This year’s Art Basel Miami Beach is approaching, arguably today’s biggest art fair and art society event alike. While the upcoming eleventh edition of Art Basel’s American subsidiary will unite a roster of more than 250 of the world’s leading galleries, it will also, once again, serve as the kick-off for a broad variety of other art fairs and exhibitions as well as vast quantities of VIP dinners and parties. Some say the Miami edition of the most prestigious art fair is first and foremost the American way to embrace a cultural mega event with abundance and luxury. While it’s up to you to pass judgement on this issue, we will furnish you with information to keep the deep cocktail party conversations going or, at least, to not miss out on the most interesting booths among the heaps of exhibition stands.
Art Basel Miami Beach will take place at the Miami Beach Convention Center from December 5 to 8, but is also open for a private view on December 4. Galleries from 31 countries on five continents will showcase their artists in one place, while special sections will be established to focus on young galleries (Nova sector), curated presentations by single artists (Positions sector) and on limited-edition works and prints (Edition sector). Further sectors focus on magazines, film, outdoor sculptures and specially curated booths.
To help you sift through the vast offerings at this year’s fair, follow our meticulously curated guide of the ten artists not to miss at Art Basel Miami Beach.
1. Pieter Hugo at Stevenson (booth J10)
You might remember Pieter Hugo’s grotesque photo series on Nollywood, Nigeria’s infamous film industry and the people who are part of this African madhouse: ghoulish Voodoo characters, teens and gang members with their pet hyenas and neatly dressed business people with way too much blood on their dark merino wool suits.
Hugo is undeniably one of the Dark Continent’s most popular photographers and certainly the foremost artist at Stevenson Gallery’s booth where he shows a variety of portraits from the “Kin” series. Dealing with his home country’s complicated racial history, Hugo explores South Africa’s issues of colonization, racial diversity and economic disparity in a series of portraits of Cape Town residents. He describes the ongoing project of which he shows five pieces as “an engagement with the failure of the South African colonial experiment and my sense of being ‘colonial driftwood.’”
2. Gabriel Orozco at Marian Goodman Gallery (booth K13)
Some of you from both sides of the Big Pond might remember Gabriel Orozco’s collection of coastal debris and trash, meticulously sorted and neatly displayed at New York’s Guggenheim Museum and its Berlin branch, Deutsche Guggenheim. The traveling exhibition “Asterisms” was a unanimous success in both cities, earning a number of positive reviews and headlines in the media. It’s not surprising then that Orozco’s dealer, Marian Goodman, was wise enough to ship part of the vast collection of colorful glass objects washed ashore to Miami, where it will be on display along with artworks by the gallery’s impressive phalanx of respected artists.
If it’s not for Gabriel Orozco, you should visit the booth anyway because the work at any mid- or high-class museum for contemporary art is equal to the works on display at Goodman’s stand.
3. Os Gêmeos at Galeria Fortes Villaça (booth B15)
While illustration and graphic art that stems from urban roots are rare if even existing, one might certainly expect, if any, only the kingpins of international urban art to be present at such a prestigious fine art fair as Art Basel Miami Beach. Gallery Perrotin (booth G6) has a decent JR piece on view, but Brazilian Galeria Fortes Villaça has arguably a more beautiful piece, a large-scale wood drawing by Brazilian brothers Os Gêmeos. While you’re probably more familiar with the huge murals of the São Paulo duo, it might be interesting to see a framed artwork in an art fair context, especially in contrast to the likewise large and colorful pieces by Lucia Laguna and Marina Rheingantz.
4. Nicola Costantino at Baró Galeria (booth P5 at Positions Section)
Many still consider contemporary art as a challenge of who knows best how to reiterate as many art movements and subjects as possible. While you might have your own thoughts on the matter of prevalent eclecticism, you will have to acknowledge that some artists go to great lengths of devoting their work to the old masters. Nicola Costantino is one of these artists who has recently attracted some attention.
The Argentinian photographer carefully re-stages famous paintings, down to the smallest detail, often if not always posing as the portrait subject herself. Baroque artists Diego Velázquez and Caravaggio, in addition to Francis Bacon, Man Ray, Edgar Degas and Gerhard Richter, are just a few of the artists Costantino has appropriated. For her appearance at Art Basel Miami Beach, Brazilian Baró Galeria presents a photography of Costantino reenacting a would-be-painting by Vermeer that possibly only art historians could expose as a motive not known by the Dutch master.
Swing by their booth because this is certainly the closest you can get to an old master at this mega fair for contemporary art.
5. Sam Moyer at Galerie Rodolphe Janssen (booth K9)
There’s art that, though rather modest, never ceases to amaze, simply due to the pure energy it radiates. Sam Moyer’s large-scale canvases have this effect although it’s sometimes hard to tell which of her works are old and which are of recent date. Moyer treats her rather simple artworks with a variety of physical and chemical methods, often stressing and straining the material for a long time, until she has created another beautiful black-and-white, tie-dye style painting that looks great and fascinates with its attention to detail.
