Five Trends We Spotted at Art Basel Miami Beach

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The Playmate, 2012© Richard Prince, Courtesy of Carolina Nitsch

Fresh out of Florida's annual exuberant art fair, we examine five of the themes that cropped up over and over again

Every year during the first week of December the USA presents its annual installment of Art Basel; the international art fair also hosted in Hong Kong and its namesake birthplace, Basel, in Switzerland. The Miami Beach edition of Art Basel has grown to host over 25 satellite fairs, non-stop parties, receptions, exhibitions, and pop-ups, but within the chaos throughout South Beach and Miami proper, its convention centre hosted 269 galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

There was no shortage of variety on display: from large-scale installations in nearby Collins Park and SoundScape Park, to films, performances, photography, sculptures and paintings – and not to mention an alligator eating pasta. Having combed the fair booth by booth, AnOther came across five recurring trends, illustrated here for your viewing pleasure.

Socially Conscious

Fittingly, for the US edition of Art Basel, many artists showed work directly relevant to America’s political, social, and racial tension. Directly in front of one of the many entrances, for example, sat Sam Durant’s nearly 12-foot-tall red electric sign emblazoned with aptly large handwritten text, reading, "END WHITE Supremacy”. Nearby, similar pieces from his collection stated, “LANDSCAPE ART IS GOOD ONLY WHEN IT SHOWS THE OPPRESSOR HANGING FROM A TREE BY HIS MOTHERF*CKING NECK”, alongside a mirror also spray-painted “End White Supremacy”.

At New York’s Real Fine Arts Gallery booth, Maggie Lee’s piece was strung up from the ceiling and jtied to the floor, with a cardboard cutout heart which read “FUCK THIS GOVERNMENT”. Rodney McMillian, on the other hand, showed a piece embroidered on burlap which read as a first-person account from a US veteran who was arrested in the 1960s for marijuana possession and thereby lost his right to vote. Shot in 1964, Pete Moore’s black and white photo featured a man on a New York street wearing a sign reading “New York is a summer police state”. And, in reference to recent events, Robert Londo showed a 12-foot-tall image taken this year, of the Los Angeles Rams walking together with hands raised – a poignant reference to the refrain “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”.


It seems that the fashion industry isn’t the only one in which an obsession with 'Tumblr pink' is proving unlikely to let up. Booth after booth displayed large-scale, predominantly pink pieces at Art Basel Miami Beach; from Clare Rojas, Dirk Bell and Erwin Wurm to Ettore Spalletti and Rita Ackermann (whose piece is entitled Pink Throw Up), we saw artwork in 50 shades of bubblegum. In addition to the variety of pink paintings, Jürgen Klauke showed a series of nine photos in a pink room on a pink couch fit for Barbie, and Abraham Cruzvillegas exhibited a collection of pink paper goods, from paper bags to folders and envelopes, at Thomas Dane Gallery. Even Wong Ping’s multimedia presentation was outfitted with a pink shag carpet.

Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasies

Kanye West has a long-established tradition of commissioning seasoned artists to create his album artwork – one that has continued with the release of his fifth solo studio album, The Life of Pablo, whose cover was created by Peter De Potter. Following Takashi Murakami's artwork for Graduation, and KAWS' (who also had work at the fair) for 808s & Heartbreaks, West had George Condo do the artwork for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – and we saw multiple pieces from West-favoured artists throughout the fair. Collaborator Vanessa Beecroft had a ten-foot-tall painting of a nude woman in high heels, while Condo’s paintings shown were in multiple galleries’ spaces throughout the fair – as well as in London’s Simon Lee Gallery’s office.

Negative Space

Throughout the fair multiple works had something of an unnatural focal point: negative space. In pieces where the subjects were predominantly people, where one might expect to see a face or body, there was nothing. We saw this in multiple galleries; from Pieter Schoolwerth and John Baldessari - to Mel Bochner’s Imagine This Area Blue.

Visual Music

There were multiple works at the fair which included, or were created with, elements pertaining to popular music. Tom Sachs had a wooden version of Frank Ocean’s debut album Channel Orange on display, while Richard Prince’s series of photos entitled The Playmate, features photos of a nude playmate thoughtfully censored by the stickers removed from CD cases from albums from Fleetwood Mac, Curtis Mayfield and The Smiths. The final piece we saw exemplifying this theme was from Suzanne McClelland and entirely dedicated to Eminem; entitled Eminem 215.000.000.XX -- Net Worth.