What not to miss at Art Basel Miami Beach and beyond

What not to miss at Art Basel Miami Beach and beyond

While the UK shivers as the temperature plummets, the art world skips off in search of sunshine and sales to Art Basel Miami Beach. Now in its 16th edition, ABMB has established itself as America’s leading art fair, with its savvy harnessing of Swiss efficiency to South Beach hedonism effectively combining business and pleasure. Here are some of the highlights to be found at the fair (which is open from 6-10th December) and beyond.

The main attraction: Art Basel Miami Beach

This year ABMB has 268 participating galleries from 32 countries ranging across North and Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Much of the work on show seems to be responding either directly or obliquely to wider social and political issues. Look out for punchy, raunchy Feminism on PPOW stand with Betty Tompkins and Carolee Schneemann and new aggressively phallic drawings by Judith Bernstein from LA’s The Box.


Victoria Miro has devoted her stand to paintings, works on paper and sculpture exploring themes of portraiture and identity from Yayoi Kusama, Do Ho Suh, Alice Neel and Hernan Bas.

On Proyectos Monclova’s booth, the Mexican collective Tercerunquinto are painting Mexican political campaign murals directly onto the walls and there’s more hard-hitting political work in a new series from Santiago Sierra on Milan’s Prometeogallery di Ida Pisani, together with a never before seen installation by Manuel Ocampo on Tyler Rollins Fine Art which, in the Filipino artist’s inimitable style, draws on religious iconography to reflect on current global events.

Daniel Buren, Photo-souvenir: Les Guirlandes, travail in situ (Documenta 7, Kassel), 1982, Poles, pennants, loudspeakers Dimensions variable CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND BORTOLAMI

Don’t miss the 11 various multi-generational works specially installed in the fair’s Public section in nearby Collins Park. These encompass veteran conceptualist Daniel Buren’s historic 1982 «Les Guirlandes» made from striped flags and loudspeakers blasting chronologically organised snatches of music through to Yto Barrada’s new sculptures constructed from salvaged plumbing materials from her native Tangiers and Chilean artist Manuel Viera-Gallo’s shattered evocations of domestic violence.

Then in the middle of all this, in one of the many live elements punctuating all sections of the fair, American painter Jim Shaw is premiering his prog-rock opera, The Rinse Cycle, which he’s been working on for the last 10 years.

Satellite Fairs

Over the past decade ABMB has spawned a throng of satellite fairs which are scattered throughout the various districts of Miami and offer a dizzying amount of alternative options and works in all media.

There are around 20 to choose from but all the major collectors gravitate to NADA, the edgy yet reputable young art fair run by the New Art Dealer’s alliance which this year is showing more than 100 galleries and artist’s projects from the US and beyond in the 1920’s Ice Palace Film Studios in Miami’s Design district.

The Untitled Art Fair, Miami CREDIT: CASEY KELBAUGH

Another fair increasingly attracting the cognoscenti is Untitled, which is housed in a chic and capacious tent structure pitched directly on the beach, just adjacent to the parade of landmark deco buildings on South Beach’s Ocean Drive.

This year Untitled is upping its game by accompanying its roster of international contemporary art galleries with an ambitious programme of special projects, including a recreation of Gordon Matta-Clark’s classic «Garbage Wall», originally made to accompany the first Earth Day in 1970, and ominously relevant today. Long-standing rival fair Scope is also pitching a temporary structure shoreside just nearby.

Museums and collections

The other major cultural event of the week is the re-opening of Miami’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA Miami) in a dramatic new three-storey building situated in the city’s design district and designed by Spanish architects Aranguren + Gallegos.

ICA Miami designed by Aranguren + Gallegos

The inaugural show, «The Everywhere Studio», is an ambitious historical exhibition exploring the importance and evolution of the artist’s studio from post war to the present day. It tracks significant shifts in more than 50 artist’s studio practice including Picasso, Roy Lichenstein, Martin Kippenberger and Bruce Nauman, up to Elaine Sturtvant, Matthew Barney and Andrea Zittell.

There are also a number of significant new commissions in the ICA’s ground floor gallery and surrounding sculpture garden, including a new installation of paintings by Chris Ofili, a large scale sculpture including a defunct crane by Puerto Rico-based duo Allora and Calzadilla and a bent telephone pole-star by local Miami artist Mark Handforth.

Roy Lichtenstein, Artist’s Studio with Model, 1974. Oil and Magna on canvas CREDIT: © 2016 SILVIA ROS/COLLECTION OF IRMA & NORMAN BRAMAN

The Bass Museum, located near ABMB in South Beach, has also recently had a major renovation and in late October celebrated its new look by unveiling major solo exhibitions by Ugo Rondinone and Pascale Marthine Tayou.

These are open during ABMB week, along with an additional new show of the zany, surreal absurdist films and installations of Argentinian born, New York-based Mika Rottenberg whose obsessions swing from the mechanics and production processes of global capitalism to visceral body parts. Brace yourself for sneezed-out plates of pasta, sculptures consisting of swinging ponytails and an orgiastic video viewed through a pair of pouting lips.

The Perez Art Museum Miami, (PAMM) which opened in 2013 in a spectacular new building designed by Herzog de Meuron, is also devoted to Modern and contemporary art, with a particular emphasis on Miami’s cultural diversity and its position at the crossroads of the Americas.

As well as contemporary Cuban art from the Jorge M Perez collection, it is mounting the first mid career survey of German filmmaker Dara Friedman along with major installations by Haroun Mirza, Hew Locke and Steve McQueen.

The Bass Museum in South Beach CREDIT: ZACHARY BALBER

PAMM is the latest and largest of a plethora of quasi institutional private initiatives by the Miami collector community which, since the inauguration of ABMB, have contributed to the city’s cultural regeneration. All make a point of opening special exhibitions in ABMB week.

Among the most notable are the de la Cruz Collection, who are showing ‘Force and Form’, a mixed show devoted to socially-engaged art and the Margulies collection with a historic show of all the classic major figures of Pop Art.

The Rubell Family Collection, housed in a vast former Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse in the Wynwood District is the only art gallery to have featured in Miami Vice and always pulls in the crowds. This year promises to be no exception with ‘Still Human’, featuring 25 contemporary artists who are using media such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, surveillance and virtual reality to grapple with the complex consequences of recent technological advances and the digital revolution.

Flight of the drones

Finally, back on the beach, there’s more slightly ominous merging of technology science and art with the premiere on the evening December 6 of ‘FRANCHISE FREEDOM’, a spectacular flying sculpture made from more than 300 illuminated drones, which will hover over the ocean in front of the luxury Faena Hotel.

A render of Franchise Freedom, a collection of drones that will hover over the Faena hotel on South Beach CREDIT: STUDIO DRIFT, FRANCHISE FREEDOM (RENDERING), 2017 © STUDIO DRIFT

Created by «Studio Drift» (AKA Amsterdam-based artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralf Nauta ) in partnership with BMW and Pace Gallery’s Future\Pace program, the piece was inspired by the way in which starlings cluster together in massive acrobatic flocks, and the artists see the piece as exposing the “delicate balance between the group and the individual.” But ‘FRANCHISE FREEDOM’ also forms a rather apt metaphor for the hordes of eager art buyers poised to descend on the city of Miami next week.