Reality Focus: Miami 2021 by

by December 28, 2021

PDFs and OVRs came back to three-dimensional life in Miami this December. Although there were more than enough parties, launch events, and crowded exhibition booths to make up for the canceled 2020 fair, the intensity of participating in-person was only a limited turn away from showing up online.
Public attention to contemporary art right now seems to be caught in a tense tug-of-war between the physical and the digital, a rhythm no doubt imposed by nearly two years of rebounding paranoia, isolation, recovery, relief, and retreat. These tensions played out vividly during Miami Art Week, where the city’s Convention Center, which once again hosted the main fair, saw overall attendance at 60,000 visitors — yet NFT launches were as lavish and well-attended as flagship alcohol and credit card brand activations, blue-chip gallery parties with multiple checkpoints for entry, and “intimate” eighty-guest dinners on the terraces of Collins Avenue hotels.
Beeple — artist Mike Winkelmann — was the year’s ubiquitous celebrity after his record-breaking auction sale earlier in 2021. He appeared IRL for a talk, “15 Minutes or Forever? Art in the Age of the NFT,” with collector Adam Lindemann and artist Peter Saul at the Bass Museum. ABMB booths with repeat visitors included Ambera Wellmann’s private quarters for Company Gallery, where lavender walls surrounded a treated-wood bedframe that was itself depicted being enjoyed in paintings hung behind it. Meanwhile, conversation topics at the fair included “Navigating the NFT Art Market” and “Being Transparent: Pricing in the Online Art Market,” which were Zoomed out to virtual audiences while attendees inside the program’s auditorium remained sparse.
The week kicked off with the opening of Dale Zine, the neighborhood bookstore and art space inaugurating a new brick-and-mortar location in Little River with a sprawling group exhibition across every wall and shelf inside. In the Brickell neighborhood, the New Art Dealers Alliance — NADA — welcomed 12,000 of its own visitors. At KDR305’s watermelon-bubblegum-pink booth, Joel Gaitan’s small, whimsical, decorated sculptures celebrated the handmade, their expressive faces practically begging to have their unglazed terracotta forms touched. This year also inaugurated the MobileCoin Art Prize, a cryptocurrency startup dedicating a cash prize to, this year, Gabriella Torres-Ferrer at Embajada, Puerto Rico; Hangama Amiri at Towards, Toronto; and “Black Experience isn’t a Spectacle” by, presented by Anteism Books. The prize money will be paid out in MOB.

At the Pérez Art Museum Miami, musician Moses Sumney was the headlining performer of the evening, and the museum’s theater was packed for the screening of a film of the singer-songwriter performing his new album, Live From Blackalachia (2021), before going onstage for a Q&A and singing for a larger crowd on a more spacious outdoor stage.
Perhaps no one better understood the complicated new feelings around seeing art than Zoe Lukov, the independent curator who organized the exhibition “Skin in the Game” in a sprawling storefront on Washington Avenue. Isabelle Albuquerque’s Orgy for 10 People in One Body: 5 (2020) and Tosh Bosco’s photo portraits of her lovers in varying states of undress model the exhibition’s themes of skin and touch. Micol Hebron’s No Body Is Inappropriate is a mirrored selfie photo booth that allowed anyone to make their own cover of Playboy, with background images culled from the magazine’s archives and handy “digital male nipple pasties” on offer as a means of posting the final product while cheekily ducking Instagram’s ban on female nipples. No Body is a clever tool for broadcasting the show’s third theme, transmission, on the platform we perhaps use the most to see art and, for the time being, each other.
Saint Laurent, however, committed to the analog realm, presented a simple, open-walled structure painted in a vermilion-to-fuchsia gradient housing 55 Sunrises, a project by New York painter Sho Shibuya. The Japanese artist began “Sunrise from a Small Window,” his daily painting practice using the front page of the daily issue of the New York Times, at the beginning of the pandemic, seeing it as a small, consistent gesture of optimism in the face of daily news. The exhibition had the entire series on view, with a zine of the NYT paintings to go. Positioned right on the water at 17th Street in South Beach, the long, snaking line to get inside offered a view of the ocean, only several meters away, and the grit of sand underfoot. It felt good to stand in line again.

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Jennifer Piejko