By J. SCOTT ORR, Photography by Elizabeth Freeman Dec 6, 2023
Nothing says fine art like the seasonal exhibitionism of Christmas lights strung on palm trees, so, yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year in Miami: Art Week, when the art world’s elite gathers for its annual beach-front bacchanal. And this year, the observance is bigger and grander than ever with a ceaselessly expanding and diverse roster of art fairs swimming in the wake of the Art Basel Miami Beach mothership.
Art Basel Miami Beach, the week’s raison d'être, casts a pretty dense shadow, but the dozen plus fairs that coexist in the big show’s orbit offer more than enough fine art flourish to make five days seem far too short. Below are some highlights from a few of the other art week fairs that offer a creative respite from global crises and domestic political turmoil. And all right here in Ron DeSantis’s Florida, where the sun is in perpetual ascension and people don’t say gay.
Art Miami is the art week’s OG. Established in 1989 by a group of artists and collectors, the first show featured the work of a few dozen emerging and established contemporary artists in a small Miami Beach hotel. Eleven years ago it added sister fair Context. Between them, the shows feature work from 246 galleries from more than 21 countries.
Among the more interesting work at Art Miami is that of Emilie Arnoux, a French artist brought south by New York’s Fremin Gallery. Her work summons David Hockney in no small way, but it has a feminine quality that is at once playful and disarming. Like Hockney, Arnoux adeptly expresses themes of American leisure without seeming to be actively Americanized.
In Sugar Pool, a 2023 acrylic on canvas, for example, Arnoux’s bright colors and art deco sensibilities mute the blatant sexuality of the subject, who sucks absentmindedly on a lollipop. The shimmer of water reflected in her sunglasses gives the piece animation and depth.
Also at Art Miami is new work from Cey Adams, whose art draws on his experience as a first-generation New York City graffiti writer and creative director of the genre-defining hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings. Adams’s work, brought to Art Miami by Austin’s West Chelsea Contemporary, is one of many examples of Miami Art Week’s nod to black artists associated with hip-hop and its 50th anniversary this year.
In American Flag, a 2023 mixed media collage on panel, Adams returns to a subject that is familiar to him and to other art world greats Childe Hassam to Jasper Johns. In his latest version, Adams – whose monumental black-and-white version was unveiled at the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016 – brings his flag to life with ghostly collage work that includes vintage car advertising, foreign currency, magazine covers, celebrity portraits, stock certificates and floral block prints. All this suggests America’s past and its current troubled diversity.
Established in 2001, SCOPE has gained a reputation as one of Miami Art Week’s most progressive enterprises. With its trademark tent just feet from the surf in Miami Beach, SCOPE is literally drawing lines in the sand. “SCOPE is here to demystify the process by being as liberal and level as possible for the general public,” Scope’s president Alexis Hubshman told Whitehot’s Daryl Rashaan King in a recent interview.
A good example is the work of James Reyes, a Bronx-born artist who translates cultural and environmental cues into intense, colorful dreamworks that tackle themes of hunger, alienation, sexuality, evolution, pain and desire. Brought to SCOPE by New York’s Ki Smith Gallery, Reyes latest work is fluid, alive, at times playful, at other times terrifying.
In a 2023 untitled oil, acrylic and enamel on canvas, for example, an angry skeleton peers over the shoulder of a pinkish humanoid who is gnawing on the arm of a small clownish figure who appears nonplussed by the proceedings. The clown, in fact, is laughing at the discord among themes of life, death, urgency and need. Another work from Smith’s Lower East Side gallery is an installation by Sono Kuwayama that features a bed of dried marigolds flanked by a rising sun rendered in stain from a raw turmeric root.
The New Art Dealers Alliance is in its 21st year in Miami, showcasing artists from over 150 galleries, art spaces and nonprofit art organizations, from 50 cities including San Juan, Paris, Chicago, Memphis, Brussels, and Beijing.
From TONE HQ Gallery of Memphis comes the photographic brilliance of MadameFraankie, whose black-and-white photography captures the real-life experience of Black southerners by documenting seemingly anodyne moments across time and space.
One particularly arresting piece is the diptych Let Him Cook, a pair of cloudy photographs of a boy named Bo, sitting before a play stove. In the first, he is looking across his shoulder as though caught misbehaving; in the second he returns to his engagement with the toy stove. “He is seated at a stove that is traditionally the play thing of a little girl, but he is receiving a signal that it’s safe for him to explore that side of things,” MadameFraankie told Whitehot Magazine.
Design Miami is back for its 19th edition with the theme of Where We Stand, which spotlights works inspired by community and cultural heritage that celebrate “intimate connections through creative expression.” The global authority for collectible design, Design Miami is presenting work from more than 40 galleries.
Among them is Miami’s Mindy Solomon Gallery, which brings to Design Miami an exhibit called Welcome to the Outer Limits—Spellbound meets Space Age. A diverse assemblage of artists uses color and form to touch on themes of time, diversity, obsolescence and utilitarian postmodernism.
Typical is the playful take on mid-century modern by Stackabl, whose sustainable furniture summons the warmth and comfort of yarn and vinyl records, while channeling the colorful geometry of Mondrian and the pop art sensibilities of Keith Haring.
Here’s the event information for a hardly exhaustive list of 10 of the most popular Miami Art Week Fairs. WM
Art Basel Miami Beach
Dec 8-10, 11 am—6 pm
Miami Beach Convention Center
1901 Convention Center Drive
Dec 6, 1pm—7pm
Dec 7: 11am—7pm
Dec 8-9: 12pm—7pm
Dec 10: 12pm—6pm
Convention Center Drive & 19th Street, Miami Beach
Dec 6-9: 11am—7 pm
Dec 10: 11 am—6 pm
The Art Miami Pavilion
One Herald Plaza
NE 14th Street & Biscayne Bay, Miami
Aqua Art Miami
Dec 7-10, : General Admission
Aqua Art Miami at the Aqua Hotel
1530 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
CONTEXT Art Miami
Dec 6-9: 11am—7pm
Dec 10: 11am—6pm
The CONTEXT Art Miami Pavilion
One Herald Plaza
NE 14th Street & Biscayne Bay, Miami
NADA Miami Art Fair
Dec 5: 4—7pm
Dec 6-8: 11am—7pm
Dec. 9: 11am—6pm
Ice Palace Studios
1400 North Miami Avenue, Miami
Red Dot Miami/Spectrum Miami
Dec 6: 6pm—9pm
Dec 7-9: 12pm—8pm
Dec 10: 12pm—6pm
2217 NW 5th Avenue, Miami
Satellite Art Fair
Dec 5-9: 12 pm—10 pm
Dec 10: 12 pm—5 pm
700 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Scope Miami Beach
Dec 6-10: 11 am—8 pm
801 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach
UNTITLED Art, Miami Beach
Dec 6-9 11am—7pm
Dec 10: 11am—5pm
Ocean Drive & 12th Street, Miami Beach