The Class of 2019? Meet 6 Fast-Rising Artists Having Star Turns at This Year’s Art Basel Miami Beach

These emerging artists work in all manner of media, from ceramics to textile to painting.

Amoako Boafo Cobalt Blue Earring (2019). Courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim.

As the art world descends on Miami for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach fair and the accompanying constellation of fairs and parties, there can be a lot of noise to distract you from the main event. To keep your focus on the art—and, more specifically, emerging artists worth knowing—we’ve pulled out a few buzzed-about rising talents you should make sure to seek out at the fair this year. Just don’t blame us if you can’t get off the wait list to buy.

Amoako Boafo

Amaoko Boafo, Golden Frame (2018). Courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles and Marine Ibrahim, Chicago.

Who: The Ghanian artist just had his first US solo show this year, but he is already being treated as the country’s biggest talent since Ibrahim Mahama.

Based in: Vienna

Notable Resume Lines: After his January 2019 show at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles, word spread quickly, and he was picked up for representation by Mariane Ibrahim, a leading dealer of African artists who this year moved from Seattle to Chicago. More recently, it was announced that Boafo had been offered the star-making residency slot at the Rubell Family Collection, and as a result of the resultant buzz, one of his works was offered at the ICI benefit in a charity auction, where it went for $46,000 over an estimate of $10,000.

Where to See It: In addition to work on view at the Rubells’s space, Mariane Ibrahim will be bringing a solo booth of his work to Art Basel Miami Beach. The new works are large-scale portraits presented against monochromatic backgrounds.

What to Look Out for: He often makes bold portraits of friends in Accra and Vienna, including the author and musician Steve Mekoudja. He hit his artistic stride three years ago, when he began rendering his compositions with paint-dipped fingers rather than brushes. The effect hovers between figuration and abstraction.

Prices: His works at Mariane Ibrahim are priced between $15,000 and $45,000.

Fun Fact: Boafo worked as a pallbearer in Ghana to help put himself through art school. He was first brought to the attention of Robert Projects by another one of their artists, Kehinde Wiley, who found Boafo’s work on Instagram. Wiley was so taken by it that he brought it to the attention of his dealers, who quickly arranged for a solo show, purely over email.

Up Next: In 2020, Boafo will have a solo show of brand new work at Ibrahim’s gallery in Chicago and will be included in a group show at Marianne Boesky in New York.


Woody De Othello

A work by Woody De Othello. Courtesy of the artist, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco and KARMA, NY.

A work by Woody De Othello. Courtesy of the artist, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco and KARMA, NY.

Who: Still south of 30 years old, this ascendant Miami-born sculptor has become known for comically surreal ceramics of oversized household objects, which usually look to be in the process of melting, sprouting cartoon limbs, or both. Think Dali’s The Persistence of Memory adapted for Nickelodeon.

Based in: Oakland, California

Notable Resume Lines: De Othello currently has a solo exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art (through April 5, 2020), and, in February, the San Francisco International Airport unveiled three of his new bronze sculptures permanently installed on its remodeled observation deck. His work was also featured in the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts in Slovenia this year, as well as the inaugural Front Triennial in Cleveland in 2018. 

Where to See It: Art Basel’s new Meridians section as well as the main gallery section, where his work will be presented by Jessica Silverman Gallery and Karma.

What to Look Out for: Cool Composition, De Othello’s contribution to Meridians, recalls the Miami summers of the artist’s youth, where the box fan was the nexus of home life and his Haitian-descended family told tales of spirits inhabiting everyday objects. The installation consists of a giant bronze fan—sagging from exhaustion, or perhaps bending down to whisper secrets—surrounded by a set of life-size stools and citrus trees. His dealer’s booths will host wall sculptures of telephones, vents, and clocks, along with freestanding sculptures and works on paper. 

Prices: De Othello’s works are priced between roughly $8,000 and $15,000.

Fun Fact: De Othello is a CrossFit die-hard. 

Up Next: 2020 will keep the artist busy with a solo show in esteemed Mexico City project space Lulu, a residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and a solo booth with Jessica Silverman at Art Basel Hong Kong.


Simphiwe Ndzube

Mazembe (2019) © Simphiwe Ndzube. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg

Simphiwe Ndzube’s Mazembe (2019) © Simphiwe Ndzube. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg.

Who: This 29-year-old artist, born in Cape Town, South Africa, has earned an enviable reputation—fast—for his Surrealist, otherworldly depictions of  life in post-apartheid South Africa.

Based in: Los Angeles

Notable Resume Lines: Ndzube, who holds has a BA in fine art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, was featured in this year’s Lyon Biennale and the Curitiba Biennale in Brazil. But his big break in the US came last year, when the Rubell Family Collection featured a large display of his work during Art Basel Miami Beach. At the 2018 Armory Show in New York, his solo presentation at Nicodim Gallery was an instant hit and sold out within the first hour of the VIP opening.

Where to See It: Stevenson Gallery’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach

What to Look Out for: Some of Ndzube’s most compelling works are inspired by “swenking,” an informal contest in which working-class Zulu men face off in a combination of fashion show and dance-off. Ndzube works on linen with a variety of paint and found objects.

