By Sandra Schulman
At this time in December, Miami becomes the world center of the contemporary art world, with Art Basel holding center court in the newly expanded Miami Beach Convention Center, while the Art Miami and Context Fairs move to an impressive new location on Biscayne Bay where The Miami Herald once stood.
The new location is so fresh the concrete foundation was literally poured three weeks before the fair opens. Among the more interesting new artists showing at Art Miami will be Jason Newsted, the former bassist for Metallica, who is now a full-time artist and lives in Jupiter.
The explosion of the fairs has detonated an equally eventful series of art happenings outside of the main fairs. There are new museums to check out, gallery shows, and cutting-edge music events all converging on South Florida as it becomes the art world’s temporary capital:
The new Bass and ICA: The first museum out of the art gate is The Bass, which opened to the public in late October after a two-year renovation. The best thing about The Bass is its prime location on Collins Avenue with a straight-shot view of the Atlantic Ocean and the large park that serves as an eye-popping sculpture garden during Art Fair week.
With an expanded and more dynamic physical space The Bass also has a new visual identity including name – just The Bass from now on. Eternity Now, by Sylvie Fleur, a neon sign, graces the top of the entryway. At a press preview, I discovered the space has been totally transformed. I had been going to The Bass since 1986, when it was a limestone building filled with creaky paintings and art from the masters like Botticelli and lots of religious gold-leaf statues.
Now the architects have totally blown out the building behind the façade, pushing back and up to expand to over 12,800 square feet of exhibition space that encompasses four large galleries, a café, a small bookstore and a new enclosed courtyard for special events.
The lobby is now sleek and clean, with a welcoming installation right up front. It’s literally a welcoming installation as it is composed of dozens of LED signs that say “Welcome” in as many languages. The art is by Pasquale Marthine Tayou and is called Welcome Wall.
Upstairs is given over to the main art man of the moment, Ugo Rondinone, whose enormous Miami Mountain sculpture of stacked colored boulders has been holding its own in the sculpture park near Collins Avenue since last year. Rondinone has three installations here – a room of mirrored windows on white washed tearsheets from the Miami Herald called clockwork for oracies II; a huge gallery filled with sad, reclining lifesize clowns called good evening beautiful blue; and an enchanting neon-blue gallery with six large looping videos playing to a haunting soundtrack. A narrative forms depending on which video you start watching first.
Collins Park in front of The Bass will have 11 new site-specific sculpture installations for the week called Territorial, curated by Philipp Kaiser, who notes “Since time immemorial, sculpture has been territorial, commanding and authoritarian. Even when sculpture is presented with the utmost restraint and elegance, it asserts its own physical space that we inevitably must share with it.”
The works selected address this aspect of sculpture as the pieces claim space or territory through size, scale, intensity and sound, among other artistic practices.
The Institute of Contemporary Art opened its new permanent home in the Design District at 61 N.E. 41st St. on Dec. 1. The first exhibition, The Everywhere Studio, includes 100 works by more than 50 artists — along with some special commissions by Charles Gaines, Mark Handforth and Chris Ofili. Also on display will be a large-scale work by the Puerto Rican team of (Jennifer) Allora and (Guillermo) Calzadilla titled Unspecified Promise, made from a Caterpillar tractor and a 55-ton black granite boulder.
ICA’s director is Ellen Salpeter, formerly of New York’s Jewish Museum, and its deputy director and chief curator is Alex Gartenfeld. The ICA formed when MOCA in North Miami found its board splitting with a majority of the permanent collection. Salpeter said in a statement that “the new ICA Miami enables us to deepen our relationship with audiences of all ages and backgrounds from throughout South Florida — and, with a rigorous, thought-provoking program and expanded exhibition spaces, it ensures that Miami will continue to be at the forefront of the discussion on contemporary art at the national and international levels.”
RxArt at The Webster: An interesting project with international artists that converges several worlds happens over at the historical Art Deco building designed in 1939 by famed architect Henry Hohauser – The Webster. This Deco jewel on Ocean Drive will host the debut of a benefit exhibit and coloring book by big-name artists that benefits children’s hospitals called RXArt.
The newest edition of RxArt’s coloring book, Between the Lines: An RxArt Coloring Book by Contemporary Artists, Volume 6, features works by 51 contemporary artists and an original cover and stickers by Njideka Akunyili Crosby. The coloring book is produced biennially as a gift to pediatric patients in hospitals nationwide. Volume 6 was sponsored by design house Sies Marjan.
RxArt is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help children heal through the power of visual art. In addition to the books, they commission exceptional contemporary artists such as Marilyn Minter and Dan Colen to transform sterile health-care facilities into engaging and inspiring environments full of beauty, humor and comfort. One of the new artworks on display will be by Walter Robinson, the Pictures Generation ambassador, who has recently shown in Switzerland and at Deitch Projects in New York. The benefit event is Dec. 6 from 3 to 5 p.m. at The Webster.
Swampspace Art and Club Culture: Cutting-edge art and literature is feted over at hipster gallery/clubhouse Swampspace where a show by Kiki Valdes called The Drawing Chronicles is running through Jan. 1.
The recent works of Valdes are a “maniacal storm” of ink on paper. The drawings are delicate but aggressive compositions of comedic abstractions and figurative narrations of the artist’s frequent dreams. Valdes appropriates art history themes of the ethereal muse, captivating love triangles, social angst and piercing anguish.
“The world is at an eclipse of nuclear chaos and personal communication has been replaced by smartphones and dating apps. Love has lost its old feeling. My drawings are in search of love. The world is crazy and I just want to feel 15 again, to have butterflies and to draw comic books. I feel that’s why I’ve engulfed myself back into drawing. For me, it’s how it all started,” Valdes says.
Wynwood: Wynwood is ever-changing with new street art and music events. During Art Fair Week they’ve tapped far-out songstress Bjork to DJ Dec. 5 for an event produced by III Points at Mana Wynwood. Also ready to throw down a party is Wu-Tang Clan at Mana Wynwood on Dec. 9.
The main attraction in Wynwood is Wynwood Walls, the famed epicenter of the Wynwood Arts District. This year’s theme is “humanKIND” for Art Basel Miami Art Week. Goldman Properties will be unveiling 12 new murals on its revolving art walls aligning with sculptural installations tied to “humankind.” Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties and Goldman Global Arts, has hand-selected and curated a diverse roster of talent to continuously transform the Wynwood Art District.
“Art Basel Miami is an opportunity to showcase visionary works from elite artists that provide Wynwood visitors, who come to us from all around the world, with a unique, global experience,” said Goldman Srebnick. “The world needs an infusion of kindness more than ever. If we can inspire people to act with kindness towards one another, then we can accomplish our goal of not only promoting creativity, but also inspiring action.”
Artists that will take part in Wynwood Walls’ Art Basel Program include: Seth Globepainter (France), Joe Iurato (USA), Leon Keer (Amsterdam), Tristan Eaton (USA), Lady Pink (USA), eL Seed (France), 2SHY (France), Audrey Kawasaki (USA), Bordalo II (Portugal), Pro176 (France), Risk (USA) and Martin Watson (Norway).