The beginning of Art Basel Miami Beach each winter heralds the end to the year’s demanding art fair calendar. It always makes for a busy finale, and this time around, the fair, which opened to VIPs on Tuesday, was even more intense than usual, now that it had returned to its pre-pandemic size, both in terms of exhibitors and visitors.
Art Basel Miami Beach’s opening was thrumming with people, and a number of sales were reported by galleries over the course of the day. Though last year’s fair was marked by a multitude of NFT-related projects, digital art initiatives like these were noticeably absent at this fair. (Other NFT-related launches are still happening elsewhere in Miami and Miami Beach this week, and invites for them have been piling up in people’s inboxes.)
As with any fair, particularly one run by Art Basel, blue-chip trophy pieces abounded as did small clusters of works associated with the Arte Povera and Op art movements. This edition is of particular note, as the fair is celebrating its 20th anniversary in South Florida, and dealers seemed to toast the occasion by bringing out heavyweight works.
Below, a look at the best on offer at the 2022 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, which runs until December 3.
Jessie Henson at Anthony Meier Fine Arts
A recent artist in residence at the Dieu Donné Papermill in New York, Jessie Henson creates her own paper, which she then runs over an industrial sewing machine, embedding it with vibrantly hued threads and 18k or 24k gold. Doing so causes the paper to ripple and pucker, making it seem almost sculptural. Her use of an industrial sewing machine (as opposed to a home one) is significant to the work. She’s thinking about what happens through the repetition of labor, and how that gradually degrades objects, which is here symbolized by the wearing down of the paper. Henson is also a collector of vintage textiles, which she transforms into art objects by casting them in bronze.
Arghavan Khosravi and Suchitra Mattai at Kavi Gupta
Two of the fair’s strongest presentations were mounted by Kavi Gupta. Arghavan Khosravi is showing a striking new painting in which a woman with her long hair is passed through a guillotine, whose form is echoed by the work’s carved wooden frame. Made this year, the work directly comments on the ongoing protests over the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran, where Khosravi was born and where she lived until a decade ago. Though Khosravi’s work has long reflected on the status of Iranian women, often filtered through the aesthetics of historical Persian art, this new piece, titled Our Hair Has Always Been the Problem, poignantly brings this important political situation to the fore, begging viewers not to look away.
Nearby are three works by Suchitra Mattai, which incorporate bunched and sewn saris. The works bring together the confluence of influences that the artist has experienced—she is Indian descent and was raised in Guyana. To these works, she often adds various objects, from found tapestries that she embroiders on top of analogue film reels containing Bollywood movies to the shards of glass that remained after someone attempted to break into her studio.
Nikita Gale at Reyes Finn
For a presentation in the Positions section, L.A.-based artist Nikita Gale has focused on one of the world’s most abundant minerals: calcium, which can be readily found both in the earth and in our bodies. At the center of the booth is a sculpture consisting of two large pieces of red calcite crystal that sit atop a synthesizer emitting a low hum. The work has a calming effect that somehow manages to transcend the bustling thrum of the crowds at the fair. Nearby are a suite of aluminum panels that show computer drawings of teeth arranged as though they were smiling.
Andrea Bowers at Kaufmann Repetto
One of the fair’s few participatory works comes via Andrea Bowers, who is presenting an iteration of her 2022 Political Ribbons installation, which she debuted earlier this year at the Fondazione Furla / GAM in Milan. The work consists of hundreds of ribbons printed with various phrases like “My body is not your business,” “Resisters,” “Sexism Sucks,” and “Empower women around you.” This installation has been reconfigured specifically for Miami Beach, with Bowers selecting a color palette consisting of red, pink, navy, turquoise, and purple. Visitors are invited to take one ribbon with them to hold onto and display as they wish. The work consists at minimum of 1,000 ribbons; at the fair, there are around 400 in the piece at any given time, and they will be replenished throughout the event’s run.
Dominic Chambers at Lehmann Maupin
Best known for his paintings of Black people depicted in moments of repose and leisure, Dominic Chambers is making his first foray into sculpture at this fair. This new work, showing a children’s playground slide, is actually intended as a maquette of large-scale sculpture that the artist hopes to realize in glass in the near future. Even as a maquette, the work is striking.
