A contingent from Minnesota’s art scene headed down to South Florida last week to take part in the explosion of art that is Miami Art Week.
With more than 20 international art fairs and public art installations popping up all over Miami and Miami Beach, plus thousands of visitors, including art collectors, curators, artists and gallerists from all over the world, the festivities were an enticing draw for folks here in the Twin Cities. And that’s not to mention the 70 degree weather and an ocean where it’s warm enough to swim.
Among the Twin Cities artists was Christopher E. Harrison, an educator at the Walker Art Center who shows his work regularly in Twin Cities galleries, has created public art in North Minneapolis and has also shown internationally. In Miami, Harrison showed his art at a pop-up gallery in South Beach, run by the female-owned virtual gallery, The Fearless Artist.
“The gallery owners I talked to seemed to be happy with the overall sales and exposure after the pandemic,” Harrison told me over direct message on Instagram, where he shared photos of his experiences visiting all there is to see at Art Basel and the other international fairs that make up Miami Art Week. “I was surprised and pleased at the cultural diversity in the imagery and mediums throughout the fairs.”
Art Basel is a commercial fair founded in Basel, Switzerland in the 1970s. There are now four Art Basel fairs, in Basel, Hong Kong, Paris and Miami Beach, with the Art Basel Miami Beach celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Taking place in the Miami Beach Convention Center, the fair is an enormous presentation of contemporary art. Lots of work exhibited speak to our moment – Christopher Myers’ “Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me” (2022), featuring stained glass pieces inside of an octagonal tent, exploring the relationship between Black bodies and water. There were also older works from contemporary art legends such as Judy Chicago and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Because Art Basel Miami Beach brings in buyers from across the globe, other fairs – like the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), Untitled, Art Miami and more have popped up during the same time in Miami over the years. Twin Cities artists Alison Price and Rita Dunge both showed work at Red Dot Miami, a fair located in the Wynwood neighborhood, a hipster hotspot noted for its murals and graffiti art.
This is all on top of a thriving art scene that exists in the area all year long, with fantastic museums such as the Rubell Museum, home to two of Yayoi Kasuma’s famed infinity rooms. They were showing the droopy, cartoonish characters painted by Clayton Schiff, and the textured works of Alexandre Diop, whose work bears similarity to Twin Cities artist Lauren Roche in its mix of densely layered narratives with figurative elements. A security guard told me Diop gifted him a painting while the artist was in residence.
Add to the mix an influx of pop-up installations. From illuminated sculptures on the beach to pop-art sculptures installed near the high-end shops of Miami’s Design District, public art was everywhere.
Ryan Fontaine, a self-taught artist and musician turned gallerist, who runs Hair + Nails Gallery in South Minneapolis with choreographer Kristin Van Loon, of the dance duo Hijack, was talking to an eager customer about Rachel Collier, one of the artists they are showing. They also had works by Moises Salazar Tlatenchi and Cameron Patricia Downey, a 24-year-old artist who came up through North Minneapolis’s Juxtaposition Arts program, and was mentored by former Twin Cities-based artists Caroline Kent and Nate Young, of the Bindery Projects.
Hair + Nails has previously shown all three artists at the gallery, and chose them for NADA because they had the best chance to help make up the cost of being there.
“We need to know that we can sell it,” Fontaine said.
That question doesn’t come into play as much in their normal shows in Minneapolis, where rent is a heck of a lot cheaper. They often host exhibitions featuring artists that don’t make work geared toward a commercial market.
NADA caters to emerging artists that aren’t quite big enough for Art Basel, and smaller galleries that don’t have the capital to participate in the bigger fair. So far, Fontaine and Van Loon have found success with the festival and showed at the Miami location for the second time this year. They first started going when NADA had a fair in Chicago, and also showed at NADA’s festival in New York.
Fontaine said he spends a lot of time in the booth.
“It’s really where we can make connections to curators, or institutions or collectors or other artists,” Fontaine said. “We become more connected to a national and international art scene.”
It also gives them leverage with Twin Cities institutions, talking to Twin Cities museum curators who visit the booth.
Visiting international fairs helps supplement the gallery’s bottom line, Fontaine said. “Minneapolis is a great place to live, but it’s hard to do things like sell art.” When I visited their booth at the NADA preview, Hair + Nails had already made up their fees for the booth, amounting to $10,000.
David Petersen Gallery, which recently re-opened at East 41st Street and Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis, after closing its former space near the Wedge Co-Op in 2017, also had a booth at NADA, showing the ghost-like work of Rose Nada, whose pieces drum up images of Marcel Duchamp. Nada’s work has a Rorschach-like quality, which, coincidentally, harkens back to a work that appeared at Art Basel: “RorschachTest #3” by Cosima Von Bonin (2006).
Petersen has shown work in Miami previously, but not in a number of years. He came back because he wanted to show Nada’s work to a broader audience, even if the setting isn’t ideal for viewing the art.
“This is not the best context for her work,” he said, indicating the swarms of passersby who don’t necessarily take the time one needs to fully be with Nada’s work. “Her work requires a lot of time.”
Highpoint Center for Printmaking, the nonprofit arts center and gallery on Lake Street in Minneapolis, also had a presence in Miami, at the Ink Miami Art Fair, located in hotel rooms surrounding a courtyard just a block away from Art Basel. It was the first time they’ve participated in a Miami Art Fair, though they’ve done other sorts of fairs in other cities in the past. “This is the year we could take a chance,” said Cole Rogers, artistic director and master printer at Highpoint. The teams spends 11 hour days during the festival, and all that work seems to be paying off as they generate interest for artists like Minneapolis-based artist Julie Buffalohead. “Julie’s prints are selling really well,” Rogers said.
Besides galleries that had fair booths, some just came to check out the scene. Rebecca Heidenberg and Gregory Smith, owners of Minneapolis’ Dreamsong gallery, headed to Miami partially for research, as they visit Art Basel and other fairs and meet with artists they are considering showing at their gallery in northeast Minneapolis.
“We are always looking for artists,” Heidenberg said.
Showing at one of the Miami fairs is part of their plan for their future. Meanwhile, they are gearing up for the Frieze Festival in L.A. in February, where they’ll be showing work by Ta-Coumba Aiken and Nicole Havekost.
Dreamsong is also the force behind Twin Cities Art Week, which happened for the first time this fall.
What if Minneapolis had a fair this big that could boost the visibility of Minneapolis as an art center? Well, we can dream.