MIAMI - Now in its thirteenth edition, Art Basel Miami Beach is well established as the art world’s favourite December destination. But aside from offering some welcome Florida sunshine and a generally more relaxed backdrop to the serious business of buying and selling modern and contemporary art, ABMB has also become increasingly renowned as an important gateway into the expanding markets of Latin America.
The region’s growth into a powerful contemporary art sector is confirmed by the fact that, out of the 267 leading international galleries who are setting up shop in the Miami Beach Convention Center this year, 31 are based in Mexico and South America. Among these dealers are Jorge Mara-La Ruche and Ruth Benzacar from Buenos Aires; Casas Riegner from Bogotá; Kurimanzutto and Galería OMR from Mexico City; A Gentil Carioca from Rio de Janeiro and Galeria Fortes Vilaça and Luisa Strina from São Paulo.
The enthusiasm for Latin American art permeates every part of the fair, with galleries from Europe and elsewhere also showing it in their booths. Edinburgh gallery Ingleby is devoting much of its space to Brazilian artist Iran do Espírito Santo, whose sculptural works in marble, stainless steel and glass play off the Minimalist tradition through shifts in scale. New York’s Sperone Westwater Gallery focuses on Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca’s signature large-scale works on paper depicting theatre interiors. The Charpentier Galerie may hail from Paris but it has invited three leading South American artists to explore less comfortable aspects of the region. Teresa Margolles deals with the official apathy that greets the expansion of the Mexican drug trade into the rural areas of her country; Oscar Muñoz’s fading images from Colombian history books reflect the ease with which the past recedes from memory; and Voluspa Jarpa’s work revolves around her research into unclassified CIA files investigating the disappearance of prominent Latin American figures.
Charpentier is among the galleries in the fair’s youthful Nova section, which is devoted to work made within the past three years. Another Nova participant is Lima gallery 80m2 Livia Benavides, which is showing Peruvian artist David Zink Yi’s black and white photographs of miners from Peru’s Ayacucho region. A big draw will be a five-day performance by Brazilian artists Cibelle Cavalli Bastos and Patricia Leite, who are converting the stand into a dystopian futuristic hotel, which will also be the setting for a one-woman show by Cavalli’s flamboyant alter-ego Sonja Khalecallon.
In what could be read as a sideways glance at Frieze Masters, Survey is a new ABMB section dedicated to thirteen art historical presentations. These include work by key female artists of the 1960s through the 1980s such as Niki de Saint Phalle, Valie Export and Alison Knowles, as well as Outsider artists Henry Darger and Marcel Storr. There are also important South American voices to be found here: Galeria Bergamin from São Paulo is presenting a unique collection of paintings by Alfredo Volpi, born in Italy but raised in Brazil, and arguably the country’s most influential mid-20th-century painter. There is a more political edge to the videos and photographs by Chilean artist Lotty Rosenfeld at espaivisor gallery of Valencia that depict the artist’s interventions in such charged settings as the Bank of England, the White House and Checkpoint Charlie.
A major factor contributing to ABMB’s appeal is the numerous private initiatives by the local collector community, many of whom have Cuban roots. Among these is the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), whose exhibitions programme includes Latin American art and works by international contemporary artists from the collection of its founder, Ella Cisneros-Fontanals. This year’s show at CIFO space, Fleeting Imaginaries, is devoted to ten emerging artists from South America, Cuba and Mexico. Such institutions are a reminder that Latin American art has an enormous presence in Miami and is a cultural force that thrives well beyond art fair week.