Contemporary art mixed with fun in the sun and around-the-clock partying and socializing is blissfully back in Miami Beach. Presenting 277 leading galleries from 34 countries and territories, Art Basel Miami Beach returns to the Miami Beach Convention Center from December 8 to 10, 2023, with VIP preview days on December 6 and 7.
“Having led our Miami Beach fair for six years as Director, Americas, I know first-hand the galvanizing role our show plays within the creative ecosystem of Miami, the broader region, and the global arts community,” Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz shared with Art & Object. “Art Basel Miami Beach continues to exceed expectations year after year, in the quality and range of the art on view, and in the singularly magnetic experience within and beyond the halls which continues to attract both established and entirely new audiences and bring out the best of the local cultural scene each December.”
The 2023 edition of the fair offers the best in contemporary art in specific sectors. The Galleries section presents works from the world's leading established galleries; Kabinett highlights galleries showcasing curated installations within their main booths; Positions features young galleries showcasing ambitious solo presentations by emerging voices; Nova has exhibitors with new works by up to three artists; Survey is dedicated to galleries displaying artistic practices of historical relevance; and Meridians hosts thought-provoking projects, including new and site-specific works with a focus on new perspectives on how we collectively inhabit our planet.
Art & Object has selected 10 works by artists, who we think are worth following and collecting, from the various sectors. Please scroll through to see our choices of the best artworks at this year’s fair.
A Los Angeles-based artist of Japanese and Mexican descent, Shizu Saldamando is interested in social constructs and subcultures seen through backyard parties, dance clubs, concerts and art receptions. Documenting humdrum social moments as a way to glorify everyday people, she paints mixed-media portraits on wood that celebrate marginalized people, friends and peers. Exhibiting regularly since earning her MFA from Cal Arts in 2005, Saldamando has a dynamic solo show, titled “Existir,” with Charlie James Gallery in the Nova section of the fair. In this hybrid collage painting, she compellingly captures the spirit of Young Joon Kwak, a fellow Los Angeles artist and lead performer in the drag-electronic-dance-noise band Xina Xurner.
Image caption: Shizu Saldamando, Portrait of Artist Young Joon Kwak, 2023. Oil paint, glitter, washi paper and plastic decals on wood, 36 x 48 in.
A Lisbon-based artist who imaginatively mines his existence to comment on the human condition, Fernão Cruz creates poetic paintings, sculptures and installations to explore personal issues, traumas and desires. His new series of abstract canvases, titled Cérebro, which means brain in Portuguese, are internal landscapes that reflect the artist’s inner thoughts and corporal feelings, released onto the canvases. They were painted improvizationally, like jazz, like bebop, where action with the paint or brush was quickly met by a reaction with another type of mark, often made with another tool or technique, color or structure. The subject of a current solo show at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art in Lisbon, the gallery is exhibiting this dynamic canvas, which was constructed layer by layer, in a group presentation at the fair.
Image: Fernão Cruz, Rasgo Elétrico (Cérebro) / Electric Tear (Cérebro), 2023. Oil and alkyd resin on canvas, 180 x 149cm.
A Jamaica-born artist who was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Cooper Union, Nickola Pottinger explores themes of legacy, folklore, regeneration and reincarnation in her surreal sculptures. Informed by her family’s Jamaican roots, her captivating creatures are made with upcycled materials, including old family documents that were turned into paper pulp to form the bodily shapes of her imaginary beasts. She embellishes the surfaces of her mythological sculptures with natural materials, such as moss, which she employs to comment on beach erosion and the impact of climate change on her motherland, and commonplace objects like hair baubles to recall her childhood. Part of the artist’s new “duppies” series, her dreamlike Hellshire beach sculpture, which is on view at the Mrs. gallery booth in the Positions sector, merges a female body with a four-legged being, with all of the parts devilishly discombobulated.
Image: Nickola Pottinger, Hellshire beach, 2023. Paper pulp, watercolor, pigments, hair baubles, hair clips, spring leaf and moss 33 x 28 x 28 in.
Transcending the everyday by creating imaginary worlds, Naudline Pierre makes paintings, drawings and sculptures inspired by spiritual iconography and Renaissance painting. The daughter of a Haitian minister, the gifted artist has combined her religious background with a grounding in art history to exquisitely explore themes of love, loss and benevolence in her finely crafted figurative works. Often focused on a central figure surrounded by impassioned characters, flames and auras of light, her colorful allegories capture voluptuous vixens in the moment of spiritual transformation. Her intimate oil painting, Transform Me Here, depicts a young nude woman engulfed in flames while being visited by an angel and touched by stars. A perfect example of the power of her work to illustrate the idea of transformation, the painting encapsulates a life revitalized, a spirit renewed.
Image: Naudline Pierre, Transform Me Here, 2023. Oil on panel, 7 x 5 x 1 1/2 in.
A 2011 Cooper Union graduate who established a career in Europe before eventually gaining recognition in America, Georgia Gardner Gray started out making theatrical paintings, sculptures and installations centered around the decadent lifestyles of the young and the super-rich before turning her artistic attention to rebellious outsiders like punks, performers and groupies. Creating dreamlike scenarios, she composes her images like staged scenes from a psychological play. Painting ghostly figures that look like shady souls from the underworld, her iridescent canvases capture the angst of a generation that’s hellbent on doing it—whatever it might be—their way. Caught in a monochromatic field of color (another way of portraying figures from her painterly bag of tricks), the posed characters in Office Angels, her large-scale painting on view at the fair, go about their business in a corporate environment with haggard faces and smart outfits, seemingly possessed by an overwhelming feeling of discontent.
