Art Basel Miami Beach returns with a hybrid edition, comprising physical and online exhibitions led by galleries across Latin America and Miami, Florida, in a bid to create a direct path of engagement with collectors and curators.
TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of Art Basel
While Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) has always been known for its focus on Latin American galleries, artists and art, this year a number of galleries from the region are taking the lead. In addition to participating in Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms (OVR), titled “OVR: Miami Beach,” running from 2 to 6 December with 255 international art galleries, 10 Mexican art galleries are showcasing artworks intended for the physical edition in an early 20th century villa, Casa Versalles, in the central neighbourhood of Juárez, Mexico City.
With each gallery occupying one of 10 rooms in the venue, the exhibition will be accessed by invitation only, allowing only a limited number of visitors at a time amongst other safety protocols. Such safety precautions are certainly necessary given that Mexico reportedly became the fourth country to hit 100,000 COVID-19 deaths on 20 November.
Nonetheless, lockdowns and social restrictions have affected the local art scene adversely. The exhibition co-organiser José Kuri, of Kurimanzutto, told Art Basel, “This is a city that is super vibrant, [where] our life happens out on the street, so it’s been quite challenging.”
Besides Kurimanzutto, the Casa Versalles exhibitors include Curro, Gaga, Galería Agustina Ferreyra, Galerie Nordenhake, MAIA Contemporary, Proyectos Monclova, Labor, Galería OMR, and Travesía Cuatro. Most notably, 10 percent of sales from the event will be donated to the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo and Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, both in Mexico City.
Speaking with CoBo Social, Francisco Borrego Vergara, Director of Curro, explained the appeal of a hybrid approach in an art fair digital showcase, “A rendered image is very different from when you put the artwork on show live and take a physical image of it. If people see the image of something physical rather than rendered, there is more resonance. It can go beyond more than just wall pieces and paintings. Also, some pieces need more context, especially in our case.”
Curro, a Guadalajara-based art gallery, will be exhibiting new works by New York-based artist Claudia Peña Salinas, which involve hand-dyed cotton thread, acrylic and polished brass as freestanding, semi-translucent panels, representing the physicality of portals into ancient Aztec myths enmeshed with modernism. Given the emphasis on the physical even conceptually, the need for context for such artworks does make sense.
The aforementioned hybrid method has been gaining increasing favour amongst art dealers participating in digital art fairs in recent months such as the recent Frieze Viewing Room for Frieze London. It is also not unique to the 10 Mexican galleries participating in “OVR: Miami Beach”—participating art dealers from Buenos Aires and São Paulo, to Miami, are also looking to meld the physical with the digital.
Speaking with CoBo Social, Leopol Jose Maria Mones Cazon of Galería Isla Flotante in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said, “We will invite some Argentine guests to see the presented artworks live. For instance, we are working with the city government protocol arranged with the Argentine art galleries association, Meridiano, with which we are able to receive guests at the gallery just by appointment, with all the safety measures needed.”
Central Galeria, a gallery in São Paulo, Brazil, will be doing something similar as well. “We decided to physically do the installation that we proposed for the fair and now we are planning on doing a preview for a selected number of collectors that are in São Paulo,” said gallery director Fernanda Resstom.
In Miami itself, there will be a slew of online and physical exhibitions and programmes as part of Miami Art Week from 2 to 6 December and even in the following months. Miami gallerist Fredric Snitzer, a usual participant of ABMB, will be displaying all the works he was planning to show at the fair’s physical edition at his gallery space. Other blue-chip New York galleries, like Acquavella, Paula Cooper and Pace, have also launched temporary Palm Beach spaces for the next few months.
In fact, veteran art fair organisers David and Lee Ann Lester are intending to launch a physical art fair in Palm Beach in February next year, promoting the event as an “art bubble” with strict safety regulations in place and attendance limited to no more than 300 to 400 people inside at a time, including exhibitors.
This might come across as rather blindly optimistic, even for an event still some three months away, in light of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in several parts of the United States, including Florida which reported its biggest one-day jump in deaths in more than a month on 23 November. Not to mention the fact that a number of international and regional art fairs slated for the first few months of next year have been postponed to later dates such as Art Basel Hong Kong, Taipei Dangdai and Frieze Los Angeles.
However, the push towards some sort of physical presence, whether a hybrid form or more, is understandable to some extent, given the kind of feedback OVRs and the like have been receiving from collectors and cultural stakeholders worldwide.
On 26 November, Belgian art collector Alain Servais tweeted: “Art Basel OVR are opening for VIP on Dec 2. I have already received hundreds of previews. Can anyone explain to me what will be left to see on Dec 2? It confirms those OVRs are just event- & buzz-driven. So tired of them I am not even opening previews!”
Yet art fair organisers and dealers remain optimistic. “What interests me about OVRs is that you can have art anytime and anywhere in the world. Galleries had to generate content online and this democratises art. The art market was behind virtually and now we are more connected,” said Resstom.
Noah Horowitz, Director Americas, Art Basel, said, “The OVR offers a call to action that allows galleries a direct path to their clients, directing clients to OVRs, and creating conversations with collectors and curators.”
“We are cognizant that everyone is trying to figure out this space….one of the things we found to be very effective with the OVR are the Zoom-led tours that our global VIP representatives have set up to invite clients to come on tours and interact with artists and galleries. [So] we are creating a moment for people to come together in a digital way,” he explained.
“Also, in terms of outreach, one of the galleries participating in the Fall [digital] event got a request from a curator interested in their work for a biennale. Our fairs are not just about sales per say but also about value of connection, certainly in terms of the curatorial and museum sphere,” Horowitz added.
Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms, “OVR: Miami Beach” will take place from 4 through 6 December, with VIP preview days on 2 through 4 December.