Gala Porras-Kim at Commonwealth and Council
Over the summer, several floor pieces in the Hagia Sophia were damaged as the famed cathedral-turned-mosque underwent renovations. Long interested in studying conservation, Gala Porras-Kim was immediately fascinated by the splits that resulted. Responding to them, she created new works depicting these cracked floors, including one focusing on the exact tiles upon which Byzantine emperors were once crowned. Elsewhere in the booth is a suite of astrological charts that the artist purchased after a recent visit to Turin, the only city that is in both the triangle of Black Magic and the triangle of White Magic. On these charts, which act as systems of knowledge in their own right, Porras-Kim has painted abstract visions in encaustic that depict her own proposals for humanity’s fortune.
Aubrey Williams at Jenkins Johnson Gallery
Spread across the fair, in a select number of booths, are small Kabinett presentations. One of them is by Aubrey Williams, a postwar artist who has only recently begun to get his due. A founding member of the Caribbean Artists Movements, Williams—who was born in Guyana and based in London, and who traveled between the two, the Caribbean, and Florida—made work that exemplifies what the art historian Kobena Mercer has termed Black Atlantic Abstraction. (It was included in Tate Britain’s 2021 exhibition “Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s – Now.”) Having worked with Williams’s estate since around 2016, dealer Karen Jenkins-Johnson is hoping to bring attention to this woefully underknown artist; she’s particularly hoping to attract U.S. collectors. On view here are examples that show the late artist’s interest in pre-Columbian artifacts that he then transformed into dazzling abstractions. They still manage to mystify decades later.
Patrick Martinez at Charlie James Gallery
A suite of new neon works by Patrick Martinez alights in the Nova section. The four text-based works on view here include phrase such as “ABORT SCOTUS,” a reference to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade over the summer. One work mirrors a fortune teller’s window display, replete with three tarot cards. It reads, “I don’t see any American dream / I see an American nightmare.”
Robyn Tsinnajinnie and Edgar Heap of Birds at K Art
K Art, one of the country’s only Native-owned commercial art galleries, has on view works by emerging artists Erin Ggaadimits Ivalu Gingrich (Inupiaq/Koyukon Athabaskan) and Robyn Tsinnajinnie (Diné) alongside those of Edgar Heap of Birds (Arapaho/Cheyenne). Gingrich, who comes from a long line of Indigenous Alaskan woodcarvers, is presenting four sculptures that she hand-carved to resemble different varieties of salmon that are important to her people, showing the breadth of that fish in that region. To these works, she has added red beads and embedded in them actual fragments of salmon bones. For the fair, Heap of Birds has created new entries in his acclaimed series “Native Hosts,” which take the form of roadway signs. In each of these signs, the state’s name is printed backwards and below it are the names of the original stewards of this land: Seminole and Timucua, for Miami Beach.
Abbas Akhavan at Catriona Jeffries Gallery
Montreal-based artist Abbas Akhavan has created a site-specific installation for Catriona Jeffries Gallery’s booth that features a large pile of glass shards atop paddings that would typically cover the walls of the gallery. These are no ordinary paddings, though, as they were custom-made to resemble a green screen. Akhavan was initially inspired to make works in this vein after the explosion in the Port of Beirut in 2020, haunted by the endless images of locals sweeping the streets of glass. The work on view here, however, isn’t specific to the blast, hence the green screen material, which allows for it to be transported into a variety of contexts.
American Artist and Santiago Sierra at Labor
Mexico City’s Labor gallery has dedicated its booth to works about the climate crisis. On view is a sculptural work by American Artist that they previously showed at Redcat Gallery in L.A. and a suite of canvases by Santiago Sierra. Artist’s sculpture, a recreation of a bus stop sign, alludes to the route that author Octavia E. Butler would have taken from her home in Pasadena, California, each day to work on her novels at the Los Angeles Public Library. One such novel was 1993’s Parable of the Sower, in which Butler rang the bell about the dangers of climate change and how it would disproportionately impact marginalized groups. Similarly, Sierra’s installation is composed of canvases that were exposed to the elements outside Mexico City. The first canvas, left out for one week, in the series is still fairly white; canvas 52, left out for a year, is a deep gray.