Art Basel Miami Beach Preview: What to Expect During December's Art Fair Madness

Art Basel Miami Beach Preview: What to Expect During December's Art Fair Madness
Peter Freeman booth at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2011
(Courtesy Art Basel Miami Beach)

If the works presented at America’s most visible fair reflect art world attitudes, then Barbara Kruger’s 2012 painting bearing the words “Money Hungry” at the Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) booth of Mary Boone Gallery could suggest a growing ambivalence toward the profusion of art fairs.

Though facing increased global competition, ABMB “remains the main American fair,” says Timothy Blum, of Blum & Poe in Los Angeles. The hordes will descend on the Miami Beach Convention Center December 6 through 9.

More than 680 galleries competed for 257 coveted slots in the 11th edition. But beyond tweaking the roster, organizers avoided making major changes, perhaps reserving their energies for the forthcoming Art Basel Hong Kong in May. “This year is more of a fine-tuning year,” says co-director Marc Spiegler.

Several galleries are opting for a bigger-is-better strategy, stocking their booths with large-scale sculptures and architectural works. Galerie Lelong will feature Cildo Meireles’s Canto #1B, 1967–2011, a freestanding corner with a puddle of pink paint oozing onto the floor, that is priced in the seven figures.

In the Art Nova section, which offers young galleries the chance to present works made within the last three years, first-time exhibitor Eleven Rivington, of New York, will show a series of sculptures by Iceland’s 2013 Venice Biennale rep, Katrin Sigurdardottir, based on her childhood home ($30–35,000). In the Art Positions section of solo presentations from 16 younger dealers, Colombian artist Leyla Cárdenas will reconstruct an apartment from historical fragments in the booth of Bogotá’s Galeria Casas Riegner.

Of course, blue-chip contemporary and modern masters are in ample supply, particularly now-canonical 1980s names like Keith Haring and Kruger, who will have a presence not only at Mary Boone but also at Sprüth Magers, of London and Berlin.

While the perception of the fair has changed in recent years as it has become a magnet for parties and fashion events — “There is a certain group of people who come down to Miami for the week and never enter the hall,” admits Spiegler — dealers are betting on its continued relevance. “Coming in December is a regular part of people’s calendars,” says Blum. “I think people will continue to set those four days aside.” Still, the growing importance of art fairs to dealers’ bottom lines is not without its downside, cautions New York dealer Miguel Abreu. “Art fairs privilege a special kind of art to the exclusion of others, which might end up being the most important art of our time.” Despite such concerns, Abreu will be making the journey south, bringing work by R.H. Quaytman, Liz Deschenes, and others. Fairs, he concedes, “are very good for business.”

To see all our Miami 2012 coverage, click here.

This article was published in the November 2012 issue of Art+Auction.