From Massimiliano Gioni to Alex Gartenfeld, Art-World Insiders Pick Art Basel in Miami Beach’s Artists to Watch
Work by some 4,000 artists is on view this year at Art Basel in Miami Beach, from the expected roster of blue-chip stars to the young artists of the Nova and Positions sectors. As day two closed out, we polled a number of the art world’s top collectors, artists, and museum curators—Massimiliano Gioni to Jorge M. Pérez—to sift through the selection. As has been the case throughout 2015, those highlights trend away from the twentysomething MFA grads that dominated the market discourse for several years past, with Swiss Institute director Simon Castets citing the discovery of a 1965 piece by Roy Lichtenstein as “hands down” his favorite from the fair. (The work, from Lichtenstein’s pink seascape series, is surprisingly reminiscent of recent trends we’ve seen in painting.) “That’s one thing that art fairs are great for; you can get surprised,” said Castets. The dozen artists to watch highlighted below certainly fit that bill.
Available at: Project Native Informant
A solo booth by GCC (the collective that hails from the Persian Gulf and is spread through cities from Bahrain to Qatar) was a clear winner in Castets’s book, when we caught him at a lunch to celebrate the launch of the Swiss Institute’s collaboration on a new video series with UBS. Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, of Project Native Informant, notes that “though they respond to the aesthetics and politics of the Gulf coast, GCC also works with issues that translate globally, such as the way in which the class system is dictated—not by heritage or birth, but rather by access to the first-class lounge of terminal airports, for example.” The project on display, titled “A Wonderful World Under Construction,” comments on the government’s presence in our digital lives, complete with a fictional mobile app. Promotional materials, including a Powerpoint presentation and a billboard, consider how highly calculated—though seemingly benign—nation-state branding campaigns obscure complex power structures.
Available at: Revolver Galería
Though his Miami Beach home is already brimming with art, Jorge M. Pérez, the Miami real estate developer and collector for whom the Miami Art Museum was reborn as Pérez Art Museum Miami, was on the hunt on the opening day of the fair—and wearing a noticeable grin. Still glowing from Tuesday’s debut of “A Sense of Place” at Mana Contemporary, which showcased over 60 works from his private collection, the Pérez we later saw hoisted on Wyclef Jean’s shoulders was in high spirits, ecstatic about his new acquisitions. “I found a Peruvian artist that I love,” he said of Elena Damiani, a young Copenhagen-based artist whose work, comprised of 36 collages, he’d just purchased from Revolver Galería. Damiani often works with stone to convey the passage of time, and these works, Pérez notes, see old archival photographs collaged onto marble paper backgrounds. “You have to see them as a whole, all of the pieces together. It forms such an impressive, beautiful work.”
Available at: James Cohan Gallery
Perhaps Pérez’s greatest discovery so far was Elias Sime, a 47-year-old Ethiopian artist he came across at the booth of James Cohan Gallery, where the artist just had his first exhibition in September. “His work mixes African symbolism, craft, and at the same time the images are very modern,” Pérez said. According to director Jesse Penridge, Sime’s current “Tightrope” series grapples with e-waste and technology’s impact on human interaction. Using reclaimed technological components (telephone wires, computer motherboards) the work involves “cannibalizing and reconstituting them into different scenes—some of them being beautiful landscapes—to refocus our humanity.” The piece Pérez is bringing home is comprised of long, braided strips of tiny telephone wires pinned together with upholstery tacks. With its 10-color palette, Penridge adds, it recalls at once Seurat’s pointillism and a surrealist landscape, while also referencing Amharic, the glyph-based language spoken in Ethiopia. “I really love it. It’s a major piece,” Pérez said.
Available at: mother’s tankstation
ICA Miami deputy director and chief curator Alex Gartenfeld—following the excitement of this week’s Shannon Ebner and Alex Bag openings—was most drawn to the fair’s Nova sector, known for debuting unseen pieces straight from artists’ studios. “I thought there was a really beautiful sculpture at mother’s tankstation by Sam Anderson, a young artist from New York who I’ve worked with a number of times.” According to Gartenfeld, the artist makes sculpture and video, but also painting—which hasn’t been shown before outside of her studio. “There are these three amazing, very small sculptures of women, which are sort of guardians of the booth,” he said. Anderson, who grew up in Hollywood with two character-actor parents, is highly influenced by film and television. Indeed, her sculptures, placed across the floor of the booth, are meant to be seen from above, as if by the arm of a boom. The three girls may possess the Disney-like innocence she’s known to tap into, but they’re strong: two share the center of the booth, holding workshop tools, while the coy member of the trio is tucked away in a corner.
Available at: Algus Greenspon
“I thought there was a really great painting on paper by Emily Sundblad, which is a portrait of Juliana Huxtable and also sort of an homage to Picasso’s harlequins,” Gartenfeld said of a work on view at Algus Greenspon’s booth. The thirtysomething Swedish painter—who is also a gallerist (she co-founded Reena Spaulings Fine Art) and a performance artist—also happens to be a good friend of Huxtable, the New York-based artist and occasional artist-muse. (Frank Benson’s three-dimensional plastic sculpture, a life-size immortalization of her body, was a centerpiece of the New Museum Triennial.)
Available at: GALLERYSKE
Another highlight for Gartenfeld was Indian artist Avinash Veeraraghavan, whose works—inspired by the artist’s dreams—hang at GALLERYSKE’s booth. “They were these really elaborate works with intricate beaded painting-like forms, which reminded me of work that I was more familiar with from the Caribbean in terms of the craftsmanship and their level of detail,” he said. According to the gallery’s founder and director Sunitha Kumar Emmart, these pieces are fabricated by craftspeople in Mumbai (Veeraraghavan is based in Bangalore) using skills passed down through generations, and can take nearly five months to create. “The artist is really interested in Jungian dreamscapes,” Gartenfeld adds. The beaded panel that hangs at the front of the booth depicts the artist’s figure in silhouette, walking through a forest and enveloped by trees.
