loss of my car more to a flooded street.

Thank you for posting your adventures!!!!!!!!!!!!!