January, 2012 – Art Basel 2011


Cultural CornerLynda Saltz


Art Basel, Miami 2011


Lynda Saltz


“Making money is art. And working is art. And good business is the best art.” –Andy Warhol

Perhaps it’s the 10th anniversary of this art happening, but I have never seen Art Basel/Miami so crowded. It’s not just the fair; it’s what happens to Miami. This year almost 50,000 art fans strolled through the biggest contemporary international art fair this country has to offer. The more established galleries are at the front. There were some surprises in store this year, but you’ll have to look in the back at Art Positions and Art Nova for the edgier stuff.  On the whole, I found the art to be less shocking and felt more nostalgia for modern art of the early 20th century and the contemporary art of mid-century. I was looking for something original from the 21st century and did find a few new works. The show at the Miami Beach Convention Center was more established and conventional than last year, however, I always put Art Basel/Miami on my to-do list.


Some of the cutting-edge artists have taken their works to other venues in Miami; the alternative spaces and galleries have popped up all over the city. And that’s a good thing for the art world and Miami’s economy. So for Art Basel, Warhol’s quote rings true. There may be too many galleries and too little time, but here are a few of my faves which range from photographs, sculptures and paintings. After two hours, I had barely skimmed the surface; one needs a few days to do it all.


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List of Photos (in above photo slideshow)




·        Helly Nahmad Gallery, NY

·        Alighiero e Boetti, Gladstone Gallery, NY

·        Giacometti, The Landau Gallery, Montreal, Canada

·        Allesandro Balteo Yasbec, Corrupted Files, Galeria Luisa Strina, Sao Paulo, Brazil

·        Miro, Galerie Gmurzynska, St. Moritz, Switzerland

·        Sacha Zerbib, art advisor, strolling through Galleria Franco Noero, Turin, Italy

·        Marco Perego, Galerie Gmurzynska, St. Moritz, Switzerland

·        Norbert Shwontowski, Mitchell-Innes and Nash Gallery, NY

·        Antony Gormley, Sean Kelly Gallery, NY



Been there, seen that…and it’s good to see it again


The first gallery that caught my eye was The Landau Gallery from Montreal. Perhaps it was the Giacometti sculpture at the entrance that drew me in. Alice Landau stated that the gallery specializes in German Expressionists and Italian Futurists, but all the other great masters are here. I was amazed to see Le Corbusier’s paintings. One early work will fetch around 3 million – that was the least expensive. Robert Landau told me they are collaborating with Heidi Weber, Le Corbusier’s patron, on the collection and will be doing museum shows with her. Le Corbusiers’ classic oil on canvas from 1928 makes some of the postmodern works of this century works pale in comparison. I remember him as an architect and designer, but I hadn’t seen his paintings. This established gallery included historical and influential works of art by the leading artists of the 20th century. If you favor Cubist, Fauvist, Futurist and Expressionist art then this is the gallery for you. Another artist from Landau is Jawlensky, a minimalist artist whose portraits are colorful and linear.


The gallery of Mitchell-Innes and Nash is fairly new to the art world, but what a selection! Located on the Upper East Side and in the Chelsea area, it had a series of Katherine Opies; her minimalist Lake Erie blue inkjet works, 2010, looked like paintings and were her signature works this year. Peter Tecu helped to install the gallery placing a large purple Sarah Braman plexiglass and steel sculpture in the entrance. Another notable work was by Norbert Schwontkowski, a German artist; his compositions aren’t as expressionist, dark and depressing as some German painters because he has more of a Milton Avery sensibility. (At least he has light drifting in through the window of one of his paintings…you can have this huge work for around $40,000.) Another long established gallery is the Paula Cooper Gallery from New York. Joe Montgomery of the gallery says it takes a team to arrange all the works. This gallery features Jonathan Borofsky’s figurative works.


McKee Gallery featured Harvey Quaytman’s Handstand Horizons, a 1993 acrylic rust work on canvas; it is an impressive 60 inch square. This gallery located on Fifth Avenue features minimalist works and large scale photographs.


The unusual installation at Mary Boone’s booth – although a bit claustrophobic- took up all the outside walls of the gallery. Text queen Barbara Kruger’s black and white satirical take on money and greed was given full reign.


When I hit the Gladstone Gallery from NY and Brussels, I had to get in line because other photographers were also impressed with Dave Muller’s books series, acrylics on paper. Also, Magnus Plesson’s work, Paare, oil on linen, is a portrait of four figures engaged in conversation; there’s always a subtext to this German artist’s work. The colorful, textured, lettered embroidery work by Alighiero e Boetti was terrific.


Next up were Jorge Macchio’s works with puzzle-like forms. These were shown in the Galeria Luisa Strina from Sao Paulo. Allesandro Balteo Yasbeck’s “corrupted file” political photographs were a striking and innovative addition.


