The 15th annual Art Basel at Miami Beach came to a close on Sunday. It featured nearly 300 galleries from 29 countries in just five days. Commonly the art market’s largest week of activity, Art Basel faced uncertainty in sales due to slowed growth in art markets, the U.S. presidential election, Brexit, and the presence of Zika in Miami. Although the halls of the Miami Beach Convention Center were reportedly less crowded, dealers reported steady business. In times of political uncertainty, writer Alexander Forbes for artsy.net explains that it will take some time for any Trump or Brexit inspired policies to be enacted, and even more time after that to take effect on the art market. Even then, their interaction with the art market will be unpredictable. Galleries with diverse programs and international involvement will fare well. Of course, Art Basel witnessed a small shift toward directly political artworks, due to the current political and economic conditions weighing heavily on artists and dealers alike.
The sculpture park featured Glenn Kaino’s “Invisible Man” (2016) as a centerpiece. The aluminum figure stands on a large concrete plinth. From behind, the figure is rendered in full textural detail portraying a man surrendering with his arms up. The front half of the sculpture is sheared off into a flat, mirrored plane. Since the the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture has become an iconic protest.
Paintings, films, sculptures, photographs, installations, and performances from around the globe filled Miami. Hyperallergic’s Rob Colvin details a plethora of paintings from international contemporary artists in the article, “Painting According to Art Basel Miami Beach.” Art Basel featured surrealist, Leonor Fini’s “Chthonian Deity Watching over the Sleep of a Young Man” (1946), which was created at a time when female artists weren’t really supposed to depict men in relaxed or vulnerable poses.
On the other end of the painting spectrum, Katherine Bernhardt’s explosive “Untitled” (2016) is very street art inspired, rendered in spray paint and acrylic. “Light Landscape 2” (2016), by seasoned Art Basel Painter Alex Katz is one of, if not, the largest paintings exhibited.
Over the course of 15 years, Art Basel in Miami has doubled its size and witnessed the formation of hundreds of satellite fairs. The number of galleries in Miami has increased from 6 in 2002 to over 130 today.