LA goes to Art Basel Miami Beach

 

Over three hundred galleries from all across the globe came together under one (giant) roof to present its more valuable assets. If you managed to wait in line for a considerable amount of time, and zig-zagged between masses of thousands of people, you could have stood inches away from modern and contemporary masterpieces, like the $35M Calder mobile, right by the entrance, at Nahmad Gallery; or one of its dozen of Picassos. Among hundreds of different cities, Los Angeles was fairly good represented with over 15 of its more prominent galleries, spread around the 8 main hallways of the fair. 

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On the Edition section of the fair (12 leading publishers of editioned works, prints and multiples exhibit the results of their collaboration with renowned artists), Gemini G.E.L. showcased a ‘sample sale’ of its main artists, in a very traditionally set booth. Roy Lichtenstein, Sophie Calle, Chuck Close and Richard Serra are just a few of their big-names artists with editions for sale. In the same hallway, Gavlak struggled to keep its black vinyl punch-bag intact while a sea of tourists felt ‘compelled’ to touch the work. On the third day of the fair, they had to put a tape and an improvised ‘do not touch’ handwritten sign to keep hands away. On the back wall, a very selfie-inviting piece by Rob Wynne attracted vain visitors.

Susanne Vielmetter gallery had a very prominent booth space featuring a selection of a number of artists they represent, with no apparent coherence among them. Just as Gemini, and many others, they used the space almost as a sample sale of its more popular artists. A couple of Whitney Bedford’s seascapes canvas shared the space with Dan Levenson’s stacked canvas on the corner; Stanya Kahn’s “Fuck this shit up”; a large Raffi Kalenderian canvas; and several Ryan Mosley pieces. Even though they were showcased with adequate wall space between them, you could clearly see the total lack of connection among styles.

 

team gallery, on the other hand, opted to fill its corner both with a  very clever Miami-like show; bringing together large-scale colourful works by Robert Janitz, Stanley Whitney, a Ryan McGinley photograph and a video installation by Tabor Robak. Cory Arcangel’s works where displayed in vertical television screens spread throughout the booth, in a similar choice of Cherry and Martin’s artist, Brian Bress. Placed in the Nova sector of the fair (34 galleries present works created by one, two or three of their artists. This sector often features pieces fresh from the artist’s studio and strongly curatorial juxtapositions) , by the crazy-and-loud booth of São Paulo-based Mendes Wood DM, they brought nine tv-screens with Bress’ work. Overall, the display was very simple, yet aesthetically impeccable - definitely one of my favorites.


David Kordansky played safe at this ABMB and ended up with a pretty boring booth. Even though they had some very contemporary (and stunning) mixed-medium pieces - like Mary Weatherford Canyon and Elad Lassary’s Untitled (Tea Set),  they opted for a very traditional display, with plinths and few works hanging, that was a completely turn-off for visitors.

Kohn Gallery also preferred to stick with what they know, and presented immaculate pieces by Lita Albuquerque and Simmons & Burke, in a pristine (but easily forgettable) setting.


Kordansky’s fair-neighbours, Blum & Poe, left everybody unimpressed too. With dull pieces that didn’t really worked together, and the predictable white-cube look, the best thing to see at the booth was definitely their furniture.


A nice surprise - and a great contrast to B&P - was Gavin Brown, placed right across the corridor. The color-scheme of the booth resembled the Miami-look chosen by team, but the pieces were nothing alike. Featured in one of the special The Art Newspaper’s edition distributed throughout the fair, Bjarne Melgaard large, loud and bright canvas were balanced down by  Martin Creed’s geometrical abstract canvas. On the corner of the booth, the Creed’s Instagram-sensation neon-sculpture kept tiresly turning, painting the white corner green.

 

Regen Projects had it’s ‘Instragrammable’ gems too: Doug Aitken’s EXIT, and Walead Beshty’s shiny copper piece, in a corner. In the show-room style, the gallery opted for bringing a-little-bit-of-everything. Visually, they didn’t quite work as a ‘group show’, but pieces like Gabriel Kuri’s self portrait as symmetrical ripple effect in distribution loop, 2014 and Tillmans’ selection of photographs were absolutely worth the visit.

Talking about stars, Gagosian did what they do best: brag. A Jeff Koons lobster, a Basquiat canvas, some Andy Warhol pieces… No news there. If you wanted novelty, though, the booths on the Positions (16 galleries spotlight a single artist with one exciting project, allowing visitors to discover ambitious new talents from all over the globe) sector of ABMB stole the show - that is, if you actually managed to reach the corner they were located, which was not at all an easy task. Freedman Fitzpatrick  brought a series of Lucie Stahl’s photographs - surely beautiful, but not really a show-stopper. Honor Fraser, on the other hand, even with one of the tiniest booths of the whole fair, managed to squeeze two amazing large scale paintings by Botswana-born artist Meleko Mokgosi, being hands-down one of my favorites from ABMB.

Overall, we could divide the galleries into two main categories: curatorial projects vs. sample-sales. While some thought it was best to use the fair  as a show-room of their best artists - and install the works randomly across their booths - others, cleverly, brought ‘curated’ shows, presenting visually-stimulating and educative narratives. Kuddos for Cherry and Martin, Honor Fraser, team and Gavin Brown for being daring enough to try something new and thoughtful, rather than the same-old dull shopping-mall experience.