Art Basel Miami Beach 2016 wrapped up to a successful close yesterday, after drawing in thousands of attendees. Amongst the notable guests were HRH Princess Firyal of Jordan, Barbra Streisand, Victoria and David Beckham, Leonardo DiCaprio and Elle Macpherson, who flocked to South Beach to take in the annual high-profile art show. Over 4000 artists from all practices, lined the halls of the Miami Beach Convention Center with large-scale installations, staggering sculptures, wall paintings and photography series.
In the midst of the showcase, Princess Alia Al-Senussi, Chair of the Tate Young Patrons and Art Basel Representative for the Middle East, noted, “Art Basel in Miami Beach brings the renowned quality of the mother fair in Switzerland together with the vibrancy of the beach. Today, it’s more important than ever to illustrate the internationalism of art and the power this exerts to open our minds and hearts.” Emphasizing on the impact of contemporary artists as well as those from the Arab world participating in this year’s edition, she added, “The artists, and the galleries that showcased them didn’t disappoint, with excellent presentations of works that were a call to action and a call to remember that the world can be a better place—that no one can be complacent. Cultural diplomacy was the topic on everyone’s lips, so it was heartening to see such incredible work from the Middle East. Walking the aisles was cathartic for me, and gave me hope that art really does change the world—and that we can still have fun, because Miami is the perfect place to remind us that these experiences can exist side-by-side.”
The works of Palestinian artist Jumana Manna and Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair were showcased at New York’s CRG Gallery. An installation titled “The Lebanese Rocket Society” by Lebanese artists Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige spanned across the whole wall. Also spotted were oil on canvas landscapes by the Lebanese octogenarian Etel Adnan at Galerie Lelong, an installation by the Jordanian-Lebanese artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, and significant pieces by Mona Hatoum adorned the White Cube Gallery.
New works were presented by Egyptian artist Ghada Amer, including a series of ceramic pieces at Kewenig Gallery, as well as delicate textile pieces at Cheim & Read, which the gallery reportedly placed with a collector through the course of the show for US $150,000.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim El-Salahi––the first Sudanese artist to have a retrospective at the Tate Modern––was honored with a solo booth by Vigo Gallery, featuring historical works on paper from 1976 to 1977. Many of the works came directly from the artist’s private collection, on public display for the first time. The presentation included a selection of original pieces by El-Salahi illustrating the late Tayeb Salih’s novel Maryoud.
Other major highlights from the annual fair are the “Conversations and Salon” program, where artists, galleries, historians, curators, museum directors and collectors join in talks and panel discussions. On the Salon program roster this year was President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, HE Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, who examined Sharjah Biennial’s commitment to supporting artists through commissions in a panel. Following the discussion, Al Qasimi mused, “It was enlightening to be speaking on a panel with Gabriele Horn the Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art Director and artist Damián Oretga, discussing the different processes and concerns that artists and institutions face.” Further evidence of this practice of commissions will be on view when Sharjah Biennial 13 opens in March 2017.
Another artist featured in the Salon at Art Basel Miami 2016 was Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal, who spoke about his ongoing project “One Hundred Sixty-Eight Hours and One Second” that connects global networks through Kickstarter and exchanges artists’ pieces from an installation at the Art Gallery of Windsor to fund educational texts and begin the process of rebuilding the College of Fine Arts in Baghdad library. “The conversation was very meaningful and informative, and it brought the local with the global to debate crowd funding connectivity across the world,” stated Bilal. “I hope programming in art fairs will expand in the future, since is it’s a platform for an immediate reflection of social and political issues of our present time.”