The piece shown at Galerie Rodolophe Janssen’s booth might be child-size by her standards, but it doesn’t fail to condense the stunning grace that has become a signature of all her works. That said, Moyer still waits for due credit, giving you the opportunity to score one of Art Basel Miami Beach’s real steals (for a price unknown but expected to be one of the lowest in the ordinary section where only Blue Chip galleries advertise their artists). Once you’re there, you should watch out for Davide Balula’s burnt wood on canvas pieces that complement Moyer’s appeal while standing out on their own.
6. Berlinde de Bruyckere at Galleria Continua (booth L6)
I have to admit that I am devoted to the art of this Belgian artist, so when I heard that Italian Galleria Continua would show one of her sculptures at this year’s fair, I was all of a tizzy. De Bruyckere is famous for her bizarre Frankensteinesque experiments with animal skins, often distorting and scarring horse bodies to form new species. Her creatures hang from hooks and ceilings, lean against walls or lay spread on the floor in grotesque poses, pitiful, pathetically begging to be delivered from their pain. De Bruyckere is a true master in her field of epoxy work, creating lifelike bodies and astonishingly realistic skins. Realistic enough that her works must be among those touched most by curious visitors. Every museum attendant must hate her.
Along with the often also uncanny work of several other high profile artists, Stevenson will show two pieces by de Bruyckere, one of her horse skins and some bloody all-resin antlers. While you’re there, check out Carlos Garaicoa’s stunning photographs of urban decay and Leandro Erlich’s Cloud (a reminiscence to Gerhard Richter’s fogged glass sculpture, 7 Stehende Scheiben).
7. Abraham Cruzvillegas at Galerie Chantal Crousel (booth L5)
Parisian Galerie Chantal Crousel showcases some of the most prestigious, promising and emerging artists of our time at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. 1968-born Abraham Cruzvillegas is to be found somewhere in between. Although Orozco’s disciple and fellow member of leading Latin American artists is better known for his arte povera pieces (i.e. artwork made from cheap materials and rubbish), Cruzvillegas recently expanded into the rather colorful and flashy aesthetics of post-Internet art, the latest trend in contemporary art. His contribution to the upcoming fair comprises a quite cynical take on the disparity of living standards in his home country Mexico, contrasted against classic arte povera material with glossy posters and calendar sheets of typical touristy, natural landmarks.
8. David Ostrowski at Peres Projects (booth N9 at Nova Section)
German up-and-coming artist David Ostrowski has been on my watch list for quite a while, especially since prolific art dealer Javier Peres took him under his wing and carefully exposed him to the greater art world. Now it’s time for Art Basel Miami Beach, certainly a fitting stage for both extroverted characters. The art fair granted them a booth at the Nova section to be outfitted only with Ostrowski’s paintings, picture-perfect confessions to the technical nature of the genre and an often witty embrace of the artistic mistake. His pieces, in a sense, are canvas sculptures, for they are most concerned about their tangible and structural integrity and the artistic traces left to obliterate, thereby also, paradoxically, revealing their very material nature. Note that Ostrowski lets barefoot women walk over his freshly painted canvases, so if that’s not some sort of fetish, I don’t know what is. Look out for some suspicious traces – if there are none, I am willing to accept this myth as artist propaganda once and for all.
9. Oriol Vilanova at Parra & Romero (booth P10 at Positions Section)
It has become common for art fairs to dedicate a special section to single artists whose work demands a more intimate viewing experience. Oriol Vilanova’s showcase at the Positions Section will show you why that’s important. The booth of Spain’s Parra & Romero Gallery unites approximately five hundred found postcards depicting divine sunsets at dream beaches from all over the world. Vilanova collected them to sarcastically expose the dull homogeneity of postcard photography, tourism marketing, and our perception and expectation of mass-produced heaven on earth.
Also, make sure not to miss Berlin’s PSM Gallery’s booth on your way out of the Positions section, where they show some delightful and playful paintings on ceramic tiles by French artist Nadira Husain.
10. Tony Matelli at Koenig & Clinton (booth N30 at Nova Section)
Another artist showcasing at the Nova Section and the last in this list of the ten artists not to miss at Art Basel Miami Beach is Tony Matelli, a young and highly productive New Yorker and all-rounder represented by Koenig & Clinton. If it were up to me to curate their booth, I’d dismiss Nicole Eisenmann’s dull and trite plaster sculptures that look like Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nanas underwent a serious depression, losing their color and playfulness, to make room for more of Matelli’s hilarious mirror pieces. His imaginative, yet simple artworks preserve the often naughty messages written on steamy bathroom mirrors, capturing them one by one: “Pussy”, “Jesus lives” and also the more figurative “Fingers.” I hope their urethane and enamel paint is waterproof. I’m tempted to hang one up in my own bathroom but I’d be rather gutted if it proved to be more ephemeral as hoped.