So I walk into a relatively quiet booth at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, intrigued by the photographs on display there. A gallery director wanders over, we discuss the merits of the works (quite smart actually, in this case), and never one to be shy about asking prices, I inquire and he tells me the works are $25000 each or $35000 or whatever they were, and I nod my head in general agreement. Then another staff member interjects “but they should have been $3 million” (since they were selling well), or “$4 million” the other responds jovially, at which point the first says “and if you leave the booth now and come back later, the price will be $500K higher” and we all laugh ha ha ha with joyously unsettling art fair cynicism. As I walked back out into the packed corridors, I couldn’t help but wonder at what these tradeshows of art are becoming.
I’ve visited half a dozen art fairs this year in search of superlative photography, and after yet another mile of booths, it’s hard not to get a bit jaded by the whole process. I’ve decided that art fairs pass over me in waves: one minute I’m truly energized by something I’ve found tucked away in some booth, the next my feet hurt and I’m glazed over by the visual assault of mediocre merchandise; it’s hard not to lose track of the art itself. Back and forth I go, a Jekyll and Hyde of good and bad, amazement and boredom, giddiness and manic looking. I visited ABMB this year on a Thursday, where the river of 1%ers and aggressive laser-focused art consultants was augmented by the masses – wide eyed tour groups with matching headsets, husband and wife teams, and gaggles of teens in various stages of tittering and gawking (the photo diptych of news anchor Katie Couric matched with Britney Spears’ bare crotch needed a discrete lookout to ward off the throngs of gigglers and Instagrammers). I felt more of a sense of the surreal as a wandered the warren of booths, each singing its siren song of the shiny and the neon.
Photography-wise, what was primarily to be found at this year’s ABMB fair was new work by name brand contemporary photographers, with splashes of high quality vintage material and imagery from international photographers less well known in the US hidden on the sides. If your goal was to find something hot off the presses, then you could take your pick of Struth, Esser, Höfer, Tillmans, Demand, Muniz, Maier-Aichen, Casebere, McGinley and many others; they were all displayed front and center, ready for purchase. If you wanted to find something a little more off the beaten track, there were a few surprises to be unearthed, but you had to work a whole lot harder to sift them out.
This report is divided into three parts, each a slideshow containing photographic highlights. For each image, the caption contains the gallery name (and link to its website), along with artist, price information and a few comments. The order roughly follows my path through the fair, starting to the left from Entrance B.
Galerie Kamel Mennour (here): A straight up look at the sky, framed by the looming walls of an apartment building and decorated with criss-crossing strands of laundry. Marie Bovo, priced at €20000.
Campoli Presti (here): From afar, this new work by Liz Deschenes looks like a perfectly flat mirror (thus the reflection in the image above). Up close, the surface is covered in nearly imperceptible gestural drips and washed swaths, revealing it to be a carefully controlled chemical experimentation. Priced at $36000.
Altman Siegel (here): This recent Shannon Ebner pegboard diptych was part of a larger thematic investigation of Yes/No that filled this booth. Priced at $28000.
Wallspace (here): The walls of this booth were dominated by the black spots of John Divola’s excellent Dark Star series. Priced at $13500 each.
Travesia Cuatro (here): Books launched into the air and then destroyed by shotgun fire, exploding into shards of fluttering paper. Gonzalo Lebrija, priced at $65000 for the set of 15 prints.
Galeria Leme (here): An exercise in constructed layering: begin with a found photograph, rework with tape, paint, and other materials, then scan and print large, with the original collage added on top. Mariana Mauricio, priced at $7000.
Untitled (here): Photographs mounted to wood blocks, then incorporated into a tightly interlocked, two dimensional wood sculpture. Phil Wagner, priced at $7500.
Max Wigram Gallery (here): And yet another layer of appropriation: Schmid cowboys appropriated by Prince appropriated by Jose Dávila and physically cut out. The erasure effect is compelling, upending both the contrived romance and the conceptual irony of the previous steps. Priced at $45000.
Reena Spaulings Fine Art (here): Film stills made systematic and mathematical, like a circuit diagram of everyday life. Stephen Willats, priced at $21000.
Standard (Oslo) (here): A series of riffs on image recontextualization and the erasure of meaning, including cut outs, blackouts, and fragments. Matias Faldbakken, the set of 9 images priced at €42000.
Blum & Poe (here): An incisive Linder nude and flower collage, scanned and printed large. Priced at £10000.
Blum & Poe (here): New work by Florian Maier-Aichen, a bright star-like splash on a transitional field of blue and orange, with a tiny rainbow colored geometric icon floating in the upper left hand corner. Priced at $60000 and already sold.
David Kordansky Gallery (here): Recent works from Elad Lassry, some with the sculptural silk pleats and wraps, others, like this one, interrupted by foil. Priced at $16000.
Long March Space (here): An urban landscape constructed entirely of shiny kitchen pots and utensils (in this case Chicago). Zhan Wang, priced at $18500 and already sold.
Galerie Mezzanin (here): Reflections in the fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, obscured by overpainted gesso, reaching out across the frame edge. Mandla Reuter, priced at $7400.
Bortolami Gallery (here): A bulletin board shrine to Charlotte Rampling, with a mirror on the bottom to reflect the viewer’s shoes. Tom Burr, priced at $40000 and already sold.
Andrew Kreps Gallery (here): A Roe Ethridge still life originally for Chanel but never used, with strange mirrored reflections, a broken meringue, and an intruding self portrait. In the back room, priced at $18000.
Lisson Gallery (here): New work from James Casebere, including this straight on beach shack. Priced at $40000.
Galleria Zero (here): A photographic image printed on plastic sheeting (almost rubberized), bent, folded, and allowed to sag into a sculptural form. Neil Beloufa, priced at €12000.
Casey Kaplan Gallery (here): More sculptural innovation: found imagery mounted to extra thick (likely 2-3 inches) Plexi, allowing the work to stand on the floor. Marlo Pascual, priced at $20000.
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art (here): An older Sabine Hornig work, full of layered reflections. Priced at €13000.
Galeria Vermelho (here): The slow drying and shriveling of leafy greens, printed on delicate rolls of Japanese rice paper. Lia Chaia, priced at $18000.
Parts 2 of this report can be found here.
Read more about: Elad Lassry, Florian Maier-Aichen, Gonzalo Lebrija, James Casebere, John Divola, Jose Dávila, Lia Chaia, Linder (Sterling), Liz Deschenes, Mandla Reuter, Mariana Mauricio, Marie Bovo, Marlo Pascual, Matias Faldbakken, Neil Beloufa, Phil Wagner, Roe Ethridge, Sabine Hornig, Shannon Ebner, Stephen Willats, Tom Burr, Zhan Wang, Altman Siegel Gallery, Andrew Kreps Gallery, Blum & Poe, Bortolami Gallery, Campoli Presti, Casey Kaplan Gallery, Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, David Kordansky Gallery, Galeria Leme, Galeria Vermelho, Galerie Kamel Mennour, Galerie Mezzanin, Galleria Zero, Lisson Gallery, Long March Space, Max Wigram Gallery, Reena Spaulings Fine Art, Standard (Oslo), Travesia Cuatro, Untitled, Wallspace, Art Basel Miami Beach