Art Basel Miami: Another Year in the Sun

November 29 to December 4

photo by Bonnie Rychlak
Matías Duville 2016 Arena Parking Pressed asphalt and forged steel

Modeled after the original fair in Basel, Switzerland, that premiered in 1970, Art Basel Miami was launched in 2002. Art Basel Miami and all of its satellite fairs is a kind of ecosystem teeming with diversity. While the main fair at Art Basel Miami is located at the Miami Beach Convention Center, numerous off-shoots create an energy that is strewn throughout this palm-filled city.

At times it seems as though the entire art world has descended upon Miami. With cold snowy weather upon New York and northern Europe, the climate as well the vast assemblage of 23 distinct fairs and 39 events, attracts some of the most important art galleries in the world, making Art Basel Miami an art lover’s destination. At this six-day spectacle, there’s something for just about everyone. To visit all the fairs in Art Basel Miami takes a great deal of stamina, however. The main fair alone features 260 art galleries in a seemingly endless 500,000 square foot space.

This combination of warm weather, sunny skies, and vibrant local culture has made Art Basel Miami a continued success and contributed its rise as the second biggest art fair in the world. Art collectors here are always on the hunt for the next big thing. This year there seems to be an enthusiastic focus on Latin American art, a trend that the Getty Museum is emphasizing in the second Pacific Standard Time mega exhibition in Southern California next year. Of particular interest is Argentinian art, featured in all the fairs now. It has a newfound presence in Miami with the Perez Art Museum Miami and the new cultural center in Miami Beach.

To see Southern California artworks embedded into this parallel geographical location, one cannot help imagine Orange County, California, as another ideal location for art fairs in the future.

The world is clearly interconnected here with artists and galleries from every city in the world. Whether in Art Basel Miami, public parks and, private foundations, or any number of the smaller fairs, works by artists from San Diego to Long Beach are prominently featured. To see Southern California artworks embedded into this parallel geographical location, one cannot help imagine Orange County, California, as another ideal location for art fairs in the future. Los Angeles has its expositions but OC’s casual ambiance, relaxed lifestyle, and newfound enjoyment of the visual and performing arts could make Orange County an epicenter for international art, just as South Coast Plaza has become an international shopping destination.

Image by Bonnie Rychlak
Ugo Rondinone 2016 Miami Mountain in Collins Park Painted stone and steel

Outdoor art is in full bloom in Collins Park, an area in front of the Bass Museum of Art, now filled with sculptures, events, and music. This outdoor display is a city-wide public art program initiated by The Bass Museum of Art in partnership with the City of Miami Beach during Art Basel Miami. Wall murals, sound installations, videos, and other interactive works of art gently interrupt people’s daily routines and encourage thoughtful connections within Miami’s large and diverse communities.

Inside the main fair at the Miami Convention Center, amongst thousands of artworks and visual clamor, is a beautiful quiet collection of early table-size George Rickey’s at the Maxwell Davidson Gallery. The gallery is presenting a historical survey of the early sculptures of George Rickey. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Rickey made as few as ten sculptures a year as he developed his signature works. These delicately balanced, twisting and moving forms are animated by the smallest of breezes or human breath. These extremely rare sculptures reflect the engineering feat seen in the 24-foot Rickey sculpture outside the Center Club at Segerstrom Center for the Arts where a gentle wind can magically move large sections of steel.

photo by Bonnie Rchylakphoto by Bonnie Rychlak

George Rickey ca. 1950-1960s Titles not known at Maxwell Davidson Gallery Booth S4

Bill Viola, a Long Beach based and internationally acclaimed video artist draws crowds to the James Cohan Gallery, Booth E8 where his mysterious and emotionally charged video performances create bottlenecks along the pathways connecting the booths in the Miami Convention Center. In another venue at the nearby Mana Wynwood, a live performance created by Viola was staged on November 29 accompanied by the PhillarMIA Orchestra, delighting and mesmerizing the vast audience.

The Encounter, 2012 Bill Viola

During the fair dates from November 29 to December 4, private art collections are made available for viewing, some only to VIP collectors and others to the general public. Housed in warehouses in the Wynwood Arts District, an area across Biscayne Bay from Miami Beach, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 2002 by Ella Fontanals-Cisneros and her family, supports artists who are exploring new directions in contemporary art. Also in the Wynwood area is The Rubell Family Collection that was established in New York City in 1964 and opened in the Miami area in 1993. It is now one of the largest privately owned contemporary art collections in Florida. During Art Basel Miami, the Collection is featuring many Latin American artists.

Two new additions to this area are the De La Cruz Collection and the Girls Club, an alternative space collecting and exhibiting work primarily of women artists. However, one of the most remarkable spaces continues to be The Martin Margulies Foundation. Margulies, a real estate developer and celebrated art collector, retro-fitted a 45,000 warehouse space in the Wynwood area to display his decades of collecting. Margulies has one of the largest private collections of work by Isamu Noguchi, the creator of California Scenario in Costa Mesa that was commissioned by Henry T. Segerstrom in 1980. The Foundation is currently showing one of Noguchi’s more controversial sculptures, Man, sited next to an early prop-piece by Richard Serra, another artist commissioned by Henry Segerstrom to construct Connector, the 65-foot high brushed steel sculpture outside the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Sculpture by Isamu Noguchi - Image by Bonnie Rychlak
Man, 1978 Isamu Noguchi

It seems as though art fairs are now staged in every major city in the world. Miami is certainly the best in the U.S., filled with more visual excitement and cultural vibrancy than any others. Perhaps it is the Latin component as well as the climate that is such an integral part of the social fabric of Miami.  This spirited culture from the various communities fills every square inch of Miami with music, dancing, beautiful people, and flowing Margaritas. After all the fairs have closed for the evening, there is still more to do as more parties begin to celebrate art, culture, food, and a passionate zest for life. In this city where it’s never cold, always sunny, constantly offering visual pleasures and intellectual engagement, joy and art are at everyone’s’ fingertips.

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Bonnie Rychlak
Bonnie Rychlak

Bonnie Rychlak is an artist, curator and museum consultant. She is the former curator and studio assistant for Isamu Noguchi, his museum, and foundation. As an artist, Rychlak has presented her work in numerous solo and group exhibitions. She received a grant from National Endowment for the Visual Arts, a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation at the Bellagio Study Center, and The Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome. Most recently she received a residency at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy.

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