Art update

Art Basel Miami Beach: December 2019

We arrived in sunny Miami, Monday afternoon, to attend the 18th edition of  Art|Basel Miami Beach with a hectic schedule of overlapping VIP openings.


Maurizio Cattelan, Comedian. Photo courtesy of the author.

On Wednesday morning, we headed to the early VIP opening at the fair. Here’s the deal about the “banana”.  Maurizio Cattelan is a contemporary Italian conceptual artist. He is known as the art world’s resident jokester and his installation of a banana attached to the wall with grey duct tape at the Perrotin gallery,  “Comedian” continued to demonstrate his outlook on art as “nothing is sacred”. He has shocked viewers for 30 years and follows the tradition of other conceptual artists. When I was the director of the contemporary department at Sotheby’s, my team was looking for a sculpture by Dan Flavin, which was consigned for the upcoming auction. No one could find the work in the bins. When I called the collector and asked about the work, he said “have someone in your office go to the hardware store and buy 4 fluorescent light fixtures. I sent you the COA (certificate of authenticity) and that authenticates the work”. That’s what we did and  the work was sold. Only the COA was shipped to the new buyer who could buy 4 new light fixtures and install it. Let’s look at the banana and the definition that “art is an expression of our times” which I learnt as an art history major at McGill University. If we apply it to “Comedian” and dive deeper into the work, we are living in the digital age when everyone wants everything instantly and feels entitled to have it. Today, art is for everyone everywhere to engage in and collect! Cattelan has created a work that can be replicated with a single banana and a strip of gray duct tape. That’s his genius. Only a few are able to have the COAs but everyone can enjoy the concept.

Here are other highlights:

Zhang Huan, Buddha. Photo courtesy of the author.

On Monday evening we attended the grand opening of the second annual Faena Festival, “The “Last Supper” curated by Zoe Lukov. This included Miami Beach’s public spaces, waterways and beaches. Alan Faena’s vision was to create a platform to support artists to realize their dream projects, new talents and ideas that inspire him. The inclusion of various artistic disciplines led to an excitement that was palpable among the hundreds of guests. What a noble mission to reach out to the community! I had the chance to meet Haitian artist Myrlande Constant who was standing next to me on the beach while we were waiting for the unmasking of Zhang Huan’s Miami Buddha. Her hand-sewn intricately beaded Voudou flags were hanging in the lobby of the Faena hotel for all to admire upon arrival. In fact, there were two Buddhas facing each other on the beach.  One was made from an aluminum mold and the other composed of incense ash collected from temples across China. During this time, a boat was stationed in front of the Faena Beach with open air cinema featuring Yael Barta’s “Inferno”. What a spectacular scene!

Tuesday morning we headed over to the Wynwood district to visit Marty Margolies in his large Warehouse, established in 1999. His passion for collecting contemporary art began in the 1970’s.  When I first met him while I was at Sotheby’s, he kept talking about the island he was building and that he needed to buy sculpture. One of his purchases was a Noguchi for his project on Grove Isle, a 20 acre island in Biscayne Bay.  When I flew down and visited the project with Marty, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the first tower which had just been built. His passion for engaging with the artists and his keen eye for quality continues to this day, with a collection of thousands of works of art.  His mission of arts education has created many programs for the community.

The Perez Museum’s exhibition of Teresita Fernandez “Elemental”  spans her work from the mid-1990s to the present. Her practice utilizes a range of materials including silk, graphite, onyx, mirrors, glass and charcoal to express her interest in landscapes, the elements  and various natural wonders including meteor showers, cloud formations and the night sky.


Jeff Koons, 3 Ball 50/50 Equilibrium Tank. Photo courtesy of the author.

That evening we arrived at the opening of the Rubell Museum, formerly the Rubell Family Collection founded by Don and Mera Rubell, highlighting their 50 years of collecting. Their extensive collection includes more than 7,200 works by 1,000 artists in their new home in the Allapattah district, less than a mile from its previous location in Wynwood. The Museum is housed in six former industrial buildings connected on a single level, redesigned by Selldorf Architects. For the inaugural exhibition, entitled “Inauguration”  in the 40 galleries, 300 works by 100 artists are on view. Some of my favorites included Richard Prince “New England Nurse”, Isa Genzken’s “Nefertiti”, Anselm Kiefer and Jeff Koons “3 Ball 50/50 EquilibriumTank” from the Equilibrium series, which was exhibited at International with Monument gallery, co founded by Liz Koury. As we left the crowded opening, Dior’s men fashion show was in full swing on the grounds of the museum with live DJs and vintage 1950’s cars adding to the excitement of the evening!


Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares, “It is not down on any map: true places never are”. Photo courtesy of the author.

 Tuesday afternoon, we headed over to Untitled on Miami Beach and Ocean Drive to discover Antonia Wright and partner Ruben Millares kinetic sculpture entitled “It is not down on any map: true places never are” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick) on the beach before the entrance to the fair. “The two flagpoles are connected by one motorized chain that pulls 16 flags up and down each beam continuously”. The performance installation addresses issues of social conventions, identity, power dynamics, immigration and global climate crisis.


Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (on the left) and Joseph Becker (on the right).

Inside the fair, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s new work “Recurrent Llull” was on view. It is “a recursive algorithmic animation made with the collected works of Mediterranean philosopher and polymath Ramon Llull, born in the kingdom of Majorca in 1932”. Rafael’s upcoming show will take place in SFMOMA in April 2020. 


Augustas Serapinas, Puppies. Photo courtesy of the author.

Thursday morning was the VIP preview of the 17th edition of the NADA fair at the Ice Palace Studios, where emerging artists from 135 galleries from around the world are on view. This is a fair to discover young talent. There were many ceramic works and abstract paintings new to the scene. My new discovery,  28-year-old Augustas Serapinas  is  the youngest artist ever included in the Venice Biennale 2019.

Saturday morning we drove to Key Biscayne to visit  Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz’s private collection in their stunning home on the bay. It is a magnificent site highlighting the many artists they have collected over the years  including Stingel, Rondinone, Hodges, Pruitt, Richter, Pardo, Oehlen, Herrera. In the gallery upstairs, the site specific Assume Vivid Astro Focus Installation XI was originally installed in 2004, which I saw 15 years ago. We very much enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the de la Cruz family. It was a perfect ending to my week in Miami.

 Off to the airport!

2 thoughts on “Art Basel Miami Beach: December 2019

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