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‘The most important place in the art world’: Miami Art Week kicks off with big openings

Miami Art Week kicked into full roar Tuesday with a flurry of VIP openings that left collectors, still jazzed from November art auctions, dashing across the causeways.

UNTITLED on the sand near 12th Street. Design Miami/ by the Miami Beach Convention Center. NADA in the Ice Palace Studios west of the Arsht Center. The gigantic maze on the beach at Faena in mid-Beach. And what is generally thought of as the real launch to Art Week, Art Miami and CONTEXT just east of the Arsht, on the bayfront.

The JD Malay Gallery of London at Untitled Art Fair in Miami Beach, on Tuesday December 05, 2023. HO/Ho
The JD Malay Gallery of London at Untitled Art Fair in Miami Beach, on Tuesday December 05, 2023. HO/Ho

If advance ticket sales are any indication, 2023 promises to be a banner year. Both Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Miami reported advance ticket sales trending above last year’s levels.

“The advance demand for tickets is double last year,” said Nick Korniloff, long-time director of Art Miami, CONTEXT and Aqua Art. “We have many architects and interior designers who have asked for access. It bodes well.”

READ MORE: Who’s the fairest of them all? You choose. Here’s where to find the Miami Art Week fairs

The early part of the week is dedicated to VIPs; Thursday-on is for any and all to hit the fairs, special exhibitions, tequila activations, wine pours and endless parties. Between the art handlers, flower arrangers, caterers, restaurants, hotels, real estate brokers, Uber drivers and valets, Art Week generates an estimated $500 million in economic impact.

A reclaimed subway car from Chicago is part of Wynwood Walls’ Miami Art Week installation. The 48-foot-long car will remain as an interactive exhibit at the outdoor museum. Carl Juste/cjuste@miamiherald.com
A reclaimed subway car from Chicago is part of Wynwood Walls’ Miami Art Week installation. The 48-foot-long car will remain as an interactive exhibit at the outdoor museum. Carl Juste/cjuste@miamiherald.com

Regular fairgoers win, too: Wynwood Walls, which recently unveiled its newest installation, a reclaimed subway car, is offering free entry Tuesday and Wednesday.

And that’s the real reason for the week: The art, artists and galleries.

Hampton House

On Monday night, art lovers headed to the historic Miami hotel that gave refuge to Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali for a popping opening party for its first art exhibition.

The Historic Hampton House Museum of Culture & Art in Brownsville presented “Gimme Shelter,” a show that pays tribute to the hotel’s history as a safe space for African Americans in the 1950s and ‘60s when Miami was segregated. Black entertainers were allowed to perform in Miami Beach but were forced to go “over town” to stay at a hotel.

A guest views MELO by artist Kandy G Lopez at the opening of “Gimme Shelter” at the Historic Hampton House, the museum’s first art exhibition. Jose A. Iglesias/jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com
A guest views MELO by artist Kandy G Lopez at the opening of “Gimme Shelter” at the Historic Hampton House, the museum’s first art exhibition. Jose A. Iglesias/jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

A jazz singer dressed in a red gown and black opera gloves performed on stage as visitors sipped champagne and viewed artworks that reference music, Black culture and the hotel’s famed guests.

The show, co-curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody, Zoe Lukov, Maynard Monrow and Laura Dvorkin, features 25 artists, including Nick Cave, Carrie Mae Weems and Bony Ramirez. Several Miami-based artists’ works appear throughout the hotel, including Jared McGriff, Kandy Lopez and Reginald O’Neal. Select artworks are for sale, with a percentage of the proceeds to be donated to the museum for programming and development.

A double portrait of King and civil rights leader Malcolm X greet guests in the first gallery space. Nearby, a bundle of embroidered and beaded boxing gloves hang from the ceiling. A painting of a piano player is brought to life with a speaker playing music, and a dramatically smashed guitar lies on the floor.

READ MORE: ‘It’s about time.’ Miami artists are ‘ascendant’ on international scene this Art Week

“Resonating and echoing within the space are concepts of home, shelter, softness, intimacy, musicality, instrumentation, silence, and noise,” said co-curator Lukov, “while serving as a tribute to the creators who continue to make new work and new sounds even in the face of institutionalized violence and segregation.”

Art Miami and Context

Art Miami and sister fair CONTEXT returned to the bayfront at the old Miami Herald site.

