The 10 Best Moments from Art Basel Miami Beach

By Abby Montanez and Victoria Keenan

At the beginning of every December, artists, collectors and art lovers flock to Miami Beach for the coveted Art Basel. Featuring works and galleries from all around the world, The Miami Convention Center, where Art Basel is housed, showcases everything from installations and paintings to sculptures and photographs. There are talks, films and performances at the surrounding beaches and parks, where contemporary meets traditional and new world art meets old. This year, the art fair was fueled with some of the most powerful interactive works and thought-provoking political pieces to date.

This was also the last year in which Nicholas Baume would serve as Art Basel Miami’s Public sector curator. Located in Collins Park, Art Basel’s Public sector presents outdoor sculptures, exhibitions and performances and for the past four years, Baume has been named the curator. However, as of 2017, Baume will be passing the torch onto Los Angeles-based curator Philipp Kaiser, who was brought in for his expertise on contemporary artistry. “I have always found Public to be a fascinating sector of the show in Miami Beach because of the opportunities it presents to artists and galleries, and I’m honored to have the chance to build upon the successes achieved by my predecessors in this role,” Kaiser remarked. “I look forward to the challenge of curating a thematic outdoor exhibition that transforms and re-envisions Collins Park, and engages Art Basel’s audiences, as well as the broader Miami Beach community.”

VUE had the chance to escape the chilly Garden State for a few days and head down to the sunny shores of Miami to experience the one-of-a-kind art fair firsthand. Here are some of our favorites.

Art BaselToilet Paper by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, commissioned by Fondation Beyeler
One of the most interactive (and Instagrammed) exhibits at Art Basel, Toilet Paper by Italian artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari put even the most serious art critics in a fun and silly state of mind. Designed to look like a young adult’s apartment, the space held a makeshift kitchen, bathroom, bar and living space, complete with everything from a functioning bedroom with couches and chairs for viewers to sit on. On top of the funky, colorful décor, rugs and accessories scattered around the space, (think clothes from the closet and an giant alligator laying next to the bar), everything was covered in and overflowing with pasta. An homage to carb lovers, the cluttered installation didn’t spare on any details, including the noodles, which were in fact, real. The pasta was flown in from Milan for the show, changed out every night, and replaced with a new batch. The installation was meant to challenge one’s imagination, creating a space to lose control and forget all formalities.

Art BaselWhere the Lights in My Heart Go by Yayoi Kusama in Victoria Miro Gallery
Reminiscent of one of Yayoi Kusama’s signature “Infinity Rooms,” which are big enough to fit more than a few adults, Kusama’s latest piece was meant to transport art-goers to a world of her own and evoke an emotional response from viewers. Exploring themes such as geometric abstraction, repetition, mirroring and reflections, the exterior was meant to both reflect and merge with its surroundings. This was also the first mirror room by Kusama which depended on ambient light for effect.

Art BaselThe Light That Fell Upon Us Burned by David Austen in Ingleby Gallery
Best known for his bold text paintings and most recent film making, London-based artist David Austen featured paintings, sculptures and works on paper. His newest pieces were made by gouache that is copied and pasted onto the immersive installation that is composed of 33 parts, as well as showcasing a collection of paintings from 2009-2016. The small yet bright and colorful circular pieces brought a sunny, positive vibe to some of the more serious pieces, including his oil-on-canvas texts, with bittersweet phrases like “The City of Love and Fear.”

Art BaselArt Public Social Display in Collins Park, various artists
While at the Miami Convention Center, across the street was this year’s Art Public sculpture display in Collins Park, this being one of the most dramatic and thought-provoking in several years. 20 sculptures were centered around the theme of “Ground Control”, a powerful display of current issues going on around the world, including Glenn Kaino’s “Invisible Man” (2016). Another is Cuban sculptor Yoan Capote’s “Naturaleza Urbana” (2012), a giant pair of handcuffs clipped onto a tree trunk. The title is Spanish for “urban nature” and not only suggests the ways that nature is controlled in urban environments, but also addresses the over policing of urban residents. Tony Tasset’s giant pair of arrows was another piece that provoked questioning, asking ‘which way is up?’, making the art displays not all what they seemed to be.

