Tropic of Miami

Stan Douglas, Messss Hall (2005). Courtesy CIFO

In addition to the fairs themselves, one of the highlights during Art Basel Miami Beach is the bevy of private collections and foundations. This is the kind of thing that also happens in New York during the Armory Show, but miserable Manhattan winters do not compare to the warm, sun-drenched Florida beaches in December. Where else can one disembark and bee-line to an outdoor morning brunch in 80 degree weather, complete with mimosas, mosaics, palm trees, and a live Latin band? And yes, don’t forget about the art. Collections such as the Scholl, Margulies, and Rubell have for years now entrenched themselves in swaying the art market in ways not unlike what Charles Saatchi has done across the Atlantic.

Among the many worthwhile exhibitions this year were Thirty Americans at the Rubell Family Collection and The Prisoner’s Dilemma at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO). Thirty Americans is actually a mini-survey of thirty contemporary African American artists, perhaps tipping hat and curtsying to the new president-elect. The artists in this show ranged from the established like Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker to up-and-comers like Rashid Johnson and Xaviera Simmons.

Thirty Americans:

The Prisoner’s Dilemma:

At CIFO, curator Leanne Mella drew upon the collection to select works that responded to the exercise of power in 21st century living, as they “challenge strategies of totalizing power and social control.” The tightly packed exhibition enlists heavy-hitters such as Francis Alys, Alexandre Arrechea, Stan Douglas, Jenny Holzer, and Barbara Kruger. Very apropos in shady economic times, spent at least under the shade of palm fronds.