Venus Over Manhattan’s Peter Saul presents a timely painting from 1996, entitled Art Critic Suicide. In Saul’s typical form, which is best described as a melted combination of Pop Art and Surrealism, he depicts the late art critics Peter Schjedahl and Hilton Kramer. Saul actually made this work in response to their negative reviews of his art. The two-headed satirical portrait of the two critics is adorned with comical blood spurts, injections with label of what art is, and captions, one which states, “Too stupid to look at pictures they think about art.” These overlapping, cartoonish figures are juiced up with a manic palette, chaos, and violence. Though his message seems harsh, it underscores the ever-importance of the relationship between artist and critic, and how much Schjedahl and Kramers’ engagement meant to Saul and his work.
For its twentieth edition, Art Basel Miami Beach has nearly 300 galleries participating from all over the world, including twenty-six first-time participants. It will be the largest showing to date. The fair, known for its flashy and sometimes shallow atmosphere, with its famous and scene-y VIPs (Venus Williams and Sylvester Stallone have already been spotted at the VIP opening), may not be the most conducive place to contemplate art. But, if you happen to find yourself in Miami with a ticket, here are the booths that we suggest you check out.
David Zwirner’s booth this year features all the regulars in their roster: Cy Twombly, Yayoi Kusama, Alice Neel, and Lisa Yuskavage. But a stand out is the Kerry James Marshall work on view, Untitled (Blot) is from his 2015 series of ink blots. This large-scale canvas is filled with abstract markings of whites and grays with hints of technicolor. This series is a departure from his usual oeuvre of large paintings that portray African Americans and deal with issues of identity and individualism. On the surface, this blot work does not seem to go along with that messaging. But this single abstract canvas underscores the delicate link between representation and the real world more generally. Fabrication and form to Marshall are always open to reinvention.
Also at Art Basel Miami Beach are a multitude of special exhibitions apart from the main fair. One such is the Kabinett sector, which Art Basel boasts as a “booth within a booth,” a section with 29 galleries from within the fair that offers concisely curated exhibitions. Hirschl & Adler Modern Gallery from New York presents a unique and exciting group of paintings by George Tooker (1920-2011). Tooker was an American figurative painter who is associated with magic realism and social realism. His subjects are depicted naturally as in a photograph, but by using ambiguous perspectives and flat tones, Tooker subverts reality. In his work at the fair, Stations of the Cross (1984), fourteen tiles form a pyramid depicting the passion of Christ by only showing his hands. The hands are like flashbacks, shown in various states – on the top right, two hands reach to the sky, while on the lower left a limp hand is nailed to the cross with blood dripping down.
In the Meridians section of the fair, six monumental installations, paintings, and performances are highlighted. One such exhibitor is Kavi Gupta Gallery, a Chicago-based gallery. Kavi Gupta’s mission is to amplify the voices of diverse and underrepresented artists, which is a nice and needed change in both the art world at large and especially in Miami’s art scene. For their Meridians section, they’ve installed Devan Shimoyama’s large-scale installation, “The Grove.” A jewel-encrusted sculptural quartet glitters in the center of the room. In form, they could be trees in a forest, or columns from an ancient temple, but in design, they are an explosion of campy colors and hold an excess of stuff at their stumps. These mismatched shoes and silk flowers are meant to reference community traditions of spontaneous memorials and offer a sense of somber reflection in the face of the divine crystal-covered trees.
The fair takes place at Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC), Miami Beach, Florida, USA. It is hosted over 500,000 square feet of exhibition space.