Fairs USA

Art Miami embodies the South Beach aesthetic

The city’s longest-running fair—don’t even think of calling it a satellite—is the best place to find bright, showy art

Art Miami still best presents the bright, showy art that has long been associated with the tropical city

It’s a bit of a cliché to claim that there’s such a thing as a “Miami aesthetic” when it comes to the contemporary art fairs held in the city each December. But, if ever the stereotype rang true, it’s probably at Art Miami, the sprawling, colour-splashed fair on NE 1st Avenue and 32nd Street in the Wynwood district (until 8 December).

The 24-year-old event is the longest-running fair on the Miami circuit. It’s twice the age of Art Basel—so don’t even think of calling it a satellite fair—and it still best presents the bright, showy art that has long been associated with the tropical city.

What does that look like? Well, judging from the fair’s 125 jam-packed booths, it means a lot of butterflies, for one thing. A massive assemblage of glistening acetate-and-paper wings hangs at New York's Nohra Haime Gallery, a photo of collaged butterfly wings at Stockholm's Wetterling Gallery and, of course, Damien Hirst’s kaleidoscopic butterfly prints at the booth of the artist’s Other Criteria shop.

Then there’s an abundance of big, above-the-couch-ready canvases from the 1960s: the drizzled, paint-pooled works of Sam Francis, Pop portraits by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol (at least two sets of Chairman Mao prints are on offer), plus a seemingly interminable supply of female nudes, particularly of the pulpish, Mel Ramos variety.

“We’ve been coming here for 12 years and every year we are told that we are so Miami-ish,” says the Düsseldorf-based dealer Bernd Lausberg, whose booth is illuminated by the metallic sculptures of Rafael Barrios and Finish Fetish-style works by Gisela Colon. “This is the aesthetic of what is shown here.”

But the fair is also known for trafficking big-ticket paintings from modern Latin American masters. The Coral Gables-based gallery Cernuda Arte is offering a section of a 1951 mural by Wifredo Lam for $3m. It’s not likely to be an effortless sell, but gallery owner Ramon Cernuda, who specialises in Cuban art, has had success in selling paintings for more than $1m at pervious editions of the fair.

“This is what makes a fair interesting,” Cernuda says, gesturing across the aisle to artist Jacob Skornik’s pink, glittery rendition of Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, which hangs on the wall of the Antoine Helwaser gallery’s booth. “It’s the mix of ultra-contemporary, cutting-edge work and well-known masters.” Plus, he adds: “I like the people at this fair. They’re not stuck up.”

A massive assemblage of glistening acetate-and-paper wings by Natalia Arias hangs at New York's Nohra Haime Gallery
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