MIAMI - Wednesday of Fair Week in Miami is always the busiest day, since it’s the official first look at Art Basel Miami Beach for VIPs and press, and there are parties galore up and down Collins Avenue.
Somehow I ended up at a sought-after dinner with beer heiress and fashion icon Daphne Guinness that also included, somewhat improbably, several Miami Heat players, several local Real Housewives, Martha Stewart, Russell Simmons and Stephen Dorff. The much- delayed meal involved copious amounts of Dom Pérignon 2003 (excellent), and so I’m not sure if that was really an artist in a full-on top hat sitting next to me or whether that was the Champagne talking.
Daphne Guinness and Karolina Kurokova on Wednesday night. Wire Image.
But don’t believe for a minute that such revelry prevented business from being done. Up and down the aisles of the main fair, it was slightly calmer than last year, and dealers were thankful. “The staggered entrances have helped,” Angela Westwater of Sperone Westwater told me. “It’s a little more relaxed, and sales are about the same.”
As I ambled around looking for trends, I ran into Malcolm Rogers, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and his contemporary curator, Edward Saywell. Rogers said he thought it was “vital” to be down in the trenches at the event, and was awaiting a group of dozens of Boston curators and collectors to join on a tour en masse.
It’s always telling who are the most popular, repeat artist names among the many booths, and I saw a lot works by two major names: Richard Prince and Joan Mitchell. Prince is no surprise – the great Pictures Generation artist, famous for his “re-photographing” of cowboys and his later naughty nurse paintings, has long been at the top of the heap.
Richard Prince’s Nurse on Horseback from 2004. Courtesy of Helly Nahmad Gallery.
Prince’s works could be found in the booth of his home base, Gagosian Gallery, of course; über-dealer Larry Gagosian was seen lying back in his seat as a bevy of gallerinas and collectors flocked around him. Van de Weghe Fine Art had the stunning Millionaire Nurse, 2002 on hand; at Skarstedt Gallery it was the photo Creative Evolution 2, 1985-86 and Untitled (Protest Painting), 1989-92. Helly Nahmad Gallery is showing off Nurse on Horseback. And there were probably more.
Joan Mitchell’s Toothpaste from 1987. Courtesy of Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery.
Joan Mitchell is slightly more of a surprise. I ran into – new director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and former top curator at the Met – right as I was marveling at two ravishing Mitchell canvases: Toothpaste, 1987, and When They Were Gone, 1977, at Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery. “She’s a wonderful painter and she was a bit overlooked,” he told me about the second generation Abstract Expressionist, who died in 1992. “People didn't pay as much attention to her because of the men she came up with in the art world.”
Joan Mitchell’s Edouard from 1980. Courtesy of Acquavella Galleries.
Perhaps not as overlooked at this particular fair, though: Cheim & Read had two Mitchell beauties, A Moi, 1990 and Unititled, 1957, and Acquavella Galleries offered Mitchells’ Edouard, 1980. Perhaps last year’s acclaimed biography of the artist by Patricia Albers has rekindled interest in this great painter. In any case, I’ll be interested to find out how these great-looking works do in terms of collector interest.