Art Basel Miami Beach opened to VIPs on Tuesday, and even with timed entries, the Miami Beach Convention Center was bustling with a steady stream of visitors throughout the day. Dealers reported sales in the opening hours and into the closing hours of the fair, and said they had begun to see familiar faces who were craving to see artwork in-person after having spent the better part of two years buying art from PDFs and JPGs because of the pandemic’s travel restrictions.
The majority of visitors wore masks throughout the day, and an audio reminder played sporadically over the convention center’s loudspeakers reminding guests, in both English and Spanish, to cover their faces. To enter the fair, guests had to provide either a recent negative Covid test, proof of vaccination, or documentation of recent recovery from Covid-19 that has been issued by a licensed healthcare provider or facility, which came with a “Covid-19 Certificate Checked” wristband.
Below a look at the best booths at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021.
Simone Leigh at Matthew Marks
The fair’s biggest surprise might be one small sculpture in the Matthew Marks’s booth: a new untitled work by none other than Simone Leigh, who left Hauser & Wirth last month ahead of her representing the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale. At the time, Leigh didn’t specify if she would be joining another gallery, but the famed sculptor has now officially begun working with Matthew Marks. This glazed stoneware work of a Black woman from her torso up with a floral headpiece takes centerstage.
Ja’Tovia Gary at Paula Cooper Gallery
The second entry in a new ongoing series for which Ja’Tovia Gary places quotes from important Black women into neon as a way of “emboldening their voice and ideas,” “Citational Ethics” focuses on a quote from Toni Morrison’s groundbreaking novel Beloved, in which the character Baby Suggs says, “Those white things have taken all I had or dream and broke my heartstrings too. There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks.”
Matthew Wong at Cheim & Read
After mounting an exhibition in collaboration with the Matthew Wong Foundation, Cheim & Read brought three works on paper by the late artist Matthew Wong to Art Basel this year, with prices ranging from $300,000–$475,000. The works—two in color, one in gray and black—show Wong’s signature dedication to depicting quietly beautiful landscapes.
Emiliano Di Cavalacanti at Galeria Sur
Uruguay’s Galeria Sur is presenting “Deep Latin America,” looking at how artists in the region have long-referenced—and at times appropriated—Indigenous and Black cultures. The gallery has works on view by Adriana Varejão, Joaquín Torres-García, Mestre Didi, and others. But the “masterpiece,” according to gallery cofounder Martín Castillo, is Emiliano Di Cavalacanti’s 1927 painting Samba. The work’s location had been unknown for decades before it resurfaced in a Mexican collection six years ago, and it’s on offer for $21 million.
Tiona Nekkia McClodden at Mitchell-Innes & Nash
For a presentation as part of Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s booth, Tiona Nekkia McClodden presents several new works that build off her 2016 work Se te subió el santo? (Are you in a trance?), which served as a “disclosure” of parts of her identity that she had previously kept private. “This is me—the first way I see myself,” she said. The other works on view stem from a series of photographs from related performances and film works as well as a recently completed leather lineman harness, titled A.B. 4 88B.
Jae Jarrell at Jenkins Johnson Gallery
Jae Jarrell first began her Bird of Paradise Ensemble, Ode to Tie-Dyed Suede (1983/2018) while a graduate student at Howard University in its textile design program. She would later stitch the bird of paradise motif onto the jacket, and in 2018, she created a matching suede skirt to honor the 50th anniversary of AfriCOBRA, the pioneering and influential artist group she cofounded in an effort to seek what a wall label describes as “ways to reflect positive representations of the African American experience and the African diaspora.”
Moisés Patrício at Galeria Estação
In two stunning paintings, São Paulo artist and activist Moisés Patrício depicts scenes from the Candomblé religion based on traditional African beliefs that are popular in Brazil. In these two works—Bori and The Offering (both 2021)—we see a group gathered together as they perform various religious rites. According to the wall text, Patrício’s art “brings interpretations of these cultures and Black protagonism, portraying the beauty and, above all, the poetry of the rites of the Candomblé religion.”
American Artist at Labor
In a powerful installation from 2020, Mother of all Demos, American Artist examines how racial bias is embedded into computers and technology by presenting a small computer monitor from the late 1970s, the last one in which white letters appear on a black background, as opposed to the now ubiquitous black letters on a white background.
Nicholas Galanin at Peter Blum Gallery
Earlier this year, Nicholas Galanin participated in the Desert X biennial in California’s Coachella Vallery, presenting a large-scale installation titled Never Forget in which white letters resembling the Hollywood sign read “Indian Land.” Though that work was temporary for the exhibition, Galanin decided to document it in a series of photographs now being offered by Peter Blum Gallery.
Kajahl at Monique Meloche
Drawing from a vast archive of images, California-based artist Kajahl presents two new paintings that depict imagined scenes of sculptures. These sculptures are often of Black subjects and had been created by European artists. By reclaiming this imagery, Kajahl tries to give humanity to the people depicted in the work, while adding a twist by inserting disconnected images of flora and fauna to create a fascinating tableau.
Caroline Kent at Patron
Currently the subject of a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Caroline Kent offers two new works that expand on the visual language of line, shape, color, and abstraction that she has created over the course of her career. In these two works, she has created sculptural elements that resemble pieces of furniture that bring her two-dimensional paintings into the viewer’s physical space.
Leonardo Drew at Anthony Meier Fine Arts
Anthony Meier has several new works by Leonardo Drew on view alongside one from 2003. The earlier piece is a bit of a starting point for the new works in which chunks of chipped plaster are organized into abstract cubes of varying colors. They are then mounted onto paper and framed. Unlike previous works, the new ones are made on a much smaller and more intimate scale, and are being offered for between $28,000 and $38,000.
Beatriz Gonzalez at Galerie Peter Kilchmann
In her new work Duelo por desaparecidos (mourning for the missing), Beatriz Gonzalez continues her exploration of pain, grief, and mourning as both a personal and political experience, particularly in the artist’s home country of Colombia. In this work, a tondo-like painting of a person in green is mounted above a piece of wooden furniture. According to a wall text, “the depiction takes up residence in the bedroom as the most intimate room fo a private household.”
Gedi Sibony at Greene Naftali
A moment of respite comes in a section of Greene Naftali’s booth dedicated to the work of Gedi Sibony, whose sculptures are made from various found materials including pieces of wood and metal. The main piece, The Encounter of All Miraculous (2021), is a wooden sculpture resembling an empty frame in which the work brings about a “moment of vacancy” as a way to “sculpt with light,” according to gallery representative.