All’s Fair: Miami Art Week 2019 Edition

This is the beginning of a new column, “All’s Fair”, in which writers recount major art exhibits, festivals, biennials and, especially, art fairs through a personal lens. Recounted below is Editor-in-Chief Audra Lambert’s whirlwind Tues-Sat tour of Miami Art Week 2019. Opinions below reflect Lambert’s views only. 

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Dear, dear readers.

Well, a week is enough time for reflection. And what do we have – one banana eaten, one sold and the last one spoiled – or was that the entire fair?

While discerning dealers put forth their obscura and identity-driven inventory (a pantheon of which lovingly graced the main fair of Art Basel Miami Beach, curated by the Mexico City-based Magalí Arriola – titled the Meridians section), other galleries employed the go-big-or-go-home Instagram strategy (Urs Fischer @ The Modern Institute, Austin Lee @ Peres Projects and -of course- the slippery stylings of Maurizio Cattelan, which was absent on Sunday due to the haphazard work necessary to properly guard the installation.)

Spoiler alert: shock art a la fruit baskets seems more suited to our soundbite culture than the lyrical reflections of artists such as Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien and Flavior Garciandía.

Art Basel wasn’t the only fair employing the stop-in-your-tracks Instagram mentality, with Art Miami presenting a monumental Yves Klein-blue installation by artist Jason Martin at the main entrance (other sculptures placed around the periphery was sadly rendered nearly invisible during the later hours of the fair + the VIP opening). Even UNTITLED got in the game with a Facebook-produced interactive installation (umm…) and some choice offerings of installations both inside and out by Antonia Wright + Ruben Millares, Coral Projects and EXILE x CENTER FOR SUBTROPICAL AFFAIRS. Even the Betsy Hotel’s inimitable egg sculpture featured some slides of works in partnership with For Freedoms. 

Fairgoers got in on the Instagram-able fun, while serious collectors buzzed about from booth to booth checking on sales status of works at Lehmann Maupin, Jack Shainman, and PACE. Some heavy-hitting artists with solo exhibits occurring around this time of year got in on the act, including Nevelson (ICA Miami), Teresita Fernandez (PAMM) – similarly, Elmgreen + Dragset could be spotted at Victoria Miro, featured in works which echoed their nearby Pride Park installation.

There was much to see and do, and much hype to struggle through, so below we’ve summed up – in the broad over-generalizations that our detail-oriented art critical brains love so much – the takeaways from this years Miami art week presentations.

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Elmgreen + Dragset sculpture at Miami Beach, “Pride Park” near Design Miami

Five Winners

Public Installations / Projects – What a year for public art in Miami & Miami Beach! From the get-go installations by the likes of Leandro Ulrich on the beach side stole the show. Unmissable performances and installations over the course of the week included “After the Fracture” at PAMM featuring duo Marvin Fabien and Nyugen Smith. Joiri Minaya stunned with installation art in partnership with Miami-based Fringe Projects. UNTITLED’s Monuments section featured the truly stunning Antonia Wright + Ruben Millares installation. Passing the beach at night it was even possible to watch the incandescent works of Pablo Valbuena’s WAVE light up the nearby shoreline. An effort was made to create high quality public art offerings and it showed.

Oh, and also there was a Fernando Botero show on Lincoln road but that doesn’t belong in this highlight…

Meridians @ ABMB – Meridians (see above note) was both an art critic’s dream as well as an Instagrammers’ – that rare combination of critical rigor and visuals-driven approach that will stand out for years to come. Featuring a great mix of local and emerging versus global and firmly established artists, Meridians at the main fair featured standout work by Oscar Tuazon, Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien, Portia Munson, Woody de Otello and more. A real crowd pleaser and rightly so… but it is a fair ten minute walk away and upstairs from the main fair exhibitors. Maybe set up a golf cart service? I don’t mind the walk but it’s key to remain mindful of the mobility of your guests…excuse me, your collectors.

UNTITLED – Did anyone have something bad to say about UNTITLED? Queer art, artists of color, feminists, environmentalists, art criticizing religion, outsider artists – everyone was welcomed with open arms (and strong sales, from what I’ve gathered) at this prestigious showing of UNTITLED. You could also just as easily ignore the cultural underpinnings of some such work (ahem, as some collectors will) and relish the fine skills and inquiring minds that were behind the artworks on view at the fair. With incredible works on view by Damien Davis of LatchKey Gallery, Leah Guagdanoli at Hollis Taggart, Remy Jungerman and Nate Lewis at Fridman Gallery, Jenna Gribbon at Fredericks & Freiser, and more, visitors could really come away with a sense that the art on view at UNTITLED was fearless and provocative, with something to say in addition to its value as fine art.

