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Art Basel’s Marc Spiegler will be a hard act to follow

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As Art Basel’s executives gear up for this year’s 20th anniversary of their Miami Beach fair, they can look back on two decades punctuated with drama. Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s outgoing director of 15 years, and his replacement, Noah Horowitz, acknowledge that the ride to this landmark year has not always been smooth.

From the outset this fair was buffeted by events beyond management’s control. Its opening was planned for 2001 but was cancelled after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which meant people were not inclined to travel, let alone buy art, and there was an accompanying economic downturn too. There were already huge doubts about whether the Swiss fair, then directed by Sam Keller, had made the right decision to take its weighty Swiss brand to an unlikely US city. “I thought it was a crazy idea. I had never been there, apart from via Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” Spiegler says, referring to the video game set in a fictional version of Miami.

A man and woman wearing swim suits walk past a pink Art Basel advertising column protruding from the grass verge
At the time of the Miami launch, it was unusual for any fair to take its brand overseas © Dpa/Alamy

Others shared his caution — Miami was seen by many as a crime-ridden, cultural desert, at best a sunny retirement city, and a far cry from the real US art market action of New York and Chicago.

Like many of us, Spiegler admits he was proved wrong. He remembers visiting the first Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002 when working as an arts journalist based in Zurich. Ushered into a party in the garden of the collecting couple Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, he says he was struck by two things that went on to define the fair’s success: the overlooked sophistication of the city’s highly engaged collectors, and the draw of events that now seem intrinsic not just to Art Basel Miami Beach (where they do a poolside party pretty well) but to the whole of the contemporary art market. “It wasn’t the done thing at the time,” Spiegler says.

Miami’s other advantage, Spiegler realised, is how close it is to Brazil, a major collector base and a booming economy in the fair’s earlier years. And, of course, the weather helps. “Those first biting days of winter [in New York and Europe] make Miami appealing,” he says.

A woman views a rainbow-coloured rectangular art work on a wall while green flecks of plastic in the shape of raindrops hand from the ceiling behind her
Increased institutionalisation has been an inevitable trend as the market expands in popularity © Dov Makabaw/Alamy

At the time of the Miami launch, it was unusual for any fair to take its brand overseas, something that became de rigueur for the bigger companies in the intervening 20 years. “Art Basel Miami Beach proved that there was something about Art Basel’s success that could be exported,” Spiegler says.

This laid the ground for Art Basel in Hong Kong, a fair he opened in 2013 and, more recently in Paris — both launches among his highlights of his Art Basel career, which began in 2007. In both instances, the fairs replaced existing events rather than venturing into the complete unknown, as Keller had done in Miami. Art Basel bought out ArtHK, which had launched in 2008, while in Paris the fair group ruffled some feathers when it took the slot of the Fiac fair that had run for nearly 50 years. Increased institutionalisation is not to everyone’s liking in the nuanced art world, but has been an inevitable trend as the market expands in popularity, accompanied by soaring prices for art.

A circular artwork done in a style that evokes stained glass windows - with patterns and colours demarcated by curving black lines
‘Social Fabric’ (2022) by Nevin Aladağ © Galerie Krinzinger and the artist. Photo: Daniela Kohl

“I started out at a company that had two events and one office in Switzerland with a staff of 22. I am leaving a business that runs four fairs, has more than 100 people in offices around the word and a significant online presence,” Spiegler says. The growing international stature of Art Basel during Spiegler’s reign attracted the media scion James Murdoch, whose company Lupa Systems bought a controlling stake in Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group in 2020.

While Miami has helped Art Basel grow, the fair is certainly credited with helping to power Miami’s cultural scene — and gives a post-Thanksgiving boost to its hotels, restaurants and Uber drivers. “The city was ready for it, but the fair brought more great collectors, more great galleries to town. It delivered an audience, it was showtime,” Spiegler says, with characteristic zeal.

Photograph of Noah Horowitz standing in a dark suit and tie, smiling
Noah Horowitz will take over as chief executive of Art Basel © Courtesy of Art Basel

The more understated Horowitz, who worked for Spiegler as Art Basel’s director of Americas between 2015 and 2021 and now rejoins the fair group after a year at Sotheby’s, also saw the city change. “There were a handful of galleries in 2001 and more than 100 in 2019, though what I find more incredible is what has happened since,” he says.

The Covid pandemic brought more people and businesses to Miami, sunny, libertarian and low-tax, as real-estate moguls and sun-seeking snowbirds gave way to crypto bros and high-rolling financiers. The art scene jumped at the opportunity. “It’s not just the absolute numbers that have grown, but the depth and ambition of the galleries that are now here,” Horowitz says. He cites this year’s new entrants, Jupiter and Central Fine galleries, both in North Beach, as well as the growing influence of longer-time locals such as Nina Johnson. The evolution has not just been commercial: Horowitz notes cutting-edge and influential exhibitions at institutions such as the ICA Miami and The Bass Museum.

