What to Anticipate at Art Basel 2012
by sue hostetler
When the owners of the Swiss art show Art Basel first brought a stateside version of the show to Miami Beach in 2002, they were gambling on whether the contemporary art community would support a tropical frontier. The fair was an immediate success, and in the last 10 years Art Basel Miami Beach has become arguably the most influential show in the Americas—framing a ritualistic week on the calendar of every top collector, curator, museum director, and art aficionado. The show has swelled to include more than 260 international galleries, featuring an ambitious program that now boasts outdoor and public video, sculpture, and performance. Art Basel Miami Beach also helped spawn a cultural renaissance of sorts across South Florida: Blue-chip collectors opened private spaces, public institutions have been commissioned or revitalized (the Miami Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, and the Miami Science Museum are all currently building new homes), and the Wynwood Arts District and Design District blossomed with galleries, furniture boutiques, and artist studios.
“It was an exciting decade—not only for the show but also for Miami Beach,” says Annette Schönholzer, who along with Marc Spiegler has served as codirector of the show since 2008. “The city evolved from being the winter destination for art lovers into a year-round cultural hot spot.” The show itself, held within the Miami Beach Convention Center, has matured as well. “The quality of the galleries exhibiting has increased significantly and so has the diversity,” adds Spiegler. “People have come to take the show quite seriously, saving great material and planning their booths all year long. Also, the Miami Beach edition was originally established in part as a link between North and South America. Over the past few years we have seen this dream come truly to fruition—in terms of our exhibitors, their artists, and their collectors.” (Last year there were a record 26 Latin American exhibitors.)
Spiegler and Schönholzer are also taking the world’s continued financial struggles in stride. “The art market is undoubtedly tied to the ebb and flow of the global economic conditions, and that has its effects, especially on the younger galleries and emerging artists,” says Spiegler. “On the other hand, there are pockets that are still buzzing, and Latin America is one of them. All over the world, artists are constantly emerging and being strongly pursued by curators and collectors. At the same time, many galleries in New York, Paris, and London are expanding, and the number of people interested in art and buying art is increasing over time. Everywhere you look, you see ambition, not retreat.”
Indeed, with the immense proliferation of art fairs, it is no secret that dealers now often do as much as half of their annual business at the various shows; considering this, the Art Basel behemoth is poised to dominate the contemporary art world, now operating shows on three continents since buying Art HK last year. “With the launch of Art Basel’s Hong Kong edition this May, we will be able to provide collectors and dealers with unparalleled access to the global art world,” Schönholzer says. “We are in the advantageous position of being able to apply more than 40 years of experience to a new market, which makes for an exciting, dynamic future in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Running from December 6 through 9, this year’s Miami Beach show promises to be more exhilarating than ever. The most creative section is often Art Nova, where rules require dealers to feature only work created in the past three years by just two or three artists. Art Positions also consistently pushes the limits, showcasing work from young and emerging artists (the 2011 standout being Paulo Nazareth’s eye-popping Banana Market/Art Market, a green Volkswagen bus filled with bananas). The Art Kabinett sector tends to be thematically wideranging, offering a platform for diversity including thematic group exhibitions, art historical showcases, and solo shows for rising stars.
Art Public is easily the most visible sector. Returning this December is guest curator Christine Y. Kim, an associate curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who will once again be responsible for filling Collins Park with site-specific installations, sculptures, and performances. “We are delighted to be continuing our successful partnership with the Bass Museum of Art for Art Public,” says Schönholzer, referring to the collaboration that was inaugurated last year with the Miami institution that borders the park. Kim focused on the highly conceptual and performative in 2011, which included the much-talked-about performance by Chicago native Theaster Gates and the Black Monks of Mississippi. Another partnership returning in December is Art Video, a series of public art film screenings on the 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection wall of the New World Center, designed by Frank Gehry. “We look forward to further developing these relationships,” Spiegler says. “We will certainly see the continuing evolution of the Miami Beach show.”
For those planning to attend Art Basel Miami Beach this year, make sure to break away from the confines of the convention center and hit the private collections and prominent art spaces. Many of Miami’s private collections are located in the Wynwood neighborhood, north of downtown Miami. This revitalized community boasts the Rubell Family Collection, housed in a former DEA drug warehouse and featuring a who’s who of the art world, including, Jeff Koons, Kara Walker, and Cindy Sherman. Also of particular interest is World Class Boxing, the collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl, which houses their eclectic treasures—including Australian and Aboriginal art—in a former boxing gym.
photography courtesy of the artist and paul kasmin gallery (saito); courtesy of art basel (portrait); courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery (mosse); sean kelly gallery (kosmaj); richard gray gallery (katz)
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