The first time I went to Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach was in 2014. Nothing prepared me for the overwhelming amount of art that my eyes would absorb in less than seven days. By the end of five days, my brain was short circuiting trying to take it all in, and my back and feet were killing me. from all the walking I learned from that virgin art fairs experience about how to enjoy all that Miami Art Week had to offer and get the most out of it.
First, you have to resign to the fact that it is virtually impossible to attend and see every single art fair, exhibition and show between Miami and Miami Beach. Second, I recommend a loose plan of attack based on vicinity and your goals for the week. The parties and openings were not on my agenda, however, if I received any passes or event invitations, I most certainly was not turning them down! My goal was to see as much art as I could, filling my mind with so much inspiration to take back with me to Toronto until the next Miami Art Week in 2016. With comfortable, but stylish footwear (this is Miami afterall), and a list of art fairs that I absolutely wanted to attend, I dove, head first, into the sea of contemporary art.
Ran Hwang with detail
The one thing that I noticed, in particular, was the diversity of galleries and artists represented throughout all the fairs. Miami Art Week truly is an international platform with a substantial amount of representation across the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Latin America. I will, at this point, vent about how pathetic the Canadian presence has been in Miami, considering we are neighbouring countries. It was awe-some to witness creativity from around the globe. This art is clever, thoughtful, mindful and insightful. It's not just about making pretty pictures, but even if it was pretty, there was far more depth behind its creation than appears on the surface. True simplicity comes from the experience of complex process. The other thing I noticed was the dominance of works on paper throughout the various fairs – perhaps a sign of economic conservatism since it is much cheaper to produce? And, despite Miami hosting all these fairs, New York was the dominant player in this game, by a long shot. Understandably, since they are well seasoned veterans in the art world. My impression as an artist....exhibiting in Miami through a NY gallery gives you premium credibility and maximum exposure.
With all the fairs to bear in mind, and consideration to what I saw in 2014, I chose to attend: Miami Project & Works on Paper, Art Miami, Context, X Contemporary, Untitled, Scope, NADA, Pulse and lastly, Art Basel Miami Beach, in that order.
A brief summary of my observations....
Miami Project & Works on Paper: The traffic getting to the Deauville for opening night was a nightmare, all the way up to the northern section of Miami Beach, and if it weren't for the fact that I was meeting my colleague with a free pass, I probably would have turned back around. However, I'm glad I went. They were quality shows. The nice thing about hotels as host venues is that the show size is manageable and spreading the booths across multiple rooms/lobby breaks up the monotony of the expansive space. Partnering these two shows was a smart way to link two different mandates into one location, like getting a 2for1 deal!
Art Miami & Context: Very large shows and while I was really impressed with last year's collections of work, I noticed there were a lot of repeated artists from the previous year. I guess if the artist sells, you bring him/her back. I'm hoping next year will rotate in a new crop of talent.
X Contemporary : A newbie to the scene following the defunct Select art fair, has a lot of growing up to do. It was a good attempt, but it felt like an art school's year end show. In most cases, the art didn't push the artistic expression far enough, making them more like studies or potential/experimental projects rather than finished works.
Untitled: If you really want to stretch your abstract mind, this is the fair for you. I do enjoy coming to this fair for that reason, but you really need to be in a conceptual frame of mind to grasp what most of the artists are communicating. It is the best venue in terms of exhibition integrity, the translucent tent ceiling lets in the most beautiful diffused lighting which shows the art in the best possible way as well as a sense of openess and lightness for the visitor (the complete opposite to convention centre fairs).
Scope: Fantastic show, it's fun. I'd probably say it was my favourite. This fair has a wonderful balance of “Wow, that's amazing” and “That kitch seriously sells? For how much??”. It's a showcase of brilliant creative minds, skillful execution with an upbeat vibe. There was wimsy and wildly skilled artisans. What separates these types of art fairs from many others, such as local outdoor art fairs in 10'x10' tent booth is the high quality of execution of the finished product, meticulous and polished.
CJ Hendry with detail.
NADA: This was my first time at this fair in the Fountainebleau. It was much closer in feel to Untitled with a stronger conceptual overtone. Admittedly, I was more fascinated with the people going through the lobby of the hotel at this point.
Pulse: By this time, I was nine fairs and five days in, coming close to hitting my contemporary art limit. However, I was re-inspired with this third fair on the beach. Similar in flavour to Scope, the artists seen here were creative, talented and highly sale-able. The only thing that kinda turned me off was the “commercial break” that occupied a large section of the fair by Target. Its saving grace was that their product placement sculptures were smart and interactive which made them fun. I suppose that's one way to get corporations to foot the bill.
Art Basel Miami Beach: I purposely saved this one for last. Knowing that I would be physically and mentally tired after six straight days of art and much of the art exhibited in this fair was more in the realm of museums and auction houses, this was more of a browse while my mind wandered in and out of the gallery booths. The gallery staff are visibly exhausted and have made their sales during the first four/five days, they are quiet and removed as their role has shifted from art sales to art babysitters. Surprisingly, I found quite a number of artists repeated at Art Basel from the satellite fairs, which makes me wonder if the art from the satellite fairs is influencing the content in Art Basel or if Art Basel is becoming more like the satellite fairs of more emerging and newer artists?
I left Miami with a head full of art, a heart full of inspiration and a drive to get my own art and ideas out there because there is still more untapped creativity and art that needs to be seen. If there is one thing that keeps me going is knowing that there is an abundance of talent on this planet and I want to be seen as one of them.