From the MoMA Effect to a New Platform for Massive Art, Here’s What’s New at Art Basel Miami Beach This Year

The new "Meridians" platform will showcase large works in a massive ballroom.

Portia Munson, The Garden (1996). Image courtesy of P.P.O.W.

It’s no secret that art fairs are as costly as they are crucial for midsize and mega-galleries alike. With the art world descending on South Florida for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach fair—now in its 18th edition—what does it take to sustain the exclusive must-see element of the event amid the many parties, sponsored dinners, and other noise that threatens to drown out the actual art?

The show “has maintained its distinct identity and focus—bridging the North and South American art markets as the premier art show in the Americas and continuing to provide an important platform for artists and galleries from the region,” director Noah Horowitz told Artnet News.

This year’s edition of the fair aims to reach beyond the well-worn market centers of New York and Los Angeles to welcome new participants from Chicago, Toronto, Mexico City, and Miami Beach—a testament, Horowitz said, to “the strength of cultural hubs outside of the major market centers.” In addition, the lineup of Asian galleries is bolstered this year by new entries including 10 Chancery Lane Gallery from Hong Kong, Magician Space from Beijing, and ROH Projects from Jakarta.

The Miami Beach Convention Center. Image courtesy of Art Basel.

The Miami Beach Convention Center. Image courtesy of Art Basel.

Go Big or Go Home

One of the buzzed-about additions to the fair this year is the new section titled “Meridians,” an ambitious platform that will feature 34 large-scale projects by a mix of established and emerging artists such as Tina Girouard, Woody De Othello, Isaac Julien, Ana Mendieta, and Torey Thornton. Among the installations is an ostensibly fully functioning travel agency by French artist Laure Prouvost, complete with water coolers, palm trees, fans, staff, a waiting area, and a corporate infomercial playing on loop on a TV screen.

Meridians is curated by Magalí Arriola, director of Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, and will have a strong focus on artists and works from both North and South America. The projects, which include large-scale sculptures, paintings, installations, video, and performances, will be presented in the Grand Ballroom on the second floor of the convention center, an exhibition space comprising more than 60,000 square feet. (The project is akin to a scaled-down version of the exceedingly popular Unlimited section at Art Basel in Basel.)

Arriola sorted through dozens of submissions from participating galleries before presenting them to a selection committee, which voted on the final choices. She explained that they were not on the hunt for anything specific, but nonetheless, some overarching themes cropped up: “identity, race, gender, territory, migration, which is such a big pool of things yet somehow all connected,” she said. “We’re seeing these themes addressed from very different perspectives and many different regions.” 

Fred Wilson, <i>Sala Longhi</i> (2011). ©Fred Wilson. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery.

Fred Wilson, Sala Longhi (2011). ©Fred Wilson. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery.

Among the most anticipated projects is Isaac Julien’s Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement (2019), a nine-screen installation that traces the influence of legendary Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi’s life and work. Another work in homage to a fellow artist is Adam Pendleton’s Ishmael in the Garden: A Portrait of Ishmael Houston-Jones (2018) a 24-minute video that focuses on the life of the choreographer, author, performer, teacher, and curator.

Meanwhile, those looking to get their Instagram fix will likely be satiated by P.P.O.W.’s presentation of Portia Munson’s exuberant The Garden (1996), which takes the form of a woman’s bedroom densely layered with floral dresses, stuffed animals, found furniture, and myriad fake flowers.

The MoMA Effect

Downstairs in the main fair, some of the most exciting works are from artists only now beginning to gain proper recognition. A number of artists whose work is newly contextualized in the expanded Museum of Modern Art in New York will be featured in solo presentations, particularly in the fair’s “Survey” section, dedicated to historical projects. Call it the MoMA effect.

Pippy Houldsworth Gallery of London will showcase works by Faith Ringgold, whose 1967 painting American People Series #20: Die is now prominently hung alongside Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) at MoMA. In Miami, works on view will include Flag is Bleeding #2 (1997), examples from her “American People” series, and other works that have rarely if ever been shown in the US.

Left: Fairfield Porter, <i>Double Portrait</i> (1968). Right: Alex Katz, <i>Margit</i> (1993). <br>Image courtesy of Marlborough Gallery.

Other historical works headed to ABMB. Left: Fairfield Porter, Double Portrait (1968). Right: Alex Katz, Margit (1993). Image courtesy of Marlborough Gallery.

“The works address different aspects of America’s racial and political history through the personal lens of self-portraits that often depict Ringgold alongside her daughters,” the gallery explained.

Also in “Survey,” Sao Paulo’s Almeida e Dale Galeria de Arte will display a series of works by Tarsila do Amaral, one of the foremost representatives of Brazil’s Modernist art movement and another new addition to MoMA’s collection galleries. The presentation will feature several drawings, documents, and sketches produced by the artist during the 1920s. Three of do Amaral’s paintings as well as a number of abstract drawings will also be on display.

Art Basel Miami Beach will be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, December 5–8 with a VIP preview on December 4. 

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