by Sue Hostetler | October 27, 2011 | Style & Beauty
Tolomeo, 1989 by Pier Paolo Calzolari
|Annette Schönholzer and Marc Spiegler, codirectors of Art Basel Miami Beach|
|John Waters, Visit Marfa, 2003|
It’s been a very good year for the folks behind the prestigious Art Basel contemporary art shows. This summer, record numbers flocked to the 42nd annual Art Basel in Switzerland. The company then purchased the Hong Kong International Art Fair, the leading show in Asia, giving it critical leverage on that increasingly important continent. And this December 1 through 4, Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB), sister event to the Swiss behemoth, celebrates its 10th anniversary.
After launching in 2002, ABMB quickly established itself as the most significant art show in the Americas. Dealers, collectors, curators and art enthusiasts of every type from Manhattan to Milan to Moscow descend en masse on Miami Beach for the extravaganza, which has grown to include an international selection of more than 250 galleries, cutting-edge exhibitions, performances and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture and design. The show has also helped transform Miami into a leading cultural capital that boasts some of the world’s most ambitious private collections. This, coupled with the tropical climate and South Florida’s location at the social and economic nexus of North America and Latin America, makes the city a perfect backdrop for the show and helps draw an elite global audience.
Esteemed local curator Massimiliano Gioni, associate director of New York City’s New Museum and artistic director of the Trussardi Foundation in Milan, has been involved in the Miami art scene since before the beginning. “The very first time I went to Miami, it was because the Rubells invited me to be on a panel there; it was a couple years before the show started,” says Gioni, referring to Mera and Don Rubell, who own one of the city’s most important private collections, housed in a 45,000-square-foot former Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse. Gioni feels that the city of Miami might be the factor that ultimately differentiates ABMB from the plethora of other art fairs. “I think the best art fairs are the ones that happen not in a vacuum, but rather in a context rich with many other stimuli,” Gioni offers. “And that is particularly true of ABMB, where the show grew at the center of an incredibly lively scene of important collectors and interesting, evolving institutions. Particularly the collectors, with their private museums, foundations and showcases—they have created a whole new paradigm in Miami, which the show has both complemented and helped expand. And of course there is the incredible setting of Miami and its legendary parties,” he says with a laugh. “Irony aside, I think the fair combines blue-chip and young art, modern and South American art, in an ideal mix.”
But does Gioni, as a leading curator living in what is arguably one of the most important contemporary art capitals in the world, really need to attend the show every year? “First of all, there is no end to my addiction to art, so I would go anywhere to see more,” Gioni says. “In Miami, I try to go and see things that are not so easy to see in New York; for example, I love the galleries that specialize in modern art and even the quirky kinetic sculptures. And the museums in Miami always have their best exhibits up during the show. I still remember a complicated, uneven, pretentious and yet somehow beautiful show curated by Roger Brueghel a few years ago.… At the very center of the marketplace in Miami it is also possible to see the least commercial art made today.”
Although details for this December’s special 10th-anniversary celebration remain a closely held secret, we were able to sit down with codirectors Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer for insider information.
Sean Landers, Double Peabody, 2010
|Untitled (from the Paesaggi orientali series), 1979, by Pier Paolo Calzolari|
GOTHAM: Art Basel Miami Beach has become the most important event in the US for the contemporary world. To what do you attribute this success?
ANNETTE SCHÖNHOLZER: There are many reasons, although the foundation of this success has been the galleries that return every year and bring fantastic pieces. Many also mount carefully curated exhibitions for Art Kabinett in their booths and participate in additional sectors such as Art Public outdoors. The programming of Art Basel Conversations and the Art Film night also make the week rich in content and ideas. Equally important are the city of Miami Beach, which has always been supportive, and Miami’s private collections and remarkable museums, which enrich the experience by staging superb exhibitions every December. Seeing the cultural scene blossom in the Miami area over the last decade has been really rewarding, and we’re proud to have been part of that renaissance.
Has the quality or international makeup of the dealer applicant pool changed significantly over the years?
MARC SPIEGLER: We had very high application numbers and a high reapplication rate again this year. For European galleries, it is now the “must” show to do in America, and we have seen better and more Latin American galleries applying every year as the art scenes surged in places such as São Paulo, Mexico City and Bogotá. It’s a pleasure to see new dossiers coming in from places that used to be totally off the art world’s radar.
People have been wondering for years how the worldwide economic crisis would affect the overall art market. There has been attrition of galleries, smaller fairs and so on, yet ABMB remains a dealer favorite, and sale results at the show remain strong. Have you employed a specific, strategic approach that is responsible for this continued success?
MS: We kept doing what we have always done, which is to build the best possible platform for our galleries. We also work hard to make every edition of Art Basel Miami Beach exciting for exhibitors, museums, curators and visitors—and of course, to bring the most important collectors and museum groups to the show. A huge factor on that front is the evergrowing collector bases from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Puerto Rico, who are now regulars at Art Basel Miami Beach. During the most difficult year for the US economy, 2009, those collectors greatly compensated for the Americans who had slowed down their collecting.
What is the best and most efficient way for attendees to tackle the immense offerings at Art Basel Miami Beach?
AS: Download the Art Basel Miami Beach iPhone app, get a show guide, orient yourself, make a plan and start to walk the halls. Be sure to visit the Art Galleries sector for top-level modern and contemporary art, along with Art Nova for two or three artists showing new work, and Art Positions, which features 16 major solo projects by emerging artists. Then leave the halls to go to Art Public, which is newly focused within the Collins Park area, and watch the Art Video program on the New World Centre projection wall.