CONTEXT focuses on emerging and mid-career artists. Art Miami, Miami’s longest running fair, is best known as a showcase for secondary-market art that collectors are looking to sell. This year, that includes ample showings of sculptures, paintings and drawings by Fernand Botero, the famed Colombian artist who died in September. In fact, the fair’s VIP lounge features an homage to the artist.

A man makes his way past “Donna Sdraiata” by Fernando Botero on display at Art Miami, which opened Tuesday. Matias J. Ocner/mocner@miamiherald.com
A man makes his way past “Donna Sdraiata” by Fernando Botero on display at Art Miami, which opened Tuesday. Matias J. Ocner/mocner@miamiherald.com

While regular fairgoers will find work at the 172 galleries by artists who regularly appear here — Roy Lichtenstein, Rashid Johnson, Alexander Calder, Manolo Valdes — they will also find work from private collections that haven’t been offered before. At Aktion Art, that includes a rare Keith Haring mask and Andy Warhol flowers from the show hosted by famed New York gallerist Leo Castelli that established Warhol as an important artist. Vallarino Fine Art has works by both Milton Avery and his wife, Sally, along with a rare paintings by Ernie Barnes and Robert Natkin.

READ MORE: Johnny Depp (the artist) and lots of Botero: Take a look at the VIP opening of Art Miami

And there’s new art as well, some by Hollywood celebrities including Pierce Brosnan (at Olea Art) and Johnny Depp. (One was created by Depp in the middle of the night on a door at Versailles — see it at Castle Contemporary.)

“Galleries save all year to bring their best works to Miami,” said Korniloff. “Miami in December is the most important place in the art world.”

Jason Rosenfeld, the Rosenfeld Gallery director, said his booth’s prices are basically unbeatable, especially given the tumultuous economy. His gallery, which specializes in established artists, is selling works priced at current auction. On his booth’s walls are a bullfighting drawing by Pablo Picasso, a bronze Kenny Scharf sculpture and a Willem de Kooning painting.

“We’re hopeful that even with such a challenging financial and economic environment that we’ll still have things here that people can’t resist,” he said.

Over at West Chelsea Contemporary’s booth, artist Gary James McQueen combines traditional aesthetics with modern technology. McQueen, the nephew of legendary fashion designer Alexander McQueen, uses 3D technology to create lenticular prints that trick the eye. His series of fashionable skulls appear to morph as the viewer moves from side to side.

Artist Gary James McQueen is photographed alongside his work “Union Jack Skull” during Art Miami 2023 on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in downtown Miami, Fla. Matias J. Ocner/mocner@miamiherald.com
Artist Gary James McQueen is photographed alongside his work “Union Jack Skull” during Art Miami 2023 on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in downtown Miami, Fla. Matias J. Ocner/mocner@miamiherald.com

“There’s always a bit of dark romance attached to the spirit of my work,” he said.

NADA

At NADA, collectors, art advisors and other VIPs were lined up down the block for a 10 a.m. opening. Within minutes, the Ice Palace Studios was buzzing with art cognoscenti clamoring for details about emerging artists and first-shot at works including ceramics, abstract paintings and textile works, which seemed to be everywhere.

“NADA has a very specific vibe,” said Books Bischoff, co-owner of Miami’s Primary Gallery. “It has a punk-rock like air. It’s about discovering artists who are just about to turn the corner.” Most seem to have already turned the price corner at least; few works were priced less than $10,000.

Many of the featured artists were in the booths showing their works, offering would-be collectors the opportunity to learn more from the makers. That included Colombian photographer Camila Falquez, who sold an image to curators from the Perez Art Museum Miami within minutes of the fair’s opening.

Falquez, whose subject are generally women wrapped in silk, creates images are imbued with social justice themes and framed in the fabric from the image. One of the most striking is of an older woman wrapped in green silk with her breasts exposed. The woman, a fellow student from a dance class, said she always wanted to be photographed that way.

Like many galleries, Shulamit Nazarian from Los Angeles uses its booth as a calling card. “We show a cross section of artists in our program, said Seth Curcio, partner with. Among them are textile collages Maria A Guzman, who is currently at a residency at El Espacio 23 in Allapattah.

Miami gallerist Nina Johnson takes a similar approach. Among her offerings were intricate weavings made from newspapers coated with plastic by Savannah Knoop and a table and chairs made of molten bronze poured in sand by Katie Stout, both gallery artists.

Just hours later, many of the collectors gracing the halls at Ice Palace could be seen again at Untitled, which also hosted VIP hours. Along with abstracts, ceramics and plenty of textiles.