Horowitz and Spiegler have presided over some eventful editions. At Horowitz’s first show in 2015, there was a violent, though non-fatal, stabbing during the fair (many of us initially thought it was an artistic performance). The following year, the Zika virus threatened to ruin the fair, and then the Convention Center, which has always housed the event, went through a complex renovation, which cut into the exhibition space and was finally completed for the 2018 edition.

Smartly dressed people peruse the artworks on display inside a modern exhibition hall
Art Basel Miami in 2018 © Courtesy of Art Basel

Just when everything seemed back on track, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and forced the cancellation of the 2020 fair. Like the other Art Basel fairs that year, Miami had an online edition — which benefited from Horowitz’s experience at the ahead-of-its-time, digital-only VIP Art Fair — and kept business ticking over. Just before last year’s in-person return, by which time Horowitz had left Art Basel, the Omicron variant began to rage. “It was up to me to make Floridians wear a mask,” Spiegler semi-jokes.

This year, Spiegler — who hasn’t said what he is doing after a six-month transition — is handing over the reins, just as an economic recession looks to bite. Horowitz has a bigger company to run than his predecessor inherited in 2007 and comes in as the group’s first chief executive. There is a management structure to finalise — while the plan is for each of the fairs to have an artistic and managing director, the Miami and Basel events still lack direct leadership. Vincenzo de Bellis, until now a curator at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, and formerly artistic director of miart (the Milan International Fair of Modern and Contemporary Art), has been appointed to oversee all four fairs and to unlock new ways to expand the brand.

A painting that evokes cloudy skies and the ocean, with line drawings of naked women and a lemon and an orange plate floating amid the scene
‘Ice Flow II’ (2001) by David Salle © Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin

Horowitz has what he describes as a “bird’s eye view” and sees several opportunities to grow the “engine that is Art Basel”, not least in Asia. His year at Sotheby’s has helped him get a broader understanding of some of the commercial facets of the art business, he says. Now, his priority at Art Basel is to maintain Spiegler’s legacy of “an exceptionally strong baseline” of fairs, he says. As the Miami fair opens its biggest edition to date, in a relentlessly international and fragile market, the role is — Horowitz adds — “a high threshold to step into, at all levels”.

November 29-December 3, artbasel.com

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Ehiko: The Multidisciplinary Artist Shaping Decolonization Through Art

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Ehiko, a multidisciplinary artist born in Lagos, Nigeria, now calls Toronto, Ontario, her home. An OCAD University graduate, she has gained recognition for her powerful and evocative works that delve into the complexities of decolonization, health and wellness, spirituality, sexual violence, and the representation of melanated hair.

Ehiko’s artistic journey began in the vibrant city of Lagos, where the rich cultural heritage and traditional artistry influenced her deeply. This foundation blossomed in Toronto, where she continued to experiment and manipulate raw canvas due to its flexibility. Her expressive palette and the use of various textiles pay homage to traditional Nigerian craftsmanship, creating a unique blend of contemporary and ancestral art forms.

Her works are not just visually striking but also laden with profound messages. Ehiko’s exploration of decolonization is evident in her large-scale multi-medium paintings, performances, drawings, and installations. Each piece she creates is a testament to her commitment to unravelling spirituality linked to traditional Afrakan masks, presenting a dialogue between the past and present.

One of the central themes in Ehiko’s work is health and wellness, particularly within the context of the Black community. She addresses the often-overlooked aspects of mental health and the importance of wellness practices rooted in African traditions. Through her art, Ehiko encourages a reconnection with these practices, promoting healing and resilience.

Sexual violence is another critical subject Ehiko tackles with sensitivity and boldness. Her works often depict the pain and trauma associated with such experiences while also highlighting the strength and resilience of survivors. By bringing these issues to the forefront, she fosters conversations that are essential for societal change and healing.

The representation of melanated hair in Ehiko’s art is a celebration of Black identity and beauty. Her pieces challenge societal norms and stereotypes, presenting Black hair in its diverse and natural forms. This representation is not only about aesthetics but also about reclaiming cultural identity and pride.

Ehiko’s exhibitions in Lagos and Toronto have garnered significant attention, and her private collection of purchased work is available upon request. Her contributions to the art world extend beyond her creations; she is also an advocate for using art as a tool for social change and empowerment.

In every piece, Ehiko weaves her experiences, heritage, and vision, creating a tapestry that speaks to the heart and mind. Her work is a powerful reminder of the role of art in decolonization and healing, and her journey continues to inspire and influence the global art community.

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park

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A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”

 

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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73

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Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”

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