Image: Georgia Gardner Gray, Office Angels, 2023. Oil on canvas, 86 5/8 x 118 1/8 in.
Exploring memories of his Caribbean roots, Bony Ramirez—who currently lives in Harlem and has a studio in Jersey City—immigrated with his family from the Dominican Republic when he was just 13 years old. But his recollections of his homeland and former life there still remain strong. A self-taught artist, Ramirez utilizes inventive ways of working when making his ongoing series of symbolic paintings and sculptures. Cleverly employing Surrealist-inspired collage and assemblage techniques, he poetically fuses humans with animals and marvelously merges objects and body parts to delightfully dynamic ends. His painting When You Give Your Hand And They Take Your Back features a nude male with a durag in a theatrical situation that’s straight out of a coloring book. But there’s nothing too tender about the scene, which shows the bleeding, tattooed man facing his demons with a knife in his back.
Image: Bony Ramirez, When You Give Your Hand And They Take Your Back, 2023. Acrylic, oil pastel, colored pencil, marker, switchblade, Bristol paper on wood panel, 72 x 60 in. Photo: Genevieve Hanson.
A major member of the Fluxus art movement in the 1960s and ‘70s, Geoffrey Hendricks (1931-2018) created performances, books and objects that poetically merged art with life. Best known for painting clouds and blue skies on cars, clothing and all types of objects and spaces—creating a dialogue between earth-bound objects and the vision of a limitless sky. Adopting the nickname cloudsmith—given to him by fellow Fluxus practitioner Dick Higgins—the philosophical New York artist, who also made a name for himself as an influential professor of art at Rutgers University, transformed commonplace things into spiritual relics. His Sky Boots, which are on view in his solo presentation in the gallery’s Survey booth, look like they could lift one to the heavens, which they may have metaphorically done when the artist peacefully passed at age 86 in 2018.
Image: Geoffrey Hendricks, Sky Boots, 1965. Acrylic on leather work boots, 10 × 12 × 15 in.
The subject of a solo show at the Rubell Museum in Miami last year, Jo Messer makes figurative paintings of naked women in claustrophobic settings. The daughter of an artist and a filmmaker, the expressive painter received her BFA from Cooper Union and MFA from Yale—taking a year off in between to star in one of her mother’s feature films. Best known for her monochromatic canvases of disproportionately shaped women enjoying Dionysian pleasures, she beautifully blurs the boundary between abstraction and figuration. Based on photos of pin-up girls and porn, her nude figures sport immense feet, which are squeezed between other bodies or objects in cramped rooms. In single and multiple-panel paintings—like Icing can go anywhere, on view in the gallery’s group presentation at the fair—bacchanalian characters sip wine and smoke cigarettes while passionately cuddling their contorted bodies in her playful picture planes.
Image: Jo Messer, Icing can go anywhere, 2023. Oil on panel, 55 x 78 in.
A self-taught Japanese artist who makes amazing artwork out of recycled skateboard decks, Haroshi combines his passions for skateboarding, art and sustainability in his hand-carved, polychromed sculptures. Throughout a painstakingly precise process, the Tokyo-based artist selects and stacks the recycled skateboard decks, then hand carves, paints and polishes them.
Skateboard decks are made of several layers of processed wood, which gives the creative woodworker sculptures their striped surfaces, which he paints to provide the finished pieces with a signature look. His series of GUZO figures, such as the one displayed in the gallery’s presentation, are based on Dōsojin idols, which are Japanese roadside deities that comfort people’s suffering. Knowing firsthand the hardships that skateboarders endure, he creates these coveted modern gods to bolster their fortitude.
Image: Haroshi, GUZO, 2023. Skateboard deck, 15.7 x 7.9 x 2.8 in.
An Iraqi-American artist who was born in Baghdad and is based in Louisville, Kentucky, Vian Sora makes large-scale abstract paintings that deal with themes of war, political upheaval, migration and geographic and cultural displacement. The subject of a current solo show at David Nolan Gallery in New York, Sora studied art in Baghdad and Istanbul before relocating to America. Gesturally painting in a style that’s been described as “controlled chaos” the artist applies spray paint, acrylics, pigments and inks on canvas and paper with brushes, sponges and anything else at hand to create vibrant abstractions with emblematic meanings. In the Meridans sector, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles presents Abzu, a massive 7-by-29-foot painting referencing the primeval subterranean sea, a middle realm inhabited by mythological deities and the source of fresh water, which is on the brink of disappearing in Iraq.
Image: Vian Sora, Abzu, 2023. Oil and mixed media on canvas, 84 x 350 in.
Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, advisor, artist, and lecturer. New York Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, Laster is also a Contributing Editor at Raw Vision and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and a contributing writer for Art & Object, Ocula, Galerie, Artsy, Sculpture, Time Out New York, Conceptual Fine Arts, and Two Coats of Paint. Formerly the Founding Editor of Artkrush, he began The Daily Beast’s art section and was Art Editor at Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine. Laster has also been the Curatorial Advisor for Intersect Art & Design and an Adjunct Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.