The 20th Edition of Art Basel Miami Beach Is the Fair’s Largest and Most Ambitious Yet

Every year for the last two decades, the art world makes the journey south for a treasured respite from the cold and the final art fair of the year. While every fair calls for impossibly-packed schedules and circuitous Uber routes around town, Art Basel Miami Beach—with its dreamy palm-lined boulevards, massive slate of parties and events, and infectious social energy—is in a league of its own. To mark the fair’s 20th anniversary, ABMB has pulled together its most sweeping and ambitious program to date, welcoming VIP visitors into the vast Miami Beach Convention Center to take in the offerings of 282 exhibitors from 38 countries.

Crowds—of everyone from art world insiders to celebrity collectors like Venus Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Pharrell Williams, and Jon Bon Jovi—filter through a labyrinth of aisles this week, taking in the elaborate jumble of blue chip artists and emerging talents on display in the convention center’s hundreds of booths. With 25 galleries making their ABMB debut, the fair’s largest-ever catalog emphasizes galleries from North and South America, with additional sections—Positions, Nova, Survey, and Meridian—dedicated to themed groupings of exhibitors. 

Group presentations are the mode this year. The themes under interrogation, ranging from marginalized histories and collective memory to a call for human touch, thread their way among the gallery displays, cultivating an electricity that radiates among a noticeably younger generation of artists. On the eve of its own 30-year anniversary, the Swiss powerhouse gallery Hauser & Wirth juxtaposes a medley of works from its legendary roster, with Glenn Ligon’s striking new neon sculpture Untitled (America/Me) as its tentpole. The sculpture is in good company: Henry Taylor’s Untitled (2020) is an absorbing portrait of Michelle Obama in the White House Gardens. Gagosian’s intergenerational offering linked Richard Avedon’s iconic image of a model posing in an elephant pen (Dovima with the Elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955, 1978) to the Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo’s 2021 painting Brides Reflection and to Stanley Whitney’s latest color-packed geometric abstraction Today’s News, 2022. Further inside the maze, Boafo appears again on the wall at Roberts Projects, his pink multitone painting Umbrella, 2021, lending its warmth to the larger group display. The Los Angeles gallery is also exhibiting Blue Mystic Window w/ Moons & Stars, a new mixed-media work by the 96-year-old artist Betye Saar that depicts a window view of a constellation-adorned night sky. 

Tactility comes into play in a number of booths, where artists explore the impression of their hands through material-heavy statements that nod to introspection and subjectivity. Kasmin Gallery’s ambitious booth offers a clash of textures and materials. Alma Allen’s yet-to-be-titled bronze sculpture of an abstract organic form—which comes fresh from the artist’s foundry in Tepotzlán, Mexico—is paired with the painter Jan-Ole Schiemann’s Ring, 2022, an energetic representation in ink, acrylic, and oil pastel of undulating bulbous shapes. Also on display is Diana Al-Hadid’s cage-like sculpture Lucid Dream, 2022, a folklore-tinged work that articulates the fluidity of memory and cultural heritage through the textile motifs of her Syrian homeland. The Lehmann Maupin booth expands on this concept of fluidity, boasting a mammoth jacquard tapestry (Our Grace, 2022) by the Los Angeles-based artist Calida Rawles, which depicts a woman floating over dark blue water. Do Ho Suh’s Inverted Monument, 2022, disrupts this sense of artisanal calm with its extruded thermoplastic polyester form—constructed based on data collected from memorials across the UK—challenging the visual and ideological legacy of public monuments. Over at Vielmetter, Genevieve Gaignard meditates on collective memory and communal traumas with a new mixed-media collage, And Still We Bloom: Fields of Joy, 2022, that draws on archival imagery and botanical forms. 

ABMB’s themed sections deliver immersive experiences all their own. Positions offers a break from the cacophony of group exhibitions with 19 single-artist booths, while Survey gives viewers the chance to contextualize the emerging artists on display elsewhere at the fair through a look at works made before 2000 (the wooden sculptures from the 1950s and ‘60s by the late Cuban artist Agustín Cárdenas are not to be missed). But perhaps most captivating is the Meridian section, curated by Museo Tamayo’s director Magalí Arriola and dedicated to large-scale pieces. The towering works in year’s edition include the Pittsburgh artist Devan Shimoyama’s dazzling Swarovski crystal-encrusted utility poles (The Grove, 2021) via Chicago’s Kavi Gupta gallery, and the Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade’s "Lost and Found," 2020-22, a series of 25 clay sculptures of cropped male bodies donning speedos that the artist collected from the locker rooms of Brazilian public pools (co-presented by Nara Roesler and Galleria Continua). New York fixture P.P.O.W’s display of Erin M. Riley’s gargantuan wool-and-cotton tapestry, questions & answers, 2022, charts the artist’s journey toward sexual and psychological self-knowledge. With the fair’s public viewing dates slated for the rest of the week, ABMB’s 20th anniversary offering sets an ambitious and electrifying standard for years to come.  

Art Basel Miami Beach will be open to the public from December 1 to December 3, 2022 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.