Dec 16 2014

Art Basel in Miami Beach

by Paul Laster

The 13th edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach (ABMB) offered an especially strong showing of Asian galleries. As interest in contemporary Asian art continues to grow, so does the number of Asian exhibitors at international art fairs. Of the 267 exhibitors that showed at this year’s ABMB, 21 are located in or have branches in Asia.

New participants included Beijing Commune from China and Take Ninagawa and Y++ Wada Fine Arts from Tokyo. Y++ presented an outstanding show in ABMB’s newly launched Survey section, with paintings and works on paper by Tetsuya Ishida, a talented Japanese painter who tragically died at age 31 in 2005.

Xu Zhen’s impasto paintings from his colorful “Under Heaven” series (2012– ), for which he applies paint using a pastry chef’s icing applicator, were on view at the booths of Beijing’s Long March Space and New York- and Shanghai-based James Cohan Gallery. Likewise from Shanghai was ShanghART (also located in Beijing and Singapore), which exhibited several of Xu’s black, spray-painted monochromes—complete with spray nozzles attached to the canvases—from his “Turbulent” series (2012).

Lee Ufan was equally ubiquitous, with his exquisite canvases on view at several different booths, including that of SCAI The Bathhouse. The Tokyo gallery displayed a rare 1979 From Line painting of blue brushstrokes, which sold for USD 1.25 million. Seoul’s Kukje Gallery and New York-based Tina Kim Gallery’s shared space presented three paintings and a floor sculpture made by Lee between 1974 and 2012.

DO HO SUH, Rubbing/Loving Project: Unit 2, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2014, colored pencil on vellum pinned on board, 162.3 × 305 × 20 cm. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York/Hong Kong.
DO HO SUH, Rubbing/Loving Project: Unit 2, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2014, colored pencil on vellum pinned on board, 162.3 × 305 × 20 cm. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York/Hong Kong.

Take Ninagawa, Beijing Commune, and India’s Gallery SKE exhibited in the Nova section, where galleries showcased new works by up to three artists. Beijing Commune kept its booth sparse with three minimal sculptures by Hu Xiaoyuan—comprising pieces of lumber covered in silk, which the artist has traced over with Chinese ink to make the fabric resemble a wood-like appearance—and Wang Guangle’s black-and-white abstractions created by applying layer after layer of lacquer paint on canvas. SKE, meanwhile, offered a poetic mingling of handmade books, photographs and evocative objects by Astha Butail, Srinivasa Prasad and Sudarshan Shetty.

In the Kabinett section, which presents curated exhibitions within a gallery booth,  Beijing- and Lucerne-based Galerie Urs Meile staged the performance piece The History of Reception (2012) by Yan Xing, which was enacted in English by an American actor in the Kabinett section. Meanwhile, Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) exhibited in the Edition section, which was added to the fair last year. Rirkrit Tiravanija’s screenprints, inspired by HG Wells’s 1895 dystopian novel Time Machine, were amongst the standout works in STPI’s booth. His enigmatic 2013 sculpture When the tobacco smoke also smells of the mouth which exhales it the two orders are married by infra-slim M.D.—carrying the hefty price of USD120,000—was a show-stopper, comprising etched stainless-steel cones resting atop a plain wooden table.

The icing on the cake this year, however, was Y++ Wada Fine Arts’ solo show of Tetsuya Ishida’s enchanting, dreamlike paintings on canvas and paper. The exhibition comprised a replica of the late artist’s humble home installed in the front section of the gallery booth, which intermixed artworks with domestic objects, More of Ishida’s surreal paintings were displayed in a traditional manner in the back of the room. His images of schoolboys and businessmen convey a sense of anxiety and isolation, which was a prevalent mood among Japanese youth in the 1990s and perhaps also for the artist. But times have changed, and Ishida’s stock has risen posthumously—evident by the gallery’s sale of several of his paintings, for USD 430,000, on the opening day of the fair.