Installation by Pae White in Galerie neugerriemschneider
Merging art, design and craft, Pae White is known for transforming ordinary, mundane materials into transient objects and mesmerizing installations. Utilizing tools such as yarn and cardboard to create her hanging mobiles, White’s simplistic aesthetic makes a big impact. Her latest work included draping hexagonal pieces of mirror onto suspended pieces of string and depending on where you entered the room, the installation seemed to be moving, casting rays of light from the reflecting mirrors and colorful pieces.

Louis Vuitton Furniture Showcase
Parisian fashion house Louis Vuitton also stole the show by revealing two new pieces from its “Objets Nomades” furniture collection. The first new item, the Blossom Stool, was designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, and was made of wood and leather, however there was also a glossier metal version made of a gilded bras. The stools were inspired by Louis Vuitton’s signature patterned-flower petal monogram. Then there was “Fur Cocoon”, which was definitely a crowd favorite. Designed by brothers Fernando and Humberto Campana, the “fur cocoon” is an updated version of the label’s original “Cocoon” and is made out of vacuum-molded fiberglass covered in lambskin. The cocoon swings from the ceiling using gilded steel and a brass hook.

Art BaselAmy Yao for Various Small Fires, Los Angeles
This booth from Amy Yao followed her recent solo show seen at Various Small Fires entitled “Bay of Smokes”. Exploring themes such as the pervasiveness of toxicity and environmental contamination, Yao’s work exposes the effects and corruption that these motifs have on humanity and the economy. In the center of her installment was her sculpture, Doppelgängers II, which is a pile of real and synthetic rice which represented the recent news that in China, consumers were being sold a mixture of rice containing substances such as cornstarch and PVC plastics. On the walls were pieces of cut-out drywall filled with artificial flowers and sealed with Plexiglas panes, a continuation of Yao’s “Intercontinental Drift” series. Yao utilized faux flowers to represent the idea of beauty while forgoing the perishable nature of real flowers. Owner of Various Small Fires, Kim Varet, had this to say about the artist and her up and coming success: “She is an artist who definitely deserves a spotlight moment. The works from her show are going to a have second, extended life in the fair.”

Art Basel“Diamond (Blue)” by Jeff Koons in the Gagosian Gallery
“Diamond (Blue)” is part of artist Jeff Koons’ “Celebration” series which was started back in 1994 and is based around the holiday calendar. The series is a reflection of the mass-made consumer products created during the holiday season and Diamond (Blue) is in reference to a Disney-inspired over-the-top engagement ring. Made from stainless steel, the ring had a polished chromium surface which much like a real diamond, reflects light instead of refracting. As it stood, the diamond was seven feet wide and the stone remained attached by four prongs.

Art BaselMax Hooper Schneider for High Art gallery in the Positions section
An Art Basel “artist to watch”, Max Hooper Schneider displayed his installment for Paris’ High Art Gallery which included a neon-encased terrarium, incubators and geometric designs. With a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s in Landscape and Architecture from Harvard, Schneider drew inspiration from his schooling by incorporating both live and artificial specimens alongside an embedded fog machine. Schneider presented the Art Basel crowd with his own version of a Utopia—a science lab-like masterpiece.

Wynwood Walls
A large Art Basel event also takes place in the Wynwood Art District, located in the Wynwood neighborhood on the mainland of Miami, Florida. It is mostly centered on local grassroots artists and is home to over 70 galleries, antique shops and eclectic bars and eateries. The most popular open-air street art areas are known as the Wynwood Walls and Outside the Walls, which feature murals from renowned graffiti artists such as Shepard Fairey and Maya Hayuk and can be considered a Floridian landmark which people can visit throughout the year.