In and Out With the New
In and Out With the New
To a greater extent than its sister fair in Switzerland, Art BaselMiami Beach is known for an emphasis on edgier contemporary work. Togauge the market for emerging art this year, I spoke with severalAmerican dealers in the fair’s sections for young galleries, Nova andPositions, during the fair’s VIP preview.
In one of the fair’s most significant organizational changes, Positions, whichhas been “refocused to give young galleries with emerging artists aplatform for demonstrating their program's identity,” has been movedinside the convention center from its former location, in a set ofshipping containers on the beach. This reshuffling has resulted in someintriguing booth juxtapositions, such as the David and Goliathnext-door neighbors Gagosian, who has eight vast, architect-designedgalleries around the world, and James Fuentes, who has one modestlysized gallery on New York’s Lower East Side.
Fuentes’s booth is an energetic display of sculptures, one of themmechanized, by Agathe Snow. Behind these, a wall covering by Snowrepeats the word “Yes,” a message that may have subliminally promptedFuentes’s first client of the day, collector and dealer Asher Edelman,to spend $16,000 on one of Snow’s pieces, which featured a depiction ofthe head of cartoon character Homer Simpson.
Fuentes’s neighbors, both in Positions and on the Lower East Side, alsoreported a strong first day. “We’ve sold everything — and more,” saysMiguel Abreu, who parted with the handful of paintings he’d brought byPieter Schoolwerth — colorful, complex compositions that strike adelicate balance between abstraction and representation — for pricesranging from $14,000 to $30,000, and also sold works not shown at thefair. A few booths down, Rachel Uffner sold several pieces by SaraGreenberger Rafferty, who had a solo show at the gallery earlier thisfall.
Anchoring the booth of Chelsea gallery Wallspace is a trio of large,cube-shaped copper sculptures by Walead Beshty; “We had 10 people whowanted them,” says gallery co-owner Jane Hait. “But we only havethree.” Hait had done Positions twice when it was in the shippingcontainers, and much prefers being inside the convention center. Shesays many more people are seeing her booth this year, and she doesn’tmiss the raucous party atmosphere on the beach, where you had to keep acareful eye on your artworks. “People were getting drunk,” she recalls.“You kind of had to be an art policeman.”
Los Angeles gallery Cherry and Martin sold a large torn-canvas piece byAmanda Ross-Ho, with painted sections that recall the Color Fieldabstraction of Morris Louis, for $12,000, as well as two smaller piecesby Ross-Ho, for $2,000 apiece.
The Nova section, which is meant to highlight work created within the past two years, was also reorganized this year, such that all thebooths are clustered together in long aisles at one end of the fair, anarrangement that pleased some exhibitors, but left others missing thedays when these booths were dotted along the fair’s periphery, wherethey would have been closer to some of the heavy-hitter secondarymarket dealers.
By early afternoon, Javier Peres already had several reserves on neonworks by Dan Attoe, who’s doing a solo show with the dealer. In flashyhues, these pieces spell out brooding and cynical phrases like “I’mstealing your ideas,” and “We’re all here because we were too afraid todeal with problems in our real lives,” the latter a particularlypoignant message set against the glitter and distraction of an artfair. Perhaps out of confidence that, after the grim days of therecession, rays of light are appearing on the art market’s horizon,Peres brought slightly pricier work this year than he did last year,when he did a solo show of works by the late (but then very much alive)Dash Snow; the most expensive of the Attoes is $35,000.
Zach Feuer all but sold out his booth of paintings by Dana Schutz andvideo pieces by Nathalie Djurberg, and prices ranging from $45,000 to$100,000. One of the Schutz paintings went to real estate magnateArthur Zeckendorf, and another to German collector Ingvild Goetz, whohouses her holdings in her private museum in Munich, the GoetzCollection. A third Schutz canvas went to an individual Feuer wouldonly say is an American who works in finance.
Another New Yorker, Alexander Gray, brought modestly priced, spiritedphotographs by Lorraine O’Grady that capture an African American prideparade in Harlem in 1983. They are priced to sell at $2,500 apiece (ineditions of eight). “People are looking, but not pulling the triggerright away,” said Gray of the fair’s overall mood. “Which is good.”
A few booths down, Palm Beach dealer Sarah Gavlak was presiding overwhat has proved a very popular booth of pieces by Palm Beach artistPhillip Estlund, one of them a large sculpture made from variousmaterials shredded in a wood chipper, such as an old tarp. “I’ve foundthat collectors are heading over to Nova first,” says Gavlak. “Many ofthem seem to be thinking, ‘We can look at modern masters later.’”
New York dealer Daniel Reich sold a number of moody paintings by PaulP, including several that went to New York collectors Susan and MichaelHort. They ranged in price from $15,000 to 20,000. (The Horts could bespotted diligently making rounds of the booths, albeit a bit addled bythe new and expanded layout. “It’s too big,” said Michael Hort. “It’smaking me rush!”) Reich said he is also seeing collectors from Belgium,France, Germany, and England. “It’s been a pretty good first day,”Reich said. “Even if it’s not like it used to be, where the whole boothsells out in one day.”
A few dealers expressed concern that not all the exhibitors in Nova arequite up to snuff, and implied that the fair’s selection committee hadperhaps gone for geographical diversity over quality. One, who demandedabsolute anonymity, looked around, sniffed, and said, “It’s kindaScopey over here,” referencing the satellite fair for young galleriesthat is known to have high turnover among its exhibitors.
Work by emerging artists may not be flying off the walls at Art BaselMiami Beach, but it is selling steadily, and that bodes well for theNew Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) fair, which opens tomorrow at theDeauville Resort. “I’m looking forward to NADA,” says Michael Hort.“It’s going to be great.”