In the art world we often talk about the Guggenheim in Bilbao effect, or how a museum managed to transform the image of a city through its exhibitions and architecture.
Perhaps we should henceforth be talking about the ABMB effect on Miami.
The Florida city is best known for its beachfront and party lifestyle.
But for one week once a year, at the beginning of December, it attracts an impressive influx of people who are interested in contemporary art. This year, from 7 to 10 December, with 268 galleries, the fair comprises a majority of American galleries (North American and Latin American) according to the fair’s director Noah Horowitz.
But this year is also the first time that the ABMB effect could have an impact that endures all year round.
Since 2002 when the fair was first established, we have seen four huge private collections opened to the public, the opening of the Perez Art Museum designed by Herzog and de Meuron, and December 2017 has seen the reopening of the Bass Museum which exhibits ancient and contemporary art.
But above all, in the luxury business district, this week the Design district has also seen the opening of the ICA or Institute of Contemporary Art, with a high-quality exhibition dedicated to the idea of the artist in the studio.
The land on which the museum is built was donated by a contemporary art collector, real estate developer and project manager of the Design district, Craig Robins. His idea has always been to “make Miami into a fully-fledged cultural destination”.
As he says:
This flurry of events each year presents a considerable advantage for the fair.
The visitors who make the trip want novelty.
Noah Horowitz observes that Miami’s inhabitants are proud to be associated with a new cultural identity. He talks about the fair and Miami’s cultural evolutions.
According to Brett Gorvy, the former worldwide head of contemporary art at Christie’s who is now partnered with the New York gallerist Dominique Levy (the Lévy-Gorvy gallery), ABMB presents a particular profile, one which attracts the biggest American clients who come here for a day and make up their minds in a flash after their advisor has carefully studied the artworks that interest them and the prices, but it also attracts those with far more modest budgets who are simply curious about art.
The prices at his booth range from 500 000 to 6 million dollars.
The gallery has just announced that it represents the French conceptual artist François Morellet (1926-2016) who is the subject of a big exhibition at the Dia Foundation in New York City and Beacon (Read the special report on the subject).
In Miami, Brett Gorvy is displaying a 1971 canvas by François Morellet on sale for 1.5 million dollars. A price that, according to him, is justified by the extreme rarity of the work.
It marks a new milestone in Morellet’s prices since his record price at auction amounts to 589 000 dollars.
Generally, the gallerists at ABMB tend to put forward particularly high prices for rare artworks.
In this spirit, Chicago’s Richard Gray is presenting a painting by the eminent American painter Willem de Kooning ( 1904-1997) dating from 1979, on sale for 35 million dollars.
This is certainly one of the highest prices at the fair. The record price for de Kooning at auction goes up to 66.3 millions dollars.
The trend in Miami this year is one of classic contemporary art.
As Brett Gorvy explains, “the market is more intelligent and more conservative”.
In other words it is more cautious, putting forward the artists with well-established careers and bodies of work.
The Paula Cooper gallery, for example, is presenting a series of 100 abstract gouaches at their booth by the major figure in American minimal art, Sol Lewitt. Since the opening of the fair, the collection of 100 gouaches has been sold for 1.2 million dollars.
The multinational Swiss-origin gallery Hauser & Wirth has handed over an installation for 9.5 million dollars by another key American artist in the history of the second half of the twentieth century, Bruce Nauman.
New York’s Acquavella is exhibiting one of the emblematic pieces from the early production of Andy Warhol, a “Disaster Painting” depicting a car crash. It is on sale for 13 million dollars.
In the category of safe bets – albeit ones which are more modest financially – the most famous contemporary artist in South Africa is William Kentridge. He has imagined a very poetic time machine made out of a combination of bicycle mechanisms ( a reference to Marcel Duchamp) and a large cone.
It is presented by the Goodman Gallery of Johannesburg for 210 000 dollars.
The fashionable young artists clearly still have a say in the market, even if they now represent a manifestly more modest section of the demand.
The David Kordansky Gallery of Los Angeles is well known in this category for being one of the “taste-makers”. At their booth we find for instance a very accomplished painting depicting a stylized fire by the Belgian artist Harold Ancart (born in 1980) priced at 95 000 dollars. The Xavier Hufkens gallery from Brussels immediately sold a canvas by the same artist from the same series for a similar sum.
Also at the Kordansky Gallery booth there is a collection of paintings which resemble illustrations for children’s books by Jonas Wood (born in 1977) on sale for as much as 275 000 dollars.
Even if this American artist is seen by his advocates as the heir to English painter David Hockney, these sums are particularly high, speculative even, on the secondary market.
There is still a lot of money, particularly in the United States, thrown at a kind of art that is very contemporary but has yet to prove itself.