With some 20 art fairs and thousands of artists represented, Art Basel Miami Beach and its satellite fairs challenge even the hardiest of art viewers to see and do all that’s on offer in a mere five days. Never mind the allure of the beach.
Which is why the beachfront Untitled Art Fair was a favorite even before setting foot into the light and airy tent structure with seagull shadows darting across its top. Curated by Miami-born, New York-based curator Omar Lopez-Chaoud, the two-year-old fair gave galleries a lot of breathing room to showcase their artists’ work, a welcome reprieve from the soul-crushing maze of crowded booths at the overrun main event, Art Basel Miami Beach.
ADA Gallery of Richmond, Virginia (a sister gallery of Mulherin + Pollard in New York), had colorful sculptures made with candy-colored resin poured into polystyrene packing forms by Jared Clark, who holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and gnarled, termite-chewed wooden figures by Morgan Herrin, who teaches at VCU.
Now under the umbrella of Art Miami, the Aqua fair at the Aqua Hotel also had a fun vibe, with dealers setting up works in intimate hotel rooms overlooking a courtyard. A bevy of boys could be seen at Atlanta’s Get This! Gallery, which featured colorful, obsessive drawings by Andy Moon Wilson (who sold well), folksy figurative works on paper by Harrison Keys, and mixed-media paintings by New York-based Austin Eddy, who will be showing with the Atlanta gallery in spring 2014.
Also at Aqua, Whitespace brought a number of Atlanta artists, including Georgia State University (GSU) professor Craig Dongoski, whose large wooden panel painting was created in collaboration with a monkey. Seana Reilly’s washy graphite drawings had a strong presence, as did Ann Stewart’s black-and-white linear drawings, and Sarah Emerson’s abstract canvases, which could also be seen in the Red Bull booth at the Scope Art Fair. Painter Amy Pleasant of Birmingham, Alabama, was also included.
Mayer Fine Art of Norfolk, Virginia, featured photographs by Kristin Skees, whose images of couples wearing comical, smothering cozies were recently at Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta. Trompe l’oeil paintings on reclaimed metal by Michael Fitts, and atmospheric acylic, ink, and resin panel paintings by Sheila Giolitti were also memorable.
For the third year, MFA candidates at GSU showed work in a hotel suite. Standouts included conceptually based sculptures by Curtis Ames and ceramic vessels by Mark Errol.
Atlanta’s Fahamu Pecou had two large paintings in Lyons Wier’s room at Aqua, where he also performed during a party for art blog Hyperallergic, and another work at the gallery’s booth at Art Miami. Another artist showing with a New York gallery was Radcliffe Bailey, who had a series of collage drawings at Art Basel Miami Beach with Jack Shainman Gallery, which also threw one of the hottest parties.
Miami Project, one of the roomier fairs with a manageable number of top-notch exhibitors, was home to Ryan Lee Gallery of New York, where Jiha Moon installed a selection of her multifaceted paintings, wall pieces, and ceramics from her recent show at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.
Jackson Fine Art did well at Art Miami, whose exhibitors were of uneven quality, with its Elton John AIDS Foundation portfolio containing editions by 10 artists. Also selling well were colorful photos of beaches by French artist Christian Chaize and airplane-themed, black-and-white images by Austrian-born Josef Hoflehner.
Festooned taxidermy sculptures by Savannah’s Marcus Kenney could be seen in the booth of Santa Fe’s Eileen Braziel at Scope, another tent fair on the beach. His sculptures were playfully installed along with collage paintings at Jacksonville’s Florida Mining sprawling exhibition in a shopping center, away from the hubbub of the fairs.
There were some discernible trends, including a preponderance of art using taxidermy, whether real or imitation, though Kenney’s continues to wow. Many self-referential works toyed with the line between painting and painting-as-object. And a host of “fuck yous” appeared in a multitude of works, from a sculpture of hand with its middle finger raised to pink paintings scrawled with the jarring message to a T-shirt with “Fuck art fairs” printed in the recognizable Art Basel logo type, worn by a perhaps disgruntled local who likely was glad to see the tuckered-out, red-eyed hordes decamp for, in many cases, icy and snow-covered destinations.
Miami Art Week is an overwhelming spectacle. This year, an unprecedented number of satellite fairs sprung up in tents and hotels on what seemed like every corner of the city, offering up artwork that ranged from insipid to inspired. At some of these fairs, Southern artists and galleries succeeded in standing out from the crowd.
At NADA, organized by the nonprofit New Art Dealers Association, the Dallas- and New York-based curator James Cope teamed up with Peter Cybulski to present nine intriguing sculptures by the artist Ben Sansbury. Inspired by ancient technologies and architectural forms, Sansbury’s pale plaster works are models for mythical structures. Business was brisk—collectors snapped up every one on the first day of the fair.
In another NADA booth, across a sea of scenesters wearing neon running shoes, New York gallerist James Fuentes sold sculptural assemblages by Lonnie Holley. The Atlanta-based artist incorporates a variety of found objects into his work, creating visual narratives that are at once deeply personal and cosmic in conceptual scope. Holley’s eccentric art practice also includes music; coincidentally, the Washington Post named his album Just Before Music one of the best of 2013 during the fair.
At Miami Project, a young fair entering its second year, James Ferrara Gallery’s booth displayed work by the Louisiana artist Hannah Chalew, whose delicately textured works of thread on paper explore the post-Katrina landscape of New Orleans. The aesthetic potential of nature’s damaging power was evident in the work of other artists in Miami this year, including Ryan Foerster, a Canadian whose work—inspired by the effects of wind and water on photographic paper after Hurricane Sandy—won the Artadia prize at NADA, given by the foundation that supports emerging artists in regional art centers.
—Chase Martin, director of Institute 193 in Lexington, Kentucky.