The generalization goes that NADA Miami Beach is the foil to Art Basel Miami Beach: small rather than gigantic, inviting rather than imposing, and deal-laden rather than expensive. For the most part, that’s true, but it’s even more true this year. While crowds at yesterday’s Art Basel VIP preview were noticeably thinner than in years past, NADA had a robust turnout, with crowds clamoring to enter as soon as its VIP opening began this morning. The sales climate was on par with last year’s rush to snap up work.
“After seeing such a quiet convention center yesterday, it lowered expectations,” said dealer Simon Preston, who has a NADA booth for his eponymous gallery on the Lower East Side. “But NADA always delivers. It was business as usual, even knowing some collectors didn’t come down this year.”
Preston estimated that he had sold some 80 percent of his offerings, including a seven-foot-tall steel work by Michelle Lopez, Throne (2016), for $18,000. That was the rate of success many dealers reported just two hours into the sale. Marlborough Chelsea sold a new Tony Matelli sculpture dotted with strawberries for $40,000 in the opening minutes, and also sold another Matelli, a small dandelion sculpture, for $18,000. Two works by Andrew Kuo sold for $25,000 apiece.
“It felt like the usual rush,” owner Max Levai said while standing inside the booth. “And I saw all the familiar faces.”
Collectors such as Susan and Michael Hort and Jill Kraus were there along with the normal spate of advisors and art-adjacent characters, forming a mob that snaked its way through the fair’s various sectors all spread throughout the lobby of the Deauville Beach Resort.
New York dealer Jack Hanley said he, too, had sold much of his booth, including a Alicia McCarthy work for $12,000, and one of Margaret Lee’s banana rope sculptures, which was hanging vertically, a tiny little noose knotted at the end fastened to the wall.
“She was very precise about it hanging four inches from the top,” Hanley said.
Elsewhere, New York gallery 247365 sold two big Brian Belott colored-block pieces (similar to the ones sold in Frieze London by Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, which has a sharing agreement with 247365 for Belott’s work). And Brendan Dugan of Karma—which just two weeks ago inaugurated its new space at 188 East 2nd Street in New York’s East Village with a Lee Lozano show—had on view Dike Blair gouache paintings on paper.
Another way that NADA acted as a counterpart to yesterday’s affair: whereas Art Basel had a noticeably higher number of politically charged works, some commented that the booths at NADA appeared as though the election had never happened. There were swaths of big abstractions and few pointed bits of commentary.
However, there were two pretty glaring exceptions to that trend. First, Paul Yore’s Spectacular Spectacular (2016) at the booth of Melbourne gallery Neon Parc. It’s a massive Day-Glo collage that features a cut-out of Osama bin Laden with a speech bubble where he’s spouting some Debordian nonsense, and it only gets weirder and raunchier and more scatological from there: a cut-out face of Donald Trump with excrement and a phallus extending from his mouth, swastikas on crying snowmen, Michael Jackson giving the Nazi salute, a plane with the word FATMAN written on the side crashing into a World Trade Center tower full of frowning faces.
It sold for $25,000 in the opening minutes.
“Initially I was a little anxious about bringing it here because, what color state is this—is it a red state?” said Neon Parc director Geoff Newton, referring to the fact that Florida went for the Republican, Trump, in the recent presidential election. “But the response has been great.”
And over at the Moran Bondaroff booth, Mills Moran took some time to explain a curious-looking work by Terence Koh, Wonder Bread, 9 November 2016 (2016) installed on the wall and the floor, with pieces of Wonder Bread residing in the middle of frames of beeswax, a common staple of Koh’s work. The slices of Wonder Bread have been petrified, Moran explained, but they retain their color because of the chemicals placed in the affordable brand of white bread.
And what about the grey sculpture of the boy pointing at the slices of Wonder Bread entombed in beeswax? Is that where this gets political?
“The little boy is made from ashes of burnt copies of the November 9 New York Times,” Moran said. That would be the edition that came out the day after the election, the one that declared, “TRUMP TRIUMPHS”—and the same paper used by Rirkrit Tiravanija for his works that sold at the Gavin Brown’s Enterprise booth at Art Basel.
For those in the know, there was a secret extension of the fair elsewhere in the resort, where San Francisco gallery Capital has teamed up with the somewhat vertically integrated PR firm Cultural Counsel to show work by the Estate of Joel Mesler, which is how Feuer/Mesler co-owner Joel Mesler refers to his practice—i.e., his art career died when he gave up and became a dealer. (He’s far from dead—this year, he’s had shows at Surf Lodge in Montauk and Tori Gallery in Paris. He’s also a former ARTnews columnist.)
Feuer/Mesler and Capital have booths in the normal part of NADA in the Deauville (to which the fair returned this year after a one-year dalliance with the Fontainebleau), but works by the Estate of Joel Mesler are instead being shown in a suite at the Deauville, the number disclosed on a need-to-know basis. The works that are installed above the couches and in the bathroom and near the minibar occasionally reference Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung, and one, Untitled (Zika), 2016, shows a diseased arm emerging from the ocean. They’re all $6,000.
“Which is kind of the perfect amount, because if you’re a rich collector, why not?” Mesler said, standing in the suite, a view of the beach out the window. He explained that he had just sold a Freud work to the chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center.
But who purchased Untitled (Zika)?
“Beth DeWoody got Zika,” Mesler said.