Who’s Opting Out of Art Basel Miami Beach, Inside Hunter Biden’s Top-Secret L.A. Art Show, and More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Plus, who attended Hunter Biden's secret Los Angeles opening? And which famous artist got snubbed by Jasper Johns? Read on for answers.

At the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images)

Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].



Back in that beautiful, innocent window of time in early summer when we thought Delta was just an airline, dealers were looking forward to Art Basel Miami Beach as the art world’s first truly post-pandemic bacchanalia. No masks! No rules! Breathing all over each other!

Now, Art Basel has released the full roster of galleries set to participate in the 2021 edition of the South Florida extravaganza, and, if you are the kind of person who looks to art fairs rather than actual news for signals about the broader state of the world, we can tell you that the pandemic (and its impact on the market) is, in fact, not over. 

In keeping with the relatively local flavor of most fairs this year, Art Basel Miami Beach’s lineup has a significant emphasis on American galleries; more than half of the 254 dealers have a space in the Americas. Some dealers may have been spooked by the strict vaccine restrictions at the most recent Art Basel, where AstraZeneca recipients had to jump through considerable extra hoops. But Wet Paint has learned the Florida chapter will have a less conservative list of accepted vaccines than the Swiss edition (which seems on brand for both). The Miami fair is going to accept Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm BIBP, and Sinovac-CoronaVac. And yes, masks will indeed be required for entry.

Another good sign for attendance is that, beginning November 1, the U.S. will begin to let in fully vaccinated visitors from 33 previously restricted countries, including China, India, Brazil, and most of Europe—to which Miami art-world maven and collector Mera Rubell remarked, “This is great news for Art Basel Miami Beach.” 

Still, travel restrictions are certainly impacting the fair—though not everyone seems to mind. ABMB has a long list of deserving galleries waiting in the wings. “We think that this is what finally got galleries like ours into the main tent,” said Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, the global director of Los Angeles’s Nicodim Gallery, which is participating for the first time since 2009 with work by Isabelle Albuquerque, Devin B. Johnson, and Mosie Romney in a booth designed by Oliver M. Furth.  

Handler speculated that a number of dealers decided not to return not only due to travel and public-health complexities, but also the fact that Florida has handled the pandemic in a uh, very Florida-like way. Handler dealt with a grueling rigmarole around COVID-19 restrictions to get Zimbabwean artist Moffat Takadiwa, who didn’t have access to a FDA-approved vaccine, into Los Angeles for his current show at the Craft Contemporary. The artist was given the Johnson & Johnson single-dose jab upon landing, but the three-week waiting period for full coverage prohibited him from moving around with ease. “It was like the whole time he was here, he was either getting vaccinated or tested,” Handler said. 

This year brings 254 galleries to Miami, compared to 269 in 2019. (Remember 2019? When everyone freaked out over a banana? A simpler time.) The drop in numbers comes despite the addition of 43 newcomers. New York’s Housing and Deitch Projects, London’s Southard Reid, Lagos and Los Angeles’s Rele Gallery (which represents rising market star Marcellina Akpojotor), and Mexico City’s Pequod, among others, will show at Basel proper for the first time.

Upon crunching the numbers and comparing the 2019 and 2021 lists, it’s pretty clear that the majority of the galleries that will not be returning are European and Asian, and predominantly smaller spaces from those two continents. It makes sense: the pandemic notoriously hit smaller businesses hardest, and after a tough financial year, paying for an expensive Basel booth and airfare while also navigating vaccine mandates likely isn’t a priority.

So, without further ado, Wet Paint is now honored to present the 43 galleries who will not be joining me for Joe’s Stone Crab this year: Boers-Li, Magician Space, SCAI The Bathhouse, Antenna Space, Lévy Gorvy (which has said it will only participate in fairs in Asia once it becomes LGDR), Callicoon Fine Arts (which has closed, RIP), DC Moore Gallery, Di Donna, Peter Freeman, Inc., Hammer Galleries, Marlborough, Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, Menconi + Schoelkopf, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art (also closed), David Nolan Gallery, Tyler Rollins Fine Art, Tilton Gallery, Galerie Maria Bernheim, Carlos/Ishikawa, Annely Juda Fine Art, Alison Jacques, Modern Art, Paragon, Central Fine, Applicat-Prazan, Bendana-Pinel Art Contemporain, Galerie Mitterrand, Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Tanya Leighton, Meyer RieggerMetro Pictures (also, alas, closing), Galeria Plan B, Gregor Podnar, Société, Gemini G.E.L., Philip Martin Gallery, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Almeida e Dale Galeria de Arte, DAN Galeria, Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, Galeria Leme, Galeria Marilia Razuk, Vermelho,and Galerie Greta Meert

Embrace the JOMO, folks. 


