The days of meticulously taking in every detail of the Art Basel Miami booths are gone. With 267 galleries displaying their premium artists, savvy collectors and art lovers are waving bye-bye to the earnest art-fair strut and embracing fun and cynicism while developing a nose for the Art Basel micro-trends. And these can take many guises: from genitalia on hand-knitted jumpers to sculpture that’s a dead ringer for the emoji smiley face, Art Basel Miami gave us lots of to be amused by. Here’s our guide to the most striking, deadpan or plain weird trends at this year’s fair.
Text by Grace Banks
We might be in “post post-internet” realms, but that doesn’t stop artists from having fun with the all-encompassing emoji. These new-tech emblems have taken over our phones and now they’re infiltrating our art. Dan McCarthy’s vase sculptures led the way. In both “July & August” (2015) and “High Stepper” (2015), the artist has hand-shaped a mischievous grin that gave the feeling it was watching you as you walked past. Google McCarthy’s emojis and you’ll discover a man with a penchant for clay and the eternal smiley face 🙂
This was the year of the generously sized male appendage, and it was rendered in all shapes and forms. Over at NADA art fair, the artist Jaanus Samma was knitting jumpers lavishly adorned in penises. He would then give the jumpers to visitors to wear, get them to take a selfie and post it on their Instagram account. Then, if they got 1500 likes or more, they got to keep the jumper. Samma had even the most discerning critic clamouring for his wares. And over at the Art Basel Miami main fair, a three-metre-long phallus occupied a physical, and comical space, in the otherwise haughty hall.
3. No Art
Galleries know that a droll private view and a glass of warm white wine simply won’t do at Art Basel Miami. How do they switch it up? Bring in the big guns in the form of parties, after-parties, and more parties. These events are possibly the least arty thing you will ever attend: the W hotel’s offered roller skating, Jack Shainman Gallery’s revolved around a raucous performance by the rapper Eve and Galerie Gmurzynska’s put Leonardo DiCaprio and Sylvester Stallone in the Gianni Versace mansion with a load of rich art buyers. But the best fusion of art and “no-art” was Dev Hynes performance at Pérez Art Museum Miami with Ryan McNamara – the perfect fusion of real fun, and great art.
4. Gold on Gold on Gold
For their first ever booth at Art Basel Miami, the gallery White Space from Beijing featured the work of He Xiangyu and his installation “Wisdom Teeth (1000 pieces)” (2014-5). Following the same macabre line of enquiry that led him to create a lifelike resin sculpture of a corpse, Xiangyu created 1000 real gold teeth replicas as a comment on the transience of consumer culture. Gold proved an irresistible lure at the fair and the White Space booth was constantly full of visitors, who admitted to be attracted by the glamorous heap of gold, rather than the earnest meaning behind it.
Of course, we know that women aren’t a trend. But for an industry that always has, and so shamelessly continues to overlook the talents and careers of women, female power was at the heart of this year’s Art Basel Miami. “It was the year of the woman,” said Art Basel director Marc Spiegler. Both on site and at the events surrounding Art Basel, women triumphed. Pace Gallery dedicated their booth to the austere work of Louise Nevelson; the Rubell Family Collection held the exhibition “No Man’s Land”, dedicated to the women in their private collection; and Shirin Neshat sat on the panel of Women of Influence in the Business of Art.