Opening Day – It’s a Matter of Taste

Art fairs are feasts for the senses. Sight, of course. Sound, of masses of people and maybe installations. Touch, you know – don’t touch the art. Smell, after a long day you can smell the vendors. Taste, either during a break or afterward, or maybe an artist has worked something you can eat into their artwork! What you see can be what you are looking for or what catches your eye. I like the latter approach and go with what attracts me. I often miss the must-sees, and yet, I enjoy what I see.

Day Four came and the main fair driving this entire immense engine of art and people opened to the public. The annual vernissage (a private viewing of paintings in a public exhibition) has changed over the past seventeen years. From the beginning, the opening was in the evening. Our home is on one of the main arteries of the community. One year as Constant Companion and I prepared to join the masses of other first goers we were turned back by the sea of cars moving at a snail’s pace in front of the house. We chose another day to enjoy the show that year.

In the intervening years, this special pre-opening (tickets were prized) which actually follows the very pre-pre-opening for the real collectors who have earned the rights of first view has been moved to an early afternoon before the show actually opens to the masses. This year’s vernissage crowd seemed actually sedate, though the huge hall of our newly renovated and updated convention center filled (with sights, sounds, smells, et al) as the day progressed.

In general, the vernissage was not only a time to get an almost first view of the art. It was also the time to see and be seen – the time to wear your Sunday best, well really not necessarily church-going clothes. It still remains an all-round feast for the eyes. I present here a feast for your eyes from my point of view.

I enjoyed much of the art that I saw – if I didn’t like it, you won’t see it here. In my own neurotic way, I’ve created an order to the art; I started seeing patterns in what I was drawn to. I also enjoyed the fashion show; as the afternoon moved along I started asking if I could capture people’s images. And they most willingly complied. My people watching observations were totally random.

Least I forget, I also attended an amazing, well-done panel discussion at what turned out to be the end of my wanderings for the day. After the presentation, I found my car and headed to another fair. I turned back in the face of the molasses-paced traffic. I’ll attend that fair another day (maybe) and share my thoughts on the panel on rationale of museum collections on an even other day. Today is a visual feast.

Part I – On View, Art Basel Miami Beach, 2019

This fair is heralded as the leading contemporary art fair. There’s no doubt about this fact. This year 269 leading international galleries have set up shop. Several galleries which attend every year roll out the masters of modern art. They include the Landau and Hammer galleries. I feel like I’m in a museum in their displays:

Calder is always present
And Chagall
This gallery created an exhibition
Rene Magritte
Le Corde Sensible, 1960
Pablo Picasso
Le Reservoir, 1952

What I might consider the new classics are artists who are well-known and highly collectable. I had seen a similar Shonibare piece at the new Espacio 23 collection. I prefer his earlier work. Some have been around and have finally been recognized for who they are:

Yinke Shonibare
Planets in My Head, Young Chemist, 2019
Yinke Shonibare
Wounded Amazon (after Sosikles), 2019
Faith Ringgold
The Flag is Bleeding (2) 1997
Sheila Hicks
Esmeralda (Emerald Forest), 2019
Sandford Biggers
Twist and Crawl, 2019
Damien Hirst

What also caught my eye were just artwork which, well, caught my eye. This complex assemblage piece from A Gentil Carioca gallery in Rio presents a whimsical interpretation of a doll house:

minute details
from the front
from the back

Artists I’ve never heard of, but their work visually attracted me. Some reflect my interest/commitment to cultural diversity. If some of the gallerists had seen that I was interested, I might have learned something about the artists of their work. The Nassar embroidered piece is a collaboration of the artist and Palestinian women:

Anwar Jalal Shemza
Reclining Forms, 1949
Ghada Amer
The Words I love the most, 2012
I’ve seen this idea with Roman letters, Arabic calligraphy, great.
Jordan Nassar
Its Victory from Star to Star, 2019
Amazing interpretation using traditional Palestinian embroidery
Lenore Tawney
Untitled, 1964
Lenore Tawney
Union of Water and Fire, 1974

A while ago, I created two collages using a bevvy of New Orleans bead throws (see June 10 post). Sometime later, somewhere, I saw another interpretive, multilayered use of these colorful beads.

unknown artist
not at the art fairs

At the fair, I see it transformed into fine art! What fun. And think of what you can do with jingle bells (you can buy them at Michael’s though I imagine the artists bought them in bulk) if you put your mind to it. The first piece is constructed using ghungroos – these are not New Orleans throw beads, but small metallic bells used to make musical anklets. What else is new under the sun?

Vibha Galhotra
Untitled (from Life on Mars series), 2019
Could not find the label!
Haegue Yang
Sonic Sphere, 2015

I was surprised to see a number of galleries were showing folk art, art by untrained artists. Two Kabinetts, or small dedicated displays, included this genre. Miami’s own prolific painter, Purvis Young was featured by the Hirschel & Adler gallery. A Rio gallery spotlighted the work of Amadeo Luciano Lorenzato, a painter from Belo Horizonte. One small painting by Bill Traylor was shown, as well as another artist whose name, regrettably I did not capture.

Dear Readers, I think I’m now more tired that after the almost four hours working through Art Basel Miami Beach – seeing art, comparing notes with my art friend, greeting friends and acquaintances, and more. I suspect you might be sated, though also curious about my other observations. I’ll save the different and varied individual expressions in dress for another post if you will allow.

As before, today is another day, more art!

One comment

  1. Thank you for providing a thoroughly “curated” account of your Basel experience this year which is full of whimsical and fun to read observations. For some of us who did not attend this year, your narrative is as familiar and complex as actually being there; fashionable characters, traffic woes and inspiring artwork included.


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