Art Basel Miami Beach 2018

Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away: Raúl de Nieves Conjures Fantastical Carousel in Miami

Raúl de Nieves at the Faena.

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Miami Art Week 2018 is still young, but the frontrunner for the most exuberantly, unrepentantly beautiful work on view has to be the fully operational carousel that Raúl de Nieves is showing at the Faena Hotel—and it seems unlikely that anything will surpass it.

Measuring 16 feet in diameter, the piece is titled When I Look Into Your Eyes I See the Sun, and it holds an array of figures—wondrous, monstrous , bizarre—that de Nieves and a team of assistants have built from glimmering beads. It took three months of labor to assemble atop a decommissioned merry-go-round from the 1950s.

On Tuesday afternoon, de Nieves was standing in the Faena’s ornate lobby and watching his fantastical kinetic sculpture rotate, as just about everyone passing by stopped and snapped photos. (Alas, it cannot be ridden.)

The artist has memories of carousels from his childhood, he said. “I love how whimsical they can be, and the feeling they give to anyone who experiences them.”

But what viewers experience in his piece is quite a bit different from what is typically offered by a carousel. “I knew I didn’t want to have the traditional horse on there,” de Nieves said, as he motioned to various characters. Among them are a vaguely humanoid individual with beads the color of fire and a face emerging from its belly; a pearlescent white unicorn; and a slumping four-legged animal of unknown species—its body all aquamarines and blues—that is chained to the floor. Hunks of a green-skinned dragon that has apparently just been slayed are also scattered about.

A detail, up close. The work’s base is a print of an ancient Roman floor.

ANDREW RUSSETH/ARTNEWS

“It’s about the metamorphosis and the fears of taking on this journey or taking on the challenge itself,” de Nieves said, “and seeing it progress to a collective and collaborative way of thinking.”

De Nieves, who is 35 and based in Brooklyn, had red cat-eye glasses perched atop his grey-streaked hair, and he was wearing a long red huipil, its upper section intricately adorned with a panoply of colors. He talked enthusiastically about watching women in Oaxaca weave the garments.

“That’s always been a huge inspiration of mine, seeing people make work somewhat in the public using materials that then transform into anything possible,” he said. “I think that’s why I’ve been using beads a lot. Because they come in small increments, you can accumulate them into this magical beauty of accumulation and transformation.”

On Thursday, de Nieves will be showing new ceramics at the NADA art fair with his New York gallery, Company. The carousel, which was created with the support of Bulgari and the Art Production Fund, will be on view at the Faena hotel through the end of the year, and then it may travel.

“It’s important to see it go onto other venues and journeys,” de Nieves said.

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