Miami Art Basel 2021
It took us a few days to digest this week spent in Miami for the Art Basel fair. Did we get everything right? Did we miss the essential? How come we didn't feel the universal enthusiasm of our peers? No "wow" or "amazing" from our side for this edition's "main fair" under the palm trees and concrete. In 2019 we wrote on the occasion of another famous fair: "We have fun instagramming the instagrammers who instagram in front of the paintings, a bigoted mise en abîme that leaves us wondering. How far does catharsis go if we only look at a painting through the prism of its 'story'? Do we have time to interpret, to analyze, to understand when we rush to post a square picture? Does the crowd that rushes in front of Kathleen Ryan's sparkling and gem-studded lemons only see the rot eating the fruit? Yes, appearances can be deceiving... One wonders how long this art market that sells a banana taped to a wall for $120,000 (Maurizio Cattelan at Art Basel Miami 2019) will last, and how far it will go." You would have thought that two years and a pandemic later, things might have changed, but no. Absolutely not. It seems that nothing stops the madness anymore... Cargos and planes are chartered by European gallerists to transport works that will be bought by other Europeans who could have made this transaction without spending four tons of CO2 on top of their millions of euros. But of course, it's better not to think about it too much and to reassure ourselves as we can: "it's important not to lose the social link", "it's more beautiful in real life than on Insta" or "it's been two years since we travelled!
Once reassured (and unmasked) we don't know where to turn and everything gets mixed up: we are told about the Vuitton show in homage to Virgil Abloh, about the last nineteen-year-old crypto-boy who gives a lecture and his wise advice on how to acquire NFTs, we are offered a vernissage/sale of handbags, but all of this of course is impossible without the Power of the Sacred Seal: our name on a guest-list.
Behind all this plastic, superficiality and, it must be said, speculative bullshit, a few nuggets emerge. Independent galleries that break down doors and do nothing like everyone else (JTT NYC, the Hole, Sorry We're Closed, Superzoom), exciting fairs like NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) where we would dream of hanging everything in our living room (we love the artist Claudia Keep and her small formats, a kind of poetic simplicity that feels good). The beautiful part is made to the figuration with artists-women superstars as Issy Wood or Louise Gagliardi. We also discover a real representation of black artists, Afro-American or from the African diaspora. Among them Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, a Ghanaian artist residing in 2021 at the Rubell's, but also Danielle Mckinney and her suave and smoky paintings, we remain speechless in front of Kennedy Yanko's monumental sculptures and Reginald O'Neal's large formats full of meaning. There is beauty, but as is often the case, one must leave the well-trodden paths and know how to look where no one stops.
Perhaps such chaos, such a fair, is also necessary to appreciate even more the young emerging talents (artists as well as gallery owners). Let's just hope that this future generation will be able to emancipate itself from the outdated codes of the contemporary art world and this very tired fair.