Hunter Biden at work. Courtesy of the artist.

Hunter Biden at work. Courtesy of the artist.

Hunter Bideneveryone’s favorite political failson turned artist—hosted his low-key (but not actually that low-key) art show in Los Angeles last week at Milk Studios, turning heads and raising questions such as, “Is this ethical?” “Is this art even good enough for us to care about?” “Are politicians trying to curry favor with the White House buying the works?” “How much did they go for?” and “Why wasn’t I invited?”

I won’t pretend to have the answers for those first two questions, but I do have some for the last. According to one insider, the event was sparsely attended by those in the art world. Aside from artist Shepard Fairey and gallerist Anat Ebgi, the event pulled in an eccentric crowd that included L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, musician Moby, Biden’s daughters Naomi and Maisy, and pro boxer Sugar Ray Leonard

As Artnet News previously reported, Biden’s works are estimated to fetch $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for large-scale paintings—though Richard Painter, the outspoken former chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, said that he’s heard of smaller works going for prices in the $10,000-to-$20,000 range. Painter, who coincidentally attended law school alongside collector-dealer Adam Lindemann (small world!), said his main concern with the reception is the optics. 

“I think this president is an enormous improvement from our last concerning ethics,” Painter said of the White House’s involvement in keeping the buyers of Hunter’s art under wraps to prevent favor-currying. “But they walked right into trying to work a deal for secrecy, and secrecy is not good.” 

A rep for Hunter and his dealer, Georges Bergès Gallery, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A New York chapter of the show is expected to open later this month, though the specifics are being kept under wraps.

If he were in President Biden‘s shoes, Painter said, he’d ask Hunter to either wait until the end of his term to sell the work, or to sell it at a lower price point to prevent speculation. “In this situation, transparency is what’s important,” he said. “If something is kept secret, everyone is going to imagine that the Chinese Communist Party is buying all the art for millions and millions.” 

If the attendees are any evidence, though, the people who are snapping up Hunter’s works seem to be friends, fans, and, er, randos.


*** Furniture-design maverick Gaetano Pesce drawing lamps, sunsets, boats, and trees on the cover of his new book for fans at Salon 94’s signing of “At Home With Gaetano Pesce” *** Luis Frangella’s piece in MoMA PS1’s “Greater New York,” which normally lives in the lobby of a Tribeca apartment building—specifically that of collector Sue Stoffel’s mom *** Katie Holmes at the New York Film Festival’s premiere of Joel Coen’s Macbeth *** David Byrne biking down 9th Avenue, cavalierly helmet-less, presumably on his way home from a performance of his new musical American Utopia *** A packed dinner in Los Angeles for the opening of Harper’s Books’ new location, with artist guests including Polly Borland, Grant Levy-Lucero, and Jonas Wood *** Noguchi Museum director Brett Littman entertaining guests at this year’s party for the Isamu Noguchi Award, which was presented to Shio Kusaka and Toshiko Mori *** Two paparazzi getting into an altercation with the NYPD while trying to snap a photo of Reese Witherspoon in Gramercy Park ***



Photo courtesy of Taymour Grahne Projects.

Photo courtesy of Taymour Grahne Projects.

Taymour Grahne Projects is set to open its third space in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, dubbed The Artist Room by Taymour Grahne Projects and kicking off with a solo show of work by Minyoung Kim on October 23 … The Public Art Fund released a set of limited-edition Movado watches inspired by the geometric abstractions of Carmen Herrera, with Alex Logsdail, Nicholas Baume, JiaJia Fei, and Shari and Jeff Aronson in attendance at the launch reception … Richard Prince apparently once met Jasper Johns, who was none too interested in chatting, as evidenced by the former artist’s since-deleted tweet …  Pace Gallery has rolled out a sleek new logo on its website … David Mugrabi celebrated his 50th birthday last Saturday night at Curtis Kulig‘s studio in Tribeca … 

Screenshot via Twitter.

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
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In