By Sandra Schulman
While the main Art Basel Miami Beach fair had more booths than ever last week and reported strong sales despite some VIP preview glitches, the city hosted movie stars and art stars and fashion stars all drawn by the big money art world.
Yes, art is the draw, but the real fun is sometimes the oddball people that drop into this glittering bubble.
At Art Miami, it was a surprise to see Gloria Steinem, the pioneering women’s rights advocate. The artist Max-Steven Grossman went to her home in NYC to photograph her extensive personal book collection — a “shelfie” of the first degree.
The resulting photo art highlights Gloria’s work in activism, feminism, and human rights. Steinem and the artist hosted a meet-and-greet to and see their resulting bookscape collaboration. It was a fundraiser for Gloria’s Foundation, whose goal is to support and nurture the feminist movement.
On the other end of the female political spectrum, feminist performance art collective Pussy Riot performed at ICA in the Design District.
These gulag gals made international headlines in 2012 when the members were arrested and imprisoned for protesting the re-election of Russian President Vladimir Putin. With more to protest now, the band, initially known for playing lo-fi punk rock and impromptu protest popups, they eventually started touring internationally with music that leans to left-field pop, dance, and hip-hop.
Wearing corsets, fishnet tights and face-covering hoods, the band nearly incited a riot as the crowd formed a mosh pit, likely a first at the gleaming white high-end museum.
Over on the actual beach, Danish artist Jeppe Hein, who has a permanent interactive fountain at The Square in West Palm Beach, placed a Maison Ruinart Champagne Beach art lounge called Right Here, Right Now that allowed visitors to lie back and meditate on what it all means.
The dome-like installation had mirrored surfaces and words written on them. As an experiential art piece, it was also a mindful escape to unwind and enjoy during the frenzy of the fairs.
In a clever way to showcase Miami artists, the 2022 edition of No Vacancy, Miami Beach was a juried art competition that gave $10,000 to 12 artists to create work for 12 South Beach deco hotels, most in walking distance with a free trolley service that zips around to all of them.
It’s a double visual delight, as the swanky hotels provide a glam backdrop for the art. This year was the largest to date. Artists were drawn from a call and selected by the City of Miami Beach Art in Public Places Committee, Cultural Arts Council (CAC) and Miam Beach Visitor Association.
One of the artists, Sri Prabha, a multidisciplinary artist who taps into geography, nature, time, human origins, took over The Betsy Hotel’s art alley between the hotels two buildings and its permanent egg-shaped white orb wedged in between them.
As a perfect elliptical screen, Prahba unveiled his projections on the Orb and the walls down the alley. The cosmos, astronauts, albino alligators, deep black space, and the deep blue sea whirl in a kaleidoscope of images he creates on computers. Psychedelic and hypnotic, it ran on a loop starting at dusk (see installation videos at his website here).
Jessy Nite, a multidisciplinary artist, made words dance with sunlight at the Avalon Hotel by placing cutout letters atop the building’s roof. As the sun moved along the day, the words followed, and the shadows and reflections created a new kind of poetry.
Big news over in Wynwood Walls was the newly updated mural by Shepard Fairey, the former skate punk turned international street art star. Fairey became known for his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” sticker while attending the Rhode Island School of Design. He became widely known during the 2008 presidential election for his Barack Obama “Hope” poster that appropriated another photographer’s image.
His work is in the collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and many more.
His mural of famous faces has been there since day one. He and his crew came in and redid the whole long wall in a few days.
Fairey said on social media: “I had no idea how much of a cultural force the Wynwood Walls specifically, and the Wynwood neighborhood generally, would become, so I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve been able to use this amazing wall 3 times in the company of some of the world’s greatest artists. My new mural ‘The Future Starts Now’ pays homage to Nelson Mandela, Amanda Nguyen, Frida Khalo, Desmond Tutu, Barbara Kruger, Keith Haring, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, as well as Wynwood Walls creator, Tony Goldman, who passed away 10 years ago.”
Homegirl Jenny Perez, who has a studio at the Strata Wynwood building, had a show of new work at Scope Fair. Using handmade organic shaped stretched canvases, the new work shone with the colors of elements — metals and minerals — to create an earthly body of work.
As a world stage for some of the best and brightest, Miami’s Art Week delivered this year, from the grit of Wynwood to the billion-dollar sandbar.