At Art Miami, Kusamas Were Flying Off the Walls and Two Famed Former Models Teamed Up to Curate a Special Booth

Brooke Shields and Helena Christensen lent some celebrity flair to the event.

Crowds at Art Miami 2019. Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Art Miami.

Talk about determination.

In the opening minutes—minutes!—of Art Miami’s VIP preview on Tuesday, a decisive UK-based buyer strode up to Galerie Von Vertes’s booth near the entrance to the fair, where several paintings and sculptures by Japanese art star Yayoi Kusama were on view, and struck a deal to take away two pieces from her signature “Pumpkin” series for $1 million.

By Thursday, when Artnet News visited the booth, the works were long gone, having been shipped to London at the request of the buyer, who gallery owner Laszlo von Vertes said had wanted to be sure they would be there in time for Christmas. Happy holidays! In their place were several Kusama “Infinity Net” paintings.

It was a fitting start to one of Miami’s longest-standing fairs, now in its 30th edition, and in its second year in a space on Biscayne Bay directly across from the Perez Art Museum.

“The early platinum preview continues to grow in importance for collectors wanting the first chance to acquire works,” the fair’s director, Nick Korniloff, told Artnet News. “The line of collectors was queued down herald plaza as early as 3:45 waiting to enter” for the 4:30 p.m. opening.

Installation view of Yayoi Kusama works at Galerie Von Vertes, Zurich, at Art Miami. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Installation view of Yayoi Kusama works at Galerie Von Vertes’s Art Miami booth. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Art dealer Mark Borghi did well at the preview, selling a Chakaia Booker sculpture out of a solo show of her work at his booth for $400,000. Another highlight of the fair—and a splash of celebrity cachet—was the booth of the New York Academy of Art, where actress Brooke Shields and former supermodel Helena Christensen (who have each curated booths separately for previous fairs) joined forces for the first time.

Christensen told Artnet News that she met academy president David Kratz at a lunch hosted by board member Alexander Gilkes.

“David and I immediately struck up a conversation about aesthetics and art. It was wonderful to converse with someone who knew so much about artists and the art world,” she said. Later, Kratz invited her to curate alongside Brooke Shields, “another huge art lover,” Christensen said.

Left Brooke Shields with Helena Christensen at Art Miami 2019. Photo: Brett Hufziger.

Brooke Shields with Helena Christensen at Art Miami 2019. Photo: Brett Hufziger.

Christensen said her horizons have expanded since she started curating, and that she has bought new works by artists she would never have known about were it not for the New York Academy. She credits Kratz with being an “art mentor.”

“Once you dive into that world, you just want to be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as you can,” she said.

Of artists she discovered through the New York Academy of Art, she cites Shiqing Deng and Kathy Stecko.

“Deng’s paintings are playful, colorful, and strange, which is right up my alley. Kathy’s little sculptures are like alien fairytales, and they evoke some very sentimental childhood memories within me,” Christensen said.

Deng Shiqing, <i>Vent</i> Image courtesy of the artist and New York Academy of Art

Deng Shiqing, Vent. Image courtesy of the artist and New York Academy of Art.

Meanwhile, the venerable Gerald Peters gallery’s booth was dedicated to Maurice Burns, a MacDowell fellow and Pollock-Krasner award recipient, whose work has not been seen outside New Mexico for decades. Burns was born in 1937 in Talladega, Alabama, and retreated to Santa Fe in the 1970s to immerse himself in painting.

We asked Alice Hammond, one of the gallery’s directors, for her thoughts on the current market mood, and she echoed what seemed to be the sentiment across Miami this week, where the environment was less frenzied than in years past, even though there has been no shortage of thoughtful, steady, and solid buying.

Maurice Burns, Illegal, (2018). Courtesy of Gerald Peters Contemporary.

Maurice Burns, Illegal (2018). Courtesy of Gerald Peters Contemporary.

“The opening this year felt perhaps not as well-attended as in years past,” she told Artnet News. “But we did see a good number of sophisticated collectors coming through, and had great conversations throughout.”

Hammond says the gallery has always had positive results at Art Miami, where it has been exhibiting for a number of years.

“This year, we are presenting a solo show for the first time, which means that we haven’t hedged our bets by including a little something for everyone,” she said. “But the result is that we have made a really strong presentation of a re-emerging artist and we are very excited about the interest it has generated thus far.”

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