“For so long, textile was considered a craft,” said Doug Kacena, owner of Denver’s K Contemporary. “Now it is being elevated to Art with a capital A.” His booth was filled with works by Suchitra Mattai, who takes found objects and old saris from her Indo-Caribbean family to create works reflecting migration.

Dutch artist Afra Eisma’s intricately woven carpet cover full walls at the booth of No Man’s Art Gallery. “I’ve been working in textiles for about 10 years. I have no clue why they are popular now. Maybe it’s because we’re in a digital age,” and need a counterpoint to the machine world.

Mexican artist Luis Sahagun had a simpler answer: “It’s like this thread connecting past and future.”

Design Miami

With the theme of “Where We Stand,” Design Miami celebrates its 19th year with an invitation to view objects from around the world as a way of sharing information about culture, celebrating our differences, and uniting us in our common humanity. The annual design fair across from the Miami Beach Convention Center includes works from more than 40 galleries and artists from every continent except Antarctica.

Curatorial Director Anna Carnick chose the theme of Where We Stand while referencing novelist Elif Shafak, who wrote, “Stories bring us together. Untold stories keep us apart.” Through storytelling, we delve into one another’s humanity, Carnick explained.

The selection ranges from the functional to objects of pure beauty, including works by renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic, who once sat silently staring into the eyes of strangers on a stage at the Museum of Modern Art; Houston-based artist and sculptural furniture maker Joyce Lin, whose latest work serves as an autopsy of a basic wooden chair; the late neo-minimalist Swiss architect Mario Botta; and Reynold Rodriguez of San Juan, who gives new life to mahogany trees uprooted by Hurricane Maria.

Two models sit in Maria Abravanic’s “Chairs for Human and Spirit Use” during the VIP opening of Design Miami in Miami Beach. D.A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com
Two models sit in Maria Abravanic’s “Chairs for Human and Spirit Use” during the VIP opening of Design Miami in Miami Beach. D.A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

At P/06, with “Chairs for Human and Spirit Use,” Abramovic created large wooden chairs for people paired with smaller chairs for their spirits. The high-backed human chair has a set of rungs to climb on and features an overhang encrusted with quartz crystals. The four legs of the spirit chair are encased in matching crystalline rock, presenting a fragility that seemingly renders the chair unable to bear any weight. The chairs are sold in pairs, at HAADA, a contemporary nomadic gallery in New York.

At Maison Perrier-Jouët X/09, Mexican artist Fernando Laposse created a miniature glass menagerie that not even Katherine Hepburn could have imagined. In addition to detailed sculptures of hummingbirds, beetles, butterflies and bees that fit in the palm of your hand, Laposse also fashioned a floral wonderland. Each of the miniature works was painstakingly recreated using 3D printing to form creatures in biodegradable resin.

Art team member Alyssa Tang, 27, interacts with the Maison Perrier-Jouët exhibit highlighting Mexican artist Fernando Laposse and his artwork titled ‘‘The Pollination Dance”, inspired by the flower. The piece was on display at Design Miami in Miami Beach. D.A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com
Art team member Alyssa Tang, 27, interacts with the Maison Perrier-Jouët exhibit highlighting Mexican artist Fernando Laposse and his artwork titled ‘‘The Pollination Dance”, inspired by the flower. The piece was on display at Design Miami in Miami Beach. D.A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

The booth is a sensory experience, complete with works to excite sight, sound and physical sensation. A soundtrack of Mexican poet Mardonio Caraballo reciting one of his poems in his native Aztec language. At various intervals, assistants walk amid a sculptural installation, pouring yellow sand into four vessels attached to tree branches. A hole in the bottom of each vessel allows sand to pour through, imitating pollen.

One fairgoer made a beeline for Laposse’s exhibition. Jose-Antonio Valencia, a 46-year-old life coach originally from Quito, Ecuador and now living in Miami, came expressly to see the Laposse installation titled “The Pollination Dance.”

“I know the artist,” Valencia said, while playfully extending his hand to collect the yellow sand as it poured through one of the vessels. The two met at a previous Design Miami, chatting about the artist’s work over a drink in the collector’s lounge. That’s when the artist played a little magic trick on Valencia as they sipped champagne.

Because Laposse uses the red dye from the cochineal beetles, he decided to add it to their drinks.

“He made rosé from the cochineal,” Valencia told the Miami Herald. “He crushed the bugs in the champagne.”