Art Basel stages highly successful return to Miami Beach, marking a landmark 2021 edition

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Art Basel stages highly successful return to Miami Beach, marking a landmark 2021 edition
Jack Shainman Gallery © Art Basel.

MIAMI, FLA.- The 2021 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach – Art Basel’s first in-person fair in the United States since 2019 – brought together 253 leading international galleries from 36 countries and territories, presenting the highest quality of artworks across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography and digital works. 44 galleries joined the fair for the first time this year, including: Central Galeria and Galeria Estação from São Paulo, Curro from Guadalajara, Galeria Patricia Ready from Vitacura, Proyectos Ultravioleta from Guatemala City, Wilding Cran Gallery from Los Angeles, Reyes Finn from Detroit, Daniel Faria Gallery from Toronto, and Gallery Hyundai from Seoul.

This year’s show was more diverse than ever before and welcomed four first-time participants from Africa, including Afriart Gallery from Kampala; First Floor Gallery Harare with spaces in Harare and Victoria Falls; SMAC Art Gallery with spaces in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Stellenbosch; and Rele Gallery with spaces in Lagos and Los Angeles. In recognition of the changing gallery landscape, this year Art Basel and its Selection Committee relaxed many of its exhibitor application requirements, including the minimum number of exhibitions a gallery must hold per year, the need to have a permanent space, and the number of years the gallery must have been in operation. The changes allowed the fair to welcome a broader range of first-time participants, including the newly-opened Nicola Vassell in New York and the roaming Kendra Jayne Patrick Gallery.

Collector attendance this year was similarly international as in years past, with leading private collectors and institutions from 72 countries across North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East visiting the fair, as well as leading patrons and curators from over 170 museums and cultural organizations including: Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; ICA Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; MOCA Los Angeles; MUAC (Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo), Mexico City; Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham; New Museum, New York; Palais de Lomé; SAHA, Istanbul; Serpentine Galleries, London; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Americas Foundation, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

‘This show marks the first truly international art fair to take place in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic,’ says Marc Spiegler, Global Director, Art Basel. ‘It has been incredible to witness again the energy in the halls and the enormous pent-up demand for seeing, buying, and selling art in person. We featured a much more diverse range of voices than ever before, making this show particularly vibrant and rich in new discoveries.’

Following its success in Basel and Hong Kong, Art Basel Live amplified onsite presentations in Miami Beach, with a digital program comprising Online Viewing Rooms, virtual walkthroughs, livestreamed conversations, and social media broadcasts transmitting the vibrancy and excitement from the show floor to the broadest possible global audience.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, Art Basel implemented comprehensive measures to create a safe fair environment, including a mandatory mask policy inside the venue. In addition, timed entry system was put in place to control occupancy inside the halls.

Galleries exhibiting in all sectors of Art Basel shared their enthusiasm about this year’s edition:

‘As a first-time exhibitor at Art Basel Miami Beach and as a gallery based in Kampala, Uganda, Africa, we were more than thrilled to be at the fair and do so well. Our presence here proves that the world is opening up to a variety of artistic voices, and I am leaving the fair more optimistic about the future of the art world.’ --Daudi Karungi, Director, Afriart Gallery, Kampala

‘A huge win for Miami and the metaverse this week! We were thrilled to place so many works from the fair in great collections, including pieces by Robert Nava and Marina Perez Simão with museums. Art Basel brought us new opportunities in the digital sphere too — the coming-together of creative minds and tech innovators at the fair provided rocket fuel for our digital artists, including the debut of several NFTs.’ --Marc Glimcher, President and CEO, Pace Gallery, New York, Palo Alto, Palm Beach, Hong Kong, Seoul, Geneva, London

‘We were so pleased to see Art Basel Miami Beach back in full swing, and really encouraged to have met so many new people at this edition of the fair. It felt like a shift in gear, even more energy than the previous fair pre-pandemic. The week was certainly a great success for us, with swift sales, and it was really rewarding to be making these sales in person on the booth again. We're leaving on a high having really enjoyed all that Miami's expanding art scene has to offer.’ --Thaddaeus Ropac, Founder, Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris, Salzburg, Seoul


The main sector of the fair featured 185 of the world's leading galleries presenting the highest quality of painting, sculpture, drawings, installation, photography, video, and digital works. Five galleries that previously exhibited in Nova graduated into Galleries: Barro, Galerie Crèvecœur, Mariane Ibrahim, Patron, and Galerie Jérôme Poggi.