Prices: Works currently range between $18,000 and $50,000.

Fun Fact: While in the studio, the artist often gives his works-in-progress nicknames after people in the art world or his own social circle (unbeknownst to them).

Up Next: Ndzube has a solo show coming up at Stevenson in Johannesburg in 2020 (his first in that city) and another at the Denver Art Museum in 2021 (his first institutional US solo exhibition). Next summer, he will co-organize a show with Nicodim Gallery’s Ben Lee Ritchie Handler at Harper’s Books in the Hamptons.


Tau Lewis

Tau Lewis, Harmony (2019). Photo courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery and the artist.

Who: The self-taught, 26-year-old artist uses textile, sewing, carving, and assemblage to create figures that look as if they have stepped out of a dream and into your space.

Based in: Toronto, Canada

Notable Resume Lines: Lewis has been included in exhibitions at the New Museum and MoMA PS1 in New York as well as this year’s Yorkshire Sculpture International at the Hepworth Wakefield in London. She was also the subject of a solo exhibition at the Atlanta Contemporary in 2018.

Where to See It: Cooper Cole will present a solo booth of the artist’s work at Art Basel Miami Beach.

What to Look Out for: Lewis is best known for her soft sculpture and quilts.

Prices: $10,000 to $50,000

Fun Fact: Lewis scours Salvation Army shops on her travels to find the textiles she uses in her work.

Up Next: Next year, the artist will have a solo show at Cooper Cole, a solo museum show at Oakville Galleries in Ontario, and will be included in an exhibition at the Hammer in Los Angeles.

Nona Faustine

Nona Faustine, <em>Fragment of Evidence, Statue of Liberty</em> (2019). Photo courtesy of Two Palm, New York.

Nona Faustine, Fragment of Evidence, Statue of Liberty (2019). Photo courtesy of Two Palms, New York.

Who: The 43-year-old African American photographer became something of a viral sensation on the strength of her powerful self-portraits, in which she wears only white heels and poses at sites in New York linked to the slave trade, offering a powerful reminder of the city’s dark history and the economies it was built on.

Based in: Brooklyn, New York

Notable Resume Lines: This year alone, Faustine was one of 10 winners of both the inaugural Colene Brown Art Prize and the prestigious Anonymous Was a Woman grants. She also received a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship for Photography and was a finalist in the Outwin Boochever Competition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. A graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts, Faustine got her MFA from the International Center of Photography/Bard College program, also in New York.

Where to See It: New York print studio Two Palms’s Art Basel booth.

What to Look Out for: At the Two Palms print shop, Faustine has produced her first-ever silkscreens, based on her 2016 series “My Country.” Each image in the series features an instantly identifiable US landmark that has been partially obscured by a fuzzy black or red stripe. (The first image was taken serendipitously, of the Statue of Liberty as seen behind a bar on the window of the Staten Island Ferry; Faustine then began putting tape across her camera lens to replicate the effect.) Each image questions the official version of American history, asking the viewer to consider reframing American identity to be more inclusive and less colonial. The work is all the more timely now, given the continued attention being paid to US monuments and their representation of the nation and its people.

Prices: $8,500 unframed

Fun Fact: Kehinde Wiley selected Faustine as one of the inaugural participants in Black Rock Senegal, his multidisciplinary artist residency in Dakar.

Up Next: Come fall 2020, Faustine will be featured in the “Fantasy American” exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. You can also currently catch her work in several group shows—”Photography Now 2019: The Searchers” at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in New York; “Shadowboxing” at FreedmanArt in New York, and the “Outwin Boochever Competition” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.


Torey Thornton

Torey Thornton, (How literal you want, me? Dirt’s foundational and socially homogeneous overlap, which mirrors all skins, sampled, which also appear as topographical tea perspectives, with twister as a social teacher and presenter of various discomforts depending your space)(eg: my one hyper key as appetizer) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán, Los Angeles

Who: The artist, still not yet 30, has become a favorite among brainy dealers and collectors for their paintings made atop paper, wood, and slatted panels—materials the artist chooses because they are populist, rather than elitist. More recently, Thornton has begun to explore installation and sculpture as well.

Based in: Brooklyn, New York

Notable Resume Lines: Since graduating from Cooper Union in 2012, Thornton has developed a resume any young artist would envy: the artist had a solo show at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Thornton’s work has also been acquired by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Where to See It: The new “Meridians” section of Art Basel Miami Beach.

What to Look Out for: How literal you want, me?… in Meridians, a brand new painting presented by Morán Morán, is eight feet tall and almost 12 feet long—the artist’s largest work to date.

Prices: Thornton’s works range from $40,000 to $100,000.

Fun Fact: Thornton’s sense of humor and poetry is evident in their titles, such as  First, After I saw Elvis Look At Me And Imagined Him Looking and What Angel Do You Look Towards When You Are Damning Your Tears, Sweet Sis.

Up Next: The artist will have a solo booth at the Independent art fair in New York with Morán Morán next year as well as solo shows with Morán Morán and Essex Street Gallery.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics