Text and photos by Reed V. Horth & Kat Barrow-Horth
Art therapy encourages free expression and reflective thought to aid in healing. As all eyes descend on Miami for the annual Art Week fête, featuring Art Basel in Miami Beach and Art Miami in Wynwood, this is perhaps exactly what the doctor ordered. Given the recent political instability in the US, Brazil, Cuba, the UK and elsewhere, the spectral onset of the Zika virus and the newfound virility of the art-buying class, as displayed by the robust November auctions, this year’s Art Week festivities are anything but ordinary. Glamorous art-themed parties and chic satellite fairs are a major draw, but are often ancillary to glitz and celebrity which accompany the major shows: Art Basel in Miami Beach and Art Miami in Wynwood.
“Just the election happening, regardless of the outcome, is a de-stresser,” notes gallerist Ezra Chowaiki whose booth at Art Miami in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District [3101 NE 1st Ave, Miami] boasts the mammoth Kenny Scharf “Big Bong Theory” which sold early in the exhibition. “This year had a lot of anxiety. But there is a wave of optimism now”.
Dozens of languages chatter through ART BASEL in MIAMI BEACH [1901 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach] each with a mixture of awe, seriousness, and whimsical confusion. While most galleries have taken a conservative approach to curation, echoing displays of past years, it is impossible to overlook Sam Durant’s tongue-in-cheek “End White Supremacy” (2008 at Blum & Poe’s booth- Art Basel Miami Beach) The giant message, seared into a lava-like flow of light reverberates and creates unease, as art often assimilates the stimuli of the modern world with more facility and speed than its political counterparts. Emily Alderman, as gallery associate at the gallery, noted, “there has been a lot of trauma happening and we didn’t want it to be ignored”. She later added, “a woman came up to me and said ‘thank you for putting that up’. That is really the power of art in a commercial setting.”
Sanford Biggers’ “Witness” (at Marianne Boesky Gallery) literally and metaphorically loomed over viewers engulfing them in an otherworldly sense of both being the watcher and the watched. Galerie Gmurzynska, continued their trend of celebrity-curated booths to celebrate the coming 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Their booth features artwork curated by Norman Rosenthal with a booth design by Claude Ruiz-Picasso, son of the famed Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot. The propaganda-styled visuals are surrounded by constructivist and suprematist artworks from Alexander Rodchenko, Sonia Delaunay and Lyubov Popova, among others. Creating one of the most selfie-worthy spots is Paul Kasmin Gallery who excellently contrasted Lee Krasner’s abstract opus “Another Storm” (1963) with Constantin Brancusi’s clean-edged golden bronzework “Une Muse” (1918). Gallery director Eric Gleason says, “This year is unique in that we started representing the estate of Lee Krasner. So, we really wanted to earmark that with this work.” The effect is immediate and dramatic.
While other booths parallel sentiments of unease, but more often than not, gallerists filled their booths with proven show-stoppers, including Acquavella Galleries’ Kenneth Nolan “Mach II” which sold in the opening hours of the exhibition, and a pair of “Dolly Parton” originals by Andy Warhol. Helly Nahmad Gallery and Landau Fine Art’s reliable collection of Pablo Picasso, Jean DuBuffett and Jean-Claude Riopelle bring a taste of the past century’s art history into the entryway. Looming Marino Marini bronze silently stand sentry over the throngs noisily filing past.
Susan Hiller’s immersive multi-media installation perhaps best embodies the therapeutic nature of art, as displayed in Lisson Gallery’s Art Basel display which recalls the contemporaneous “Lost and Found” exhibition at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (14 October, 2016-4 June, 2017). Using found objects, sounds and other psychologically-charged objects, Hiller engulfs viewers in an otherworldly, extrasensory experience.
Two jewels hidden amongst the crowd are Galleria d’Arte Maggiore GAM’s lovely retrospective of Giorgio Morandi and Francis M. Naumann’s small, but wonderfully curated exhibition of Man Ray’s Dadaist and surrealist output. “You’ve got to go beyond [the collector’s] eyes,” mentions Naumann about his educative and illuminating display. “You have to go two inches deeper into their grey matter. I’m trying to get collectors to think about art, not just look at it”. In the cacophony of contemporary visual stimuli, both are certainly worth taking a few moments to view.
Now in its 27th year Art Miami continues to blossom as Miami’s “hometown” fair, as noted by founder Nick Korniloff. It is not hard to see why. The fair emulates its namesake city by highlighting both the biggest names in art as well as emerging international talent. Whereas Art Basel often feels untouchable, Art Miami is approachable and more mercantile. Works from Helen Frankenthaler, Pablo Picasso, Sam Francis, Roy Lichtenstein, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Rauschenberg and other 20th Century Blue-Chip names hang alongside Gunther Uecker, Otto Piene, Petra Cortright and the new masters coming of age.
This iteration of Art Miami features booths with decidedly fewer political overtones, with few exceptions, most of which are positive and uplifting. David Benrimon Fine Art’s original acrylic and silkscreen “Bald Eagle” by Andy Warhol and street artist Mr. Brainwash’s “Captain America” (as shown in Contessa Gallery) evokes thoughts of patriotism and positivity. Former museum guard-turned artist Mel Bochner’s drippy originals featuring “Blah Blah Blah” are a satirical and metaphorical thumbing of the nose to elitist art cognoscenti (William Shearburn Gallery).
In 2017 Art Miami will be moving to the site of the former Miami Herald building along Biscayne Bay which will allow them more exhibition space, parking and accessibility for visitors staying both in downtown and on Miami Beach.
Whether you are a novice, a student or professional investor, the sum total of both shows will work in concert to provide you with an education about our collective history, your aesthetic tastes, and your investment portfolio. What better therapy could one ask for?