Paris, LA’s final day at Art Basel was spent perusing missed booths at the Miami Beach Convention Center’s main fair, and soaking up the last few rays of sunshine on the beach. There was perhaps no better way to bookend a whirlwind tour of art and culture on both sides of Biscayne Bay, stretching into late night and early morning parties.
The Saturday and Sunday crowd was noticeably more casual than at Wednesday’s VIP preview, and a number of works had been replaced with others, having been bought off the wall by collectors earlier in the week. Still, a number of standouts remained. Katharina Fritsch’s bright orange Octopus drew viewers into Matthew Marks’s booth, where a stunning new Ellsworth Kelly aluminum wall sculpture was displayed near polyurethane objects by Fischli/Weiss and a photograph by Thomas Demand. Luhring Augustine displayed one of Rachel Whitread’s Untitled (Stories) sculptures, a cast of the negative space around books on a shelf, which the artist later used in her poetic Vienna Holocaust Memorial.
Some works humorously reappeared, referenced by other artists. Doug Aitken’s Exit (Large), on display in Regen Projects’ booth, appeared in an Eric Fischl painting not far away. Jeff Koons’s Balloon Rabbit appeared suspended upside down from a totem pole in a Jason Rhodes sculpture, on display at David Zwirner’s Basel booth.
Fergus McCaffrey presented a colorful survey of Jack Early works, particularly homoerotic paintings of crotch close-ups on children’s wallpaper, featuring cheerful hand-holding soldiers. A canary yellow phonograph in the center of the gallery played Early’s “Biography in 20 Minutes”, recounting how the artist chose the wallpaper for his first bedroom, further referencing his memories of queer childhood and early budding sexuality. Another arresting survey show was Alison Knowles’s The Boat Book, sponsored by James Fuentes of New York. A series of wooden frames painted and draped in silkscreens, prints, photographs and maritime diagrams, The Boat Book looks like an unfolded large-scale scrapbook, memorializing the artist’s fisherman brother.
Urs Fischer’s Small Rain drew curious crowds to the Sadie Coles HQ, London booth. Nearby Galerie Buchholz’s booth featured a stunning mechanistic sculpture by newcomer Simon Denny, with the familiar Snapchat ghost logo embedded like a 3D phantom in a plastic cube atop a computer server. Artist Sean Raspet also drew crowds to Société gallery’s booth in the Nova section with a wall of plastic tanks filled with a manufactured green polyether substance.
Hauser & Wirth exhibited an impressive new teardrop-shaped sculpture by Mark Bradford. Other fair favorites included Jose Dávila, whose marble and glass slabs precariously pitched outward on colorful red and orange straps were shown at a half dozen galleries from Latin America, Europe, and the United States. Sherrie Levine’s minimalist objects in glass cases were scattered all over the winding Basel booths.
At the booth for famed editions workshop and gallery Gemini G.E.L., new works by Richard Serra, Julie Mehretu, and Sophie Calle were on display. Serra’s monochromatic black Rift series was partly inspired by rubbings of asphalt textures in the Gemini parking lot. Mehretu’s Myriads, Only By Dark, composed of many layers of finely colored inks and intricately textured gestures in black, took over a year to complete. Calle’s work, In Memory of Frank Gehry’s Flowers, featured a collage cut-out of dried flowers given to the artist by her friend, architect Frank Gehry, in honor of her exhibition openings, alongside photographs of the flowers when fresh and a vase of real roses designed by Gehry himself.
Between 250 galleries at Art Basel alone, 10 independent art fairs, and countless events, parties, exhibition openings, performances, and lectures, it was truly impossible to see it all here in Miami this week. Some important lessons were learned: few people come to Miami Beach in early December to view artwork. Perusing the fairs is like speed-dating high culture–there simply isn’t time to stop and study. As the fashion and music industries have teamed up with Art Basel, many more have arrived just for the parties, and parties they find: many of them last late into the night and well past sunrise. And as Art Basel has grown, so has Miami, sprouting gleaming new residential skyscrapers (including the new Zaha Hadid 10 Museum Park) that crowd out the two-lane boulevards and classic white Art Deco hotels.
If you plan on attending Art Basel Miami Beach next year, don’t forget to pack good walking shoes, your favorite hangover cure, and a well-planned schedule. With the right preparation, you won’t find a better way to spend the first days of winter.