Department Specialist


Alasdair Nichol
Vice Chairman

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Published: 3 January 2018

Inside Art Basel 2017

According to the writing on the hearse driving along the Miami beachfront, “Art Is Dead.”

If that is the case, someone forgot to tell the tens of thousands of art lovers who descended on Miami for Art Basel and the many other art fairs for the annual art-athon. I was there for only 48 hours—actually, it turned out to be almost 72 hours courtesy of a delayed Delta flight—which is barely enough time to see everything, but I did manage four fairs (including the two main ones) out of approximately seventeen.

Given the volume and range, these are inevitably a curate’s egg: a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the downright awful. The main show and draw, Art Basel, which ran from December 6th-8th, was particularly strong and felt cohesive courtesy of well curated selections. Kudos to Director Noah Horowitz for putting his stamp on the fair in his second year there. This included the Kabinett section which allowed galleries to focus on the works of a single artist; I particularly enjoyed William Turnbull at Offer Waterman.

Art Miami was excellent too and has settled well into to its new digs downtown. With many more secondary market dealers represented, I recognized one or two old friends fresh from the auction block.

SCOPE felt less successful this year and could perhaps benefit from a more stringent vetting process. Many of the booths were jammed to capacity and some of the exhibits were not of a caliber one might reasonably expect at such a high profile fair. It’s unfortunate, as in previous years SCOPE proved one of the more invigorating and enjoyable experiences.

Across the board the fairs seem increasingly geared towards the Instagram generation, and smart phones (including mine) were snapping away furiously.

They also act as a fairly accurate barometer as to where current tastes lie. One year Alex Katz seemed to proliferate; another, John Chamberlain. Alexander Calder is a perennial favorite. This year there was no clear ‘winner,’ but I did have repeated sightings of works by George Condo, Francis Picabia, and the South Korean artist Kwang-Young Chun. And of course there were several rashes of red dots indicating that work was selling.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, it would seem therefore that recent reports of the death of art have been greatly exaggerated.

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