A recently discovered work by the Italian avant-garde artist Piero Manzoni, a painting of Donald Trump as a man-eating swamp alligator, and a 30-foot-wide mural by Robert Rauschenberg are among the attention-grabbing works heading to Art Basel in Miami Beach this week. The annual shopping-spree-meets-bacchanal has been described by one dealer as “the black Friday of the art world—when dealers get in the black for the year.”
This year’s event, held at the redesigned Miami Beach Convention Center, opens to VIPs on Wednesday and the public on Thursday. The overhaul of the fair’s home is still in the works, but Art Basel’s main hall has been fully reconfigured with 10 percent more space.
The fair will kick off on the heels of strong results at the marquee November auctions in New York and at a moment of cautious optimism in the high-end art market (if not the rest of the world).
“One of the strong points of the show is that it comes at an opportune time,” notes the fair’s director Noah Horowitz. “Clients have done the gallery shows, they’ve visited other art fairs, they’ve gone to the auctions, and they show up in Miami really understanding what they want, what’s available, and what’s out there.”
Below, here’s a selection of what to look out for at this year’s edition.
New Latin American Masters
Because of its proximity to Latin America and its majority-Latino population, Miami has long been a destination for Latin American art. This year, Art Basel also follows the Getty-funded Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative—which presented exhibitions of Latino and Latin American art at 70 cultural institutions across Southern California, much of it by long-overlooked artists—and some dealers are looking beyond the familiar fair-friendly names.
Richard Saltoun Gallery of London, which is participating in the Miami fair for the first time, is turning its booth over to the work of the late Argentinian poet, activist, and mail art pioneer Edgardo Antonio Vigo. Although Vigo rarely left his hometown of La Plata and worked for most of his life at the local Ministry of Justice, he helped make Argentina a center of the international mail art movement.
In addition to a selection of individual works on paper, Richard Saltoun is presenting a collection of more than 200 graphic works that span Vigo’s entire career, from the late 1950s to Vigo’s death in 1997. The collection also captures a particularly tumultuous period in Argentina’s history and Vigo’s own life, when his son became one of the desaparecidos in 1976, during the country’s so-called Dirty War.
Meanwhile, São Paulo-based Ricardo Camargo Galeria will recreate the studio of the late Brazilian artist Wesley Duke Lee, who performed one of Brazil’s first happenings and spearheaded the magic realism movement in São Paulo in the ‘60s.
And the New York gallery Henrique Faria Fine Art will present works from the ‘50s by Brazilian artist Willys de Castro and his life partner and fellow artist Hercules Barsotti, ranging in price from $15,000 to $160,000. De Castro’s graphic, Neo-Concrete work is now on view at the Getty’s “Making Art Concrete” exhibition (through February 11), but he remains lesser known than many of his peers.
The Big Ticket Items
Among the most expensive works on offer are Ellsworth Kelly’s burnt-red painting Sumac (1959), priced at $4 million to $5 million, and Roy Lichtenstein’s Cubist-meets-Pop Ritual Mask (1992), priced at $2.5 million to $3 million, at Lévy Gorvy.
Hauser & Wirth is presenting a stitched white canvas by the Italian artist Piero Manzoni from 1959 that was, until recently, unknown. The gallery acquired the work from a German collector, who bought it from the estate of Italian dealer Pasquale Senatore. Following six months of careful examination by the Fondazione Piero Manzoni, it will make its public debut at the fair. The foundation’s director, Rosalia Pasqualino di Marineo, described the discovery in a statement as “a unique occurrence and one that is unlikely to be repeated.”
Meanwhile, New York’s Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery plans to dedicate a significant portion of its booth to Rauschenberg’s sprawling multimedia mural Periwinkle Shaft (1979–80), which is priced in the seven figures. The exuberant collage was originally commissioned for a Washington, DC, children’s hospital for $100,000 in 1980. It has been consigned by a private collector, who acquired it from the hospital five years ago.
“One of the dominant trends in the market is the backward-looking gaze,” Horowitz notes. Among the previously overlooked female and African American artists from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s getting renewed attention at this year’s fair is the rabble-rousing feminist artist Judith Bernstein, whose solo presentation at the L.A. gallery The Box focuses on works from the ‘80s (priced between $22,000 and $50,000), and Judy Chicago, whose more-than-suggestive sculptures from the ‘60s and ‘70s are on offer at San Francisco’s Jessica Silverman Gallery.
Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Era painter and scholar David Driskell, whose painting of Emmett Till was part of the inaugural installation at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, will have a solo stand at DC Moore Gallery. The gallery will present works from 1965 to 1975 ranging in price from $40,000 (for works on paper) to nearly $300,000 (for increasingly rare paintings from the ‘60s).
And the Chicago dealer Kavi Gupta will present works by Gerald Williams, the co-founder of the influential AfriCOBRA movement, which grew out of a collective formed on the south side of Chicago in 1968. (Williams’s work was recently included in Tate Modern’s exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.”) Among the works on the stand is his colorful portrait of Malcolm X from 1970 (paintings are priced at up to $90,000).
No matter how many months of planning go into Art Basel presentations, however, Horowitz notes that there are always last-minute swaps. “Last year, a lot of our galleries were contacting us and said they’re changing their plans after the election,” he notes. “We don’t always know what they are going to bring.”
Trump will have a presence at the fair this year as well, in the form of Peter Saul’s new series of paintings of the president at Mary Boone, including one called, fittingly, Donald Trump in Florida.
Art Basel in Miami Beach is open to the public from December 7–10 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Additional reporting by Sarah Cascone and Caroline Goldstein
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