Available at: Galleria Zero
High Line art director and chief curator Cecilia Alemani, caught pushing a stroller through the aisles as her husband Massimiliano Gioni held their baby up for a closer look at the art, named Gavin Kenyon’s “iron paintings” at Galleria Zero one of her highlights of the fair. To create the aptly titled “Shroud” series, which sees wall-mounted metal casts of blankets enveloping ambiguous forms, the 35-year-old artist works in collaboration with a worker at a local New York foundry. After creating a patchwork quilt, Kenyon delivers the blanket to the foundry with a bold request: Produce a cast of the piece with an object, of the worker’s choice, laid beneath the quilt such that it leaves only the trace of its mass. “There’s an element that’s returning in the work of Gavin Kenyon,” says Galleria Zero founder and director Paolo Zani. “He’s losing control of the final definition of the object—and in this case, this is the game.”
Available at: Greene Naftali
Though Trisha Baga is best known for cinematic installations and room-sized projections—like the two-channel narrative shown at the Whitney in 2012—it was the ceramic works she’s begun toying with over the past few years, and likely perfecting amongst artist-friends in her New York Ceramics Club, that caught the eye of Alemani. “She’s always incorporated objects into her practice,” noted the gallery’s Jeffrey Rowledge. “All of them are very referential of things in our everyday world,” he added. Baga’s videos project commonplace objects, and here she makes the shift to clay a la Oldenburg’s early plaster works from The Store (cigarettes, a cash register, lingerie), crafting objects from basketballs to ubiquitous dome-shaped speakers.
Available at: Arredondo \ Arozarena
Following the announcement of Henning Fher and Philipp Rühr, Dan Bayles, and Fritzia Irízar as comprising the shortlist for the BMW Art Journey initiative, New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni, who is also a member of the Art Journey jury, noted his excitement for each of the three emerging artists. “I had heard of them, but I’d never seen any of their work,” he said. “Each one of them had the idea of a journey within their work, and they all incorporate elements of process, or project research,” he added. At Arredondo \ Arozarena, Irízar, a young artist who hails from northern Mexico, traces the transformation of the symbols of the Mexican Revolution by way of a slowly unraveling gold hat. The motif comes from Phyrigia (what is now Turkey), where, after a slave was liberated, he would wear “a Phyrgian cap as a symbol that he was a free man,” said the gallery’s Andrés Arredondo. “Eventually, when Latin American countries were fighting for their freedom to become republics, they adopted the same symbol.” Though once ubiquitous throughout Mexico, the symbol is no longer understood by the current generation. It is this process of forgetting that Irízar’s work echoes. Using zig-zagging gold thread and a system rigged with a motor and pulleys, the installation sees the symbol literally vanish. “Here you have an artwork that’s disappearing within the course of the presentation at the fair,” Gioni said. “I’m actually curious to see what’s left at this point.”
Henning Fehr & Philipp Ruhr
Available at: Galerie Max Mayer
“There is one image that really stuck with me as one of the strongest things I’ve seen at the fair, which is this moment in which a bird is eating off a little sugar pack,” Gioni said, speaking of Polyrhythm Technoir III: Leisure Time Future: The Rattle Snake (2015), the third film in a trilogy by young German duo Henning Fehr & Philipp Rühr—on view at Galerie Max Mayer—that examines techno music. “It’s such a terrible image of nature and culture combined, and I like this mixture of roughness and precision in the work.”
Available at: Essex Street
There’s little surprise that McArthur, currently included in both MoMA PS1’s “Greater New York” survey and the Jewish Museum’s “Unorthodox” exhibition, is one to watch for a tuned-in New York curator like Alemani. For McArthur’s blank public sign works (debuted at Essex Street in 2014), the latest series of which, “Liabilities,” is on view at Essex Street’s booth, the North Carolina-born artist strips existing signs—like rules for parking—of all symbols and language before sending them out to be industrially manufactured. The resulting work present rules sans text, that are hard to decipher but strangely, innately perceptible. Art Basel in Miami Beach marks the artist’s final 2015 hurrah before a new year that begins with a solo show at London’s Chisenhale Gallery.
Available at: Fergus McCaffrey
New York-based artist Hank Willis Thomas, whose own work (a giant speech-bubble bench) is installed outside in the fair’s Public sector, stopped short at the sight of a neon piece by Tavares Strachan at Fergus McCaffrey—a Venn diagram connecting the words “Us,” “We,” and “Them.” “I’m in a show called ‘Us is Them,’” he said, thoughtfully, of a current exhibition at Ohio’s Pizzuti Collection. “It’s a statement I’ve been saying for a long time.” It’s also one he wrote about last week in an essay for Creative Time Reports. Strachan’s neon, included in the Bahamas-born artist’s first exhibition at the gallery’s St. Barths location, explores invisibility—or fitting in—within society. “Tavares is an artist whose work I’ve known for 10 years, but it’s new for it to be in an art fair, and it’s always hard to grasp,” Thomas said. “It’s interesting to see something that you’ve been mulling over in your brain for a while, manifested in the work of a different artist.” After a stroll through Positions, having circled back to the work, he elaborated on the draw to Strachan. “He’s using text in an engaging way. It seems like the work is a lot about intersections, and not using text for text’s sake but also to draw connections—both visually and conceptually—to things that are often seen as disparate.”