Arty in the City Where the Heat Is On: Art Basel Miami Beach

Miami isnt just the place to party on the beach till the break of dawn, as Will Smith put it. This time of year, its also got a lot to offer in the daytime, in the shape of Art Basel Miami Beach. The 2018 fair boasts 268 galleries from thirty-five countries; and the work has a focus on strong women, and artists from across the Americas.

Sure, all art fairs are glitzy, glamorous affairs; awash with swathes of elegantly draped trouser (singular, of course) and the expensive scent of gossip, money and champagne. But to our minds, surely one of the very glitziest has to be Miami: those of us who have never been imagine it’s all the usual accoutrements with even more elegant and far more bronzed limbs; sumptuous soft pouts that leave just a smidgen of lipstick on a delicately sipped flute; delicate but no-BS Americans laughing with a charming, thinly veiled insincerity. Those who have been often return with a shell-shocked look in their eye—one which tells us: they’ve seen things. 

Dreams of sunshine and jibes of Patrick Bateman-ism aside, this year’s Art Basel has some great work on show, with an impressive breadth of styles, media, provenance and themes. Work veers from the frankly nightmare-inducing (León & Cociña’s Wolf House) to the wittily wry (see the hosiery-draped crotch in Cao Yu’s 90°C) to the blissfully surreal—a very sad-looking man, covered in pears (Luigi Ontani’s Perentorio).

What with it being 2018 and all, naturally Trump gets a look-in: here he is, gormlessly standing with a gangly limbed Queen Elizabeth; she bearing tea, of course, he with that crumpled totem of American capitalist greed, the McDonald’s bag.

Organizers say the event has a “strong focus on the Americas”, and this is especially true for the Kabinett selection of curated exhibitions; which includes work by Uruguayan artist Washington Barcala; La Ruche, from Buenos Aires; and Mexican artist Daniel Guzmán, among others. “Pioneering female artists will also have a strong voice in Kabinett,” the fair promises. Highlights include paintings, drawings and sculptures from feminist artist Ellen Cantor; early works by African-American abstract artist Mildred Thompson; and Brooklyn-based artist Ja’Tovia Gary’s film An Ecstatic Experience (a still from which is shown above), which examines the idea of “transcendence as means for radical resistance”. Elsewhere, the brilliant Judy Chicago is doing an artist talk; and in a separate Artworld Talk, speakers are tackling the bold and exhaustive topic: “Feminism – The Global View”.


Art Basel Miami Beach

From 6 to 9 December, Miami

Joyce J. Scott and Elizabeth Talford Scott, Face. Courtesy the artist and Peter Blum Gallery, New York.