Yesterday Art Basel Miami 2012 opened its doors to VIPs and the Press. Despite the sheer numbers of moneyed visitors who are expecting to be relieved of close to $1 billion of lucre in this city of sun and flesh, there was one discernible feature of this year’s show, the entire event was quite subdued. One art insider explained the situation, “Under the current environment, galleries are determined to focus on selling works, therefore they are playing it safe with more conservative, decorative works. They are unwilling to present riskier art that might not sell”. As a result the show was dominated by tame paintings and wall based sculpture. Examples of large scale sculptures, installations, and kinetic art were few and far between. There were very few nudes, uncharacteristic of the fleshy surroundings of the host city, mammaries and phalluses were conspicuously absent.
Deer and skulls were also absent, in fact the entire animal kingdom was in scant supply. The entire show seemed to be making a very conscious effort not to offend anyone.
If Art Basel Miami can be seen as an indicator for future trends in the art world similar to the fall fashion shows, 2013 will contains the following themes. Non-confrontational and inspiring text based art was seen throughout the fair. Barbara Kruger and all those who followed certainly had most visitors viewing their art from left to right.
Squares, rectangles, and any combination or portion of parallelograms reigned supreme. Monochrome canvases, Judd sculptures, Albers, the Russian Constructivists and any permutation of such were on display at close to a third of the exhibitors. While I am often guilty of getting lost in the sprawling labyrinth and revisiting the same section of booths over and over again while unconsciously neglecting other regions of fairs, this fair I made a conscious effort to keep score and my trove of photos confirm my written observations. Yes, a ton of words, squares, and rectangles; to play it safe many booths contained both text based works as well as simple geometric tableaux. I will revisit this topic in a later post.
While it is impossible to properly digest over 10,000 works of art in a six hour period, I have picked out a few notable works. I see that it was indeed perhaps over stimulation and anxiety that led me to choose four works that offered a means of escape in the form of either windows or ladders. Iván Navarro’s special installation of infinity mirrors with ladders in barrels at Paul Kasmin were a crowd favorite and added depth to a somewhat flat fair. Robert Miller also added very long ladder in Yayoi Kusama’s work of 2006. Robert Lazzarini’s wonky window at Marlborough and Jan Dibbets’s paste on window at Konrad Fischer offered the prospect of life outside the convention center.
Anish Kapoor’s work is almost always frustratingly sublime and despite a predisposed dismissal of the work of youngster Nick Van Woert, I found his piece at L&M delightful.
Countering the number of 3rd tier Picassos at the fair, works by Calder were of excellent quality with the exquisite duo shown by Foundation Beyeler demonstrating the true art of collecting. Excellent older works by Kahlo and Bluemner harkened a golden age of painting where works did not have to be large to be powerful.
Zhang Ding’s small video piece at ShanghArt tucked in the corner added insight into the carnage at the front of the booth while Jon Kessler’s work also drew its strength from its hidden qualities.
Finally, Peter Gallo’s quirky piece of “toast” with GE logo eyes at Anthony Reynolds made me smile as it appeared to be so odd and genuine, lacking the polish and contrivances that plagued much of the displayed art in the fair.