Miami Art Basel 2011

| December 23rd, 2011, 5:27 PM

Lynn Zelevansky, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art, sent me this about her recent trip to Miami Art Basel to share with you:

It’s always fun to be in Miami Beach—the sun, the ocean, the glistening white buildings. As a gateway to Latin America, Miami has become a cosmopolitan, world city.

Major art fairs like Art Basel Miami Beach are huge marketplaces where browsing, making lists, seeing trends, and buying works are all possible. For me, they are as much about seeing people as seeing art. They allow me to reconnect with collectors, gallerists, colleagues, even artists, although unless they have a specific reason to be there—an opening, a performance, or a talk—most steer clear of the fairs, preferring to avoid the selling of their pieces. Having done a lot of work in Latin America over the years, I particularly enjoy the Miami fair because it provides a great opportunity to meet friends and associates from Mexico and South America. The fair’s reach is global, though, and it is as possible to run into people from Poland or Korea as from North or South America.

Over the years, a series of smaller, satellite fairs have grown up around the bigger ones. They often (but not always) involve younger galleries and lesser-known artists. In Miami, several people told me that they preferred these auxiliary fairs to the main event. Because they are smaller, they provide more mental space in which to consider the art. They also offer cheaper alternatives to the main fairs. Works that can be bought for a few thousand dollars are plentiful at the Nada or Pulse Fairs and rare at Miami–Basel proper.

The contemporary curators and I have been circumspect in our spending lately in an effort to save for work by artists represented in the next International because buying out of that show is our mandate. At the Nada Fair, however (held uptown from the clamor of South Beach at the old Deauville Hotel), we were sorely tempted by a remarkable portfolio of photo-lithographs from the 1960s by the highly influential German mid-century artist, Sigmar Polke. It is rare to find a key work by an important figure (who we already represent with a significant painting) at anything like an affordable price.

Appropriate to the environs in which we discovered the work, several of the prints picture make-shift palm trees that the artist constructed in his studio: “Polke as Palm,” “Glove Palm,” “Button Palm,”…

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