Art Basel Miami Beach 2015
This was my second experience at Art Basel Miami Beach and it was almost overwhelming. I have a blurred recollection of wind, rain and traffic, traffic, traffic. I did, however, get to see some wonderful art; also a lot of sensationalist and gimmicky art. And I was pleased to see that women were well represented this year.
Although I didn’t have time to visit all the satellite shows, other than Art Basel at the Miami Beach Convention Center I went to the Miami Project and Art on Paper Miami, Untitled, Fridge and Aqua in Miami Beach and the Rubell Family Collection and The Margulies Collection in Wynwood, Miami. Besides the permanent collection that includes a beautiful work by Magdalena Abakanowicz, the latter had an impressive exhibition of Anselm Kiefer’s monumental work (53 paintings and four huge sculptures), “…the great majority of Kiefer’s works since his emergence in the late 1960s through the 1990s refer to subjects drawn from Germany and its culture: German history, myth, literature, art history, music, philosophy, topography, architecture, and folk customs.” Also at The Margulies Collection was a poignant, immersive sound installation by Susan Philipsz: “Drawing from the histories of 1930s emigrant artists who fled Germany for America only to experience McCarthy-era blacklist censorship, Susan Philipsz’ work evokes the emotions of alienation, loss and exile. The audience views the work by walking into a large room with abstract sound emanating from twelve speakers placed in a symmetrical pattern at eye level. On the walls of the room twelve large prints of musical compositional scores are layered over with redacted FBI documents.” Philipsz’s installation reminded me of a beautiful sound installation, “Forty Part Motet,” by Janet Cardiff that I saw last year at the High Museum in Atlanta.
The Rubell Family Collection featured an exhibition by women artists that filled the museum. Entitled “NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection,” there were familiar artists such as Janine Antoni, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson and fellow South African, Marlene Dumas, but I was surprised to see so many strong pieces by women whose work I was not familiar with, or whose work I had seen only in print. I was particularly impressed by the two large installations by a Brazillian artist, Solange Pessoa, who uses unconventional materials to create works that are reminiscent of Ana Mendieta. Janine Antoni said about her participation, “Throughout history, there have been countless shows with only men artists and no self-consciousness at all. I am deeply honored to be considered part of a female lineage because I feel that women have made much-needed contributions to the art dialogue.” Both here and throughout Art Basel and the satellite exhibitions I took numerous photographs to demonstrate to my students (most of whom happen to be women) various approaches to art-making.
Walking through Wynwood from the Rubell Family Collection to the Margulies Collection (one of the few times that I was outdoors and managed to avoid the rain), I enjoyed watching muralists creating their colorful pieces on walls throughout the area. I later learned that many of the artists were the same ones who had created some stunning pieces in my home town a couple of months ago during the Shine St Petersburg Mural Festival.
At Art Basel Miami Beach I saw work by literally thousands of artists; a few images have stayed with me: Ai Weiwei’s huge tree reconstructed from trunks and branches of dead trees, Tracy Emin’s figurative work (a pleasant surprise after seeing works such as “My Bed,” the piece for which she was shortlisted for a Turner Prize), Pat Steir’s beautiful “waterfall” paintings which no reproduction can do justice to, and black and white figurative images by fellow South African, William Kentridge whose work, particularly his films, I have always admired. I was impressed by the work I saw by other South Africans at Stevenson gallery in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The booth featuring work by Marina Abramovic was a meditative sanctuary in the midst of the frantic hustle and bustle of the Art Basel marketplace.
At Miami Projects and Art on Paper (located in the same hotel) I saw a couple of works from the 1950s by Grace Hartigan, an early abstract expressionist, who died in 2008. In the huge tent that housed Untitled I saw a large, carved styrofoam and mirror wall sculpture by Sabina Ott, learned of a new artists’ retreat, Casa Maauad, in Mexico (having worked at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and having been a fellow at a few artists’ retreats, I’m always interested to learn of new retreats). I also watched a performance at Untitled with dancers interacting with a metal sculpture by Amanda Keeley entitled “Double Arc.” At Fridge I saw Art Space Mammoth’s exhibition that included the work of former St. Petersburg winter-time resident, Leslie Fry. At Aqua I renewed my acquaintance with Geraldine Duskin of Ghostprint Gallery who exhibited her daughter, Thea Duskin’s unique tattoo images and mixed media works.
After four days at Art Basel Miami my conclusion is that, exciting though it was, it’s more rewarding to go with a group as I did on my first visit – discussing the work with friends and colleagues is an important part of the experience.