Marcjancou Gallery featured Larry Johnson: A Survey. This contemporary gallery in Chelsea on West 24th Street featured a whimsical work about Madonna – the star of one name – on a giant popsicle-stick work. Jancou, the owner of the gallery said, “Larry’s the guy who always has multiple meanings in his work. As for Madonna, Jancou said, “Larry likes to deal with pop icons or political issues whether it’s John Belushi or civil rights. Why did he put Madonna on a popsicle stick? It’s eye candy.” And I suppose, Johnson doesn’t take Madonna and other pop icons too seriously. He loves the humor of it all; his art work which was featured on the front of the booth stated, “No one wants to see a movie with Madonna in it.” Well, that’s true, right?


Clever and Colorful Installation


Helly Nahmad Gallery in NY had one of the best installations at the fair with a couple of Miro sculptures, paintings, and a wonderful Dubuffet. This gallery specializes in works by Impressionist and Modern masters. I loved the Miro sculpture paired with the Calder mobile; I heard the Calders were selling.


Peter Freeman, Inc. Gallery was founded in 1990; this gallery specializes in important 20th-century and contemporary paintings, drawings, and sculpture with a particular focus on Pop and Minimal works. Available were Mel Blochner’s punctuation and symbol works of oil and charcoal on canvas, one is Colon Open Parenthesis; it’s a simple and concise work. Who wouldn’t like New York’s Sean Kelly’s booth? Antony Gromley’s cast iron larger-than-life sculpture is a conversation piece.


From the Soccer Field to the Art Arena


For more than 40 years now, Galerie Gmurzynska from St. Moritz has specialized in masterpieces of classical modernism, contemporary art and artists belonging to the Russian avant-garde. I’ve seen a lot of Boteros in my time; although not unusual, this was a Botero to covet. The Street, 2010, which can be had for a mere 1.1 million, if I have the price right…was typical Botero. Another classic shown was Joan Miro, Composition, 1954; this is an oil on brown silk and makes you forget the trite, more familiar Miros.


And finally in the same gallery, I found their new star, Marco Perego. Perego was born in 1979 in Verona, Italy. Now the former soccer star who is quite good-looking – hey, it doesn’t hurt – lives in Los Angeles. He’s had solo shows worldwide and is known for some very controversial pieces. In 2008, his painted works formed the background of Dolce & Gabbana’s advertising campaign. He also dabbles in animated film, one of which is called Burn to Shine. I guess he tries to do it all. His works used to be affordable. (Where was I?) Even Armani bought a few. Two were on exhibit this year at the gallery. His works, two large collages with silvery shiny foil taped over a construction material of foam were featured. Perego cut through the foil and deconstructed it to reveal the foam underneath. In a former museum exhibit, the whole room was filled with the material, and visitors could cut into the material themselves. One minimalist collage in the booth this year with splatters of red and blue paint sold for $45,000. Lucas Bscher, who works for the gallery, admitted that Perego’s minimalist works are some of his favorites. Perego jumped from the soccer field to take on the art arena and has constructed a second career for himself. There’s a commercial sense to his works, but that happens with emerging work.

Two Palms from New York featured a new Elizabeth Peyton. With a neutral palette, she favors portraits. Peyton painted Carmen in 2011 and sticks to her minimalist style and negative space; it’s a monotype on handmade paper. I’ve always like her work; she just sketches quickly and gets the job done.


The Art Positions section is what it is: conceptual. It’s new and chancy. Paulo Nazareth came up with an old VW van called Banana Market/Art Market with bananas falling out of the side; it’s self explanatory and says “third world” to me. (I would have liked to have seen Nazareth wheel that VW into the convention center.) Nazareth is from Brazil and according to the curators in his gallery, “tends to highlightsocial, economic tensions and class struggle.”


Art Video projected large-scale images on the outside wall of the New World Center designed by Frank Gehry. Tracey Emin’s video was featured and her neon works were inside the convention center. Next year, hit Collins Park to take in unusual artworks and performances by emerging artists.


There were so many galleries from around the world: USA, France, Switzerland, Germany, South America and Japan, to mention a few. There’s no need to travel long distances when one can find great contemporary art in one place. Some have said that Art Basel/Miami may soon rival the original Art Basel in Switzerland. There were installations that were quite innovative; it’s clever what the gallery owners can come up with in a small space. Most of the experimental work was at Wynwood Walls – especially graffiti. (Didn’t Basquiat already do that?) Let’s see how long that trend lasts. It was a fun event, filled with variety.  Art Basel is all about gawking, walking and talking…and catching a glimpse of a celeb.


Lynda Saltz is an art historian and freelance writer.