EDEL ASSANTI at UNTITLED: Installation by Sheida Soleimani on the main wall flanked by an Oren Pinhassi sculpture

Art Miami + CONTEXT – Close to a museum, check.

Featuring old to new to back again, check.

Engaging visitors in conversation, check.

Art Miami still manages to drive the conversation around what is possible for art dealers who are willing (or are happier) to exhibit outside of the Art Basel stable. With similar offerings to the main fair, while maintaining a diverse selection in its own right, both art Miami and context offer an alternative to the globe-trotting – and often unaffordable- trappings of ABMB. Sure they could use more programming, but they’ve remained sustainable – more than ABMB parent company can say (allegedly) at this point…

PAMM – How does the Pérez Art Museum Miami just keep getting better and better? This Franklin Sirmans-led institution has not only featured the meticulous and fantastically spoken hometown (now NYC-based) Teresita Fernandez, their programming for art week – including aforementioned After the Fracture and the phenomenal art Miami VIP event – only served to highlight how they manage that precarious balance of serving the community while welcoming visitors to indulge in the concepts and curatorial vision that puts the museum – and Miami- onto the art world map.

Teresita Fernandez at the PAMM is prescient, haunting and idyllic

Bonus: The New Rubell Museum

Ok, I admit it. I didn’t make the trek out to the new Rubell museum. I know – stop reading now. Seriously though, other than some mild criticism about the very “New MoMA”-esque organization of their collection, how rewarding is it to see the greatest hits of the monumental Rubell collection in its new museum home? Yes, it’s not close. Yes, it was basically (likely) created for a better tax cut. But, as the kids say, I ain’t mad at it.

Five Losers

NADA – Man, poor NADA just can’t catch a break. While “resting on its laurels” might seem like a strong statement, Schachter was onto something when he flippantly observed “UNTITLED is the new NADA”. The energy does seem to have shifted beach side, as ever since NADA has left its admittedly funky haunt over at the now-defunct Deauville hotel, the ice palace just hasn’t quite filled the same carpeted and low-ceilinged hole in fairgoers’ hearts. The public projects as usual made an impression and showings were strong, but it would be a far cry to say that everyone who went down for the fairs made it over to NADA….more brunches in their programming, perhaps?

Pulse – Pulse, oh, pulse pulse pulse. What happened? Did you spend all the efforts you used for past iterations in vetting appealing art gallerists toward a chic, undiscoverable Wellness section instead? New leadership still finding its feet, perhaps, but alongside Pulse stalwarts guests found just an uncomfortably few too many offerings that would’ve been equally at home at Scope. This is a fair seeking its identity somewhere between copy and paste imitation art and genuine emerging artists with a practice based in Concepts.

Art Critics – “It’s so nice to meet a writer here.” A non-East coast gallerist’s lamentations hit me where it hurt. Where were the critics? Other than those of us dispatched over to the main fair for market coverage, there was a woeful lack of critical engagement with art presented at this year’s fairs according to conversations with various gallerists around the fairs. UNTITLED is commendable for employing a writer-in-residence for this year’s edition; here’s to hoping the next one around is a woman or gender non-conforming colleague.

ok, so Idris Elba opening for Diplo @ the EDITION, Miami Beach Basement was dope af

Nightlife – maybe it was just me, but the late night offerings seemed a bit low-key or retail market-driven this year (Desigual at the Temple House, anyone?) Aside from the fabulous Rashaad Newsome x Swizz Beatz Annual King of Arms Art Ball, a strong VIP party for art Miami a handful of beachside parties, offerings during the week were rather time. Surprisingly, the brunches were where it was at this year. While Pulse brunch was a hot mess this year, anyone who made it over to fête the collection or museum brunches came away feeling the better for meeting their alarm clocks halfway and trekking over to these chic morning affairs.

Streets – the traffic, am I right? Between construction on the mainland-to-beach side exits to disoriented Lyft drivers totally out of their element trying to navigate the nooks and crannies that are downtown Miami, the streets – and those who used them – were just plain out of luck for Miami art week.

Bonus: Art Pop-up projects – you know they were there. I know there were there. Neither of us went though, right? Right? Even the smattering that existed (yet were impossible to find) on Lincoln Road.