The long-awaited return of Miami Art Week—last year’s ‘zombie’ Art Basel notwithstanding—kicked off on Monday on the beach with the VIP opening of Untitled Art Fair.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the fair returned from a yearlong hiatus with roughly 20 more exhibitors than its last outing in 2019, for a total of 145. And visitors seemed utterly undeterred by the sudden rise of the ominously named Omicron variant, with the majority openly flouting the on-paper mask requirement, which was meant to apply regardless of vaccination status.
“We’re telling everyone to wear a mask—but we’re not walking around enforcing it,” a fair security guard told Artnet News (he was sans mask himself).
The dealers, many also bare-faced, were clearly pleased to be selling works in person after nearly two years dominated by virtual exhibitions, JPGs, and OVRs. Almost everyone we spoke to had already made at least some sales—and for some, several.
“Everything’s gone,” Harlem gallerist Claire Oliver said of her booth.
That was no surprise, given Bahamanian artist Gio Swaby’s sold-out debut at the gallery this past spring. Three of her large-format textile portraits had been snapped up for $25,000 each, while a set of nine smaller works went for $54,000.
Oliver’s presentation also included a gallery newcomer, Robert Peterson, whose figurative oil paintings of Black men and women were priced at $16,000 to $60,000.
A sellout was also nearly complete at Berlin’s Bode Projects, which offered a solo presentation of mixed media works by Patrick Alston for $4,100, $8,900, and $21,000, according to size. The New Haven artist, originally from the Bronx, sews his own patchwork-style “canvases” from different fabrics, including vinyl, before overlaying them with his colorful, gestural paintings.
“We’re at the beach, the sun is shining, and we only have a few works left, so we’re very happy,” the gallery’s Lars Bode told Artnet News.
Other galleries having an exceptional first day included New York’s Hesse Flatow, where only two works were not yet spoken for as the afternoon preview stretched into evening. The most expensive piece, a $30,000 stylized landscape painting by Amanda Baldwin, was sold, as was one of Kirsten Deirup’s photorealistic still lives, priced at $5,500. And just one of Kate Klingbeil’s sculptural paintings of anthropomorphized carrot women poised to emerge from the soil hadn’t yet sold, for prices between $6,000 to $7,500, although even this one was on hold. (The artist, who uses molding paste and acrylic paint, also had work with Los Angeles’s Steve Turner.)
“Kate’s really found herself with this subterranean world,” gallery founder Karen Hesse Flatow told Artnet News, noting that the artist had incorporated rocks from Lake Michigan into the works, which were made during the pandemic. “It’s like these root women are figuring out how to get out from under.”
Also moving work at a fast clip on opening day was Amanda Coulson, founder and former director of the Volta art fair, who in January ended a 10-year term as director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas to start Tern Gallery in Nassau. (Showing her Bahamanian pride, she was clad in a blue-and-yellow dress and matching face mask inspired by the nation’s flag.)
Tern’s sales included a $4,000 sculpture by Kendra Frorup to Los Angeles and West Palm Beach collector Beth Rudin DeWoody and three Cydne Jasmine Coleby mixed-media works for $8,000 to $10,000. The gallery’s buyers also included the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which snapped up a $15,000 sculpture by Anina Major, who currently has work on view (through March 6, 2022) at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, New York.
New York dealer Alaina Simone, who made a last-minute decision to join the fair, had sold two works by the preview day’s halfway mark, even without advance promotion to her collectors.
“I didn’t post anything beforehand,” she said. “I didn’t want everything to get gobbled up.”
A large wall-hanging sculpture by Alicia Piller made from latex, glass, beads, and old slides from her grandfather, as well as other assorted materials, sold for $10,000. And a delicate painting in resin and acrylic on silk by Chris Watts (one of the emerging artists featured in the recent documentary The Art of Making It) sold for $11,000.
At Sapar Contemporary, also from New York, the big sale on opening day was Harmony 16, a large-scale crochet wall hanging sculpture by Indonesian artist Mulyana for $11,000.
“He uses recycled yarn to make these coral forms as a reference to ocean pollution in Southeast Asia,” gallery cofounder Nina Levent explained. She said she had to wait eight months for a promised pair of all-white works on offer at the fair, because that’s when Mulyana could finally find enough white yarn to complete the project.
The gallery was also highlighting a new addition to its roster in South Korean-American sculptor Sui Park—the artist’s first representation, even though she has shown her stunning, woven zip-tie creations since 2014, when she was a highlight of the Governors Island Art Fair in New York and was recently included in the “Re:Growth” public art show in New York’s Riverside Park.
“She’s a hustler,” Levent acknowledged, adding that Park has transferred her organic shapes to the canvas for the first time for the fair. “Her work looks 3-D printed, but it’s handmade—people have taken tons of photos.”
Untitled Art Fair runs through December 4 at Ocean Drive and 12th Street, Miami Beach.
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