Art On The Beach By Sunshine Flint

The art world puts on a sunny face as Art Basel Miami Beach, gets underway….

Art Basel Miami Beach
Chuck Close. Self-Portrait, 2007.

Art sales may be suffering in the current economic crisis, but Art Basel Miami Beach still remains one of the most important events on the international art calendar, an event that dealers and collectors can’t miss. More than 250 galleries and the world’s top dealers will be exhibiting works from 20th and 21st-century artists at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The fair draws a range of galleries from leading lights like PaceWildenstein to small but important bit players like Alexander Gray Associates. The fair was set to double its space in the convention center, but that was a commitment made before the current credit crunch and a frightening dip in sales at recent auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York.

The fair’s sponsors, including main sponsor UBS, have drawn down many of their parties and events. Even if some, like the Cipriani Ocean Resort, are still hosting VIP lounges and cocktail parties for fair-goers, it’s generally agreed that there will more dealing than wheeling, and even that will be lighter than in years past. Some of the satellite exhibits that popped up in recent years will be smaller or have been cancelled altogether. “The fair will be just as good, but it will be a shrunken scene, and won’t be as glittering,” says Brook S. Mason, US correspondent for The Art Newspaper and a columnist for Artnet. “A percentage of dealers would prefer not to be there, but have to for contractual reasons.”

Aside from the main fair, Mason says Art Positions, where 20 young galleries are set up right on the beach, is worth checking out for the affordable pieces and challenging emerging artists. Design Miami will be held in a large tent in the Miami Design District and has expanded from 14 to 40 dealers. One exhibitor, Banners of Persuasion, is an exciting project from The Rug Company founders, who invited respected international artists who usually work in paint or sculpture or three-dimensions to translate their work into tapestries. “I think tapestries will be the modern trend,” says Mason. “They resonate in that they are traditional and yet contemporary, and have a lot of wall power at a fraction of the price of a painting.” PaceWildenstein will have a Chuck Close tapestry on their stand; he has been earning raves for his jacquard tapestries made from his photographic portraits of Kate Moss and others. Other work that Mason sees as appealing are from artists who “tap into the short side of life” such as Feliz Gonzalez-Torres, or works that are have strong green and environmental messages. “I think you’ll see more use of wood and an uptake in sales with pieces about the way that green works,” she says. Either way, the show must go on. “The plan is to just keep going.”