installation of digital artworks

Galerie Nagel Draxler’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach

After the scaled-back events of last year, Art Basel is back and it’s bigger than ever with 250 galleries from over 36 countries. Our columnist Sophie Neundorf reports from Miami

Sophie Neuendorf

The vibe was fantastic, full of joie de vivre, as collectors descended on Miami to celebrate the comeback of the Art Basel Miami Beach. On the opening day, there were many joyful reunions between friends, collectors, and gallerists seen and heard around the booths and despite timed entry due to Covid regulations, most of the stellar works sold out instantly.

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According to collectors, advisers and dealers, sales are similarly soaring at neighbouring fairs Nada and Untitled. It’s not so much a case of if to buy, but how to get there first. Who will get take home a much coveted painting by Amoako Boafo? Or the Genesis Tramaine being sold at Almine Rech? Or the Flora Yukhnovich work at Victoria Miro? It’s quite the dilemma for galleries that want to reward loyal clients, place works with museums, and grow new audiences at the same time, all while steering clear of speculators, but c’est la vie!

beachfront gallery

Saint Laurent Rive Droite’s beachfront gallery features an exhibition of works by an exhibition of works by Japanese artist Sho Shibuya

NFTs are, unsurprisingly, taking centre stage with multiple galleries showcasing digital offerings. Galerie Nagel Draxler is devoting much of its booth to a show-stopping group installation of tokenised multimedia works led by artist and maverick collector Kenny Schachter while a few aisles over, Pace is taking a somewhat softer approach with its presentation of Block Universe (2021), a collaborative work by Drift and D.J./crypto-artist Don Diablo. This year, there’s also a booth and three-day series of live talks dedicated to Tezos, an open-source, energy-efficient blockchain network where scores of recognised media artists have tokenised their works over the years. The centrepiece of the booth is a multiscreen installation that allows visitors to add their algorithmically distorted self-portrait to works by generative artist Mario Klingemann (AKA Quasimondo), then mint the results as NFTs on the Tezos blockchain.

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Among the many impressive events taking place this weekend, my highlight is Saint Laurent Rive Droite’s ephemeral gallery in the centre of the city (until December 5, 2021). Inside the space—a pink-and-red cube set on the beach, practically glowing against the backdrop of ocean and sky—there’s an exhibition of works by Japanese artist Sho Shibuya, commissioned by Saint Laurent’s visionary Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello. Shibuya has recently gained widespread attention for his series of daily paintings, Sunrise from a Small Window, created in his Brooklyn apartment over the last 22 months. Using the front page of The New York Times as a canvas, the artist has been ritualistically painting over the front-page stories with the hues of each morning’s sunrise, covering the often down-trodden news with an ever-changing symbol of revival and hope. It’s well worth seeing.

floating artwork

Michael Kagan, APOLLO 2021 (2021). Photo courtesy of the artist and Half Gallery.

Meanwhile, one of the stranger sights in Miami this week is an Apollo space capsule floating in Biscayne Bay as if just returned home from a lunar voyage. This isn’t, however, some wormhole into the heyday of the U.S. Space program, but an art project from artist Michael Kagan and New York’s Half Gallery. It’s no coincidence that Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire art collector who promised to take a group of artists with him to the moon aboard one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets, is one of the artist’s collectors. Kagan is clearly angling for a seat.

And then, of course, there are the parties. White Cube’s bash at Soho Beach House, which featured a performance from Sister Sledge and a lot of dancing, is the most talked about so far, but with a few days to go, there’s plenty of more time for partying.

To me, it feels very nearly like the good old days, but with the added edge of NFTs and groups of eager millennial collectors (musician Joe Jonas and Bachelor contestant Kit Keenan have been spotted milling around) with a healthy appetite for emerging stars and an even larger one for big name artists and galleries.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice-President at artnet. Find out more: artnet.com