This year, the Positions sector brought together 19 solo presentations by emerging talents from across the globe. Sector highlights included: first-time participant Afriart Gallery’s presentation of a series of four paintings by Sungi Mlengeya, on the lives of four Black women from East Africa and their views on womanhood; Claudia Peña Salinas’ project, which continues her ongoing research into Aztec mythology, exploring indigenous notions of verticality and symbolism of water, presented by Curro; ‘The New Americans’ by Vincent Valdez, a series of portraits that inspire viewers to challenge the notions of the American perspective, presented by Matthew Brown Los Angeles; and Rele Gallery’s booth with Marcellina Akpojotor, featuring a series of works that honor the life and legacy of the artist’s great-grandmother and explore ideas of memory, history, and remembrance.


Nova featured 25 presentations of newly created works. Highlights included: a solo exhibition of recent works by 2021 BMW Art Journey winner Julien Creuzet at Document; a group presentation of works by Patricia Belli, Mónica Bengoa, and Catalina Swinburn, inspired by the artists’ local stories of gender inequality, geopolitical diasporas, and the daily use of textiles in Latin America, at Galería Isabel Aninat; new works by Diedrick Brackens and Jessie Homer French, exploring themes ranging from climate justice to racial violence and historical memory, at Various Small Fires; a selection of never-before-seen works by Felipe Mujica, jointly presented by Proyectos Ultravioleta and von Bartha; and an immersive installation by Ambera Wellmann on the politics of queer space and futurity at Company Gallery.


Featuring 17 focused presentations of work created before 2000, Survey introduced five new galleries to the Miami Beach edition, including Welancora Gallery from New York and galerie lange + pult with spaces in Zurich and Auvernier. Further highlights included: the room-sized installation ‘Harlem Quilt’ (1997) by June Clark at Daniel Faria Gallery; a presentation of rare 20th-century works by Dindga McCannon at Fridman Gallery; paintings and sculptures spanning nearly three decades by María Freire at Piero Atchugarry Gallery; and a selection of works by Tina Girouard from her early years in New York at Anat Ebgi.


Five global leaders in the field of prints and editioned works were featured in the sector this year: Carolina Nitsch, Cristea Roberts Gallery, Polígrafa Obra Gràfica, Susan Sheehan Gallery, and Two Palms.

Providing galleries with an opportunity to present curated exhibitions in separately delineated spaces within their booths, this year’s Kabinett sector included 25 presentations by established and emerging artists. Highlights included Jorge Mara - La Ruche’s presentation of Ellen Auerbach, Horacio Coppola, and Grete Stern, three influential figures of avant-garde photography who established themselves as visionary modernists in Europe and South America during the 1930s; Sies + Höke’s presentation of rare early drawings by Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, which trace the differences and the common ground in their artistic approaches; and Mayoral’s presentation of works by Manolo Millares, one of the most important Spanish artists of the post-war European Informalist movement.


Curated by Magalí Arriola, Director of Museo Tamayo, the sector featured 16 ambitious presentations pushing the boundaries of a traditional art fair layout. The sector was newly staged in a dedicated space on the main show floor. Highlights included new work by Maxwell Alexandre as part of the artist’s ‘Pardo é Papel’ series, presented by A Gentil Carioca; a site-specific installation and a performance-based activation of six body devices by Brendan Fernandes titled ‘Contract and Release’ (2019–2021) presented by moniquemeloche; David Lewis’ presentation of Todd Gray’s ‘Sumptuous Memories of Plundering Kings’ (2021), a 14-part work exceeding 30 feet in length, exploring the history and enduring impact of European colonialism, slavery, and the African diaspora; and ‘Moving Up’ (2021) by Yinka Shonibare, CBE, an installation presented by James Cohan Gallery capturing the vertical move of six million African Americans from rural Southern states to the cities of the North, Midwest, and West from 1916 to 1970, known today as the Great Migration.


Art Basel's renowned talks series brought together leading artists, gallerists, collectors, art historians, curators, museum directors, and critics from across the world. Programmed for the second time by private art dealer and author Edward Winkleman and Art Basel, Conversations featured 10 panels offering perspectives on diverse issues from the rise of the NFT art market, to the resilience of the post-pandemic market, and the need to re-invent the museum. Free and open to the public, All panel discussions were also live-streamed on Facebook.

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