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Art Basel Miami Beach officially kicks off today and if you’re anything like us, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. After all, navigating rows and rows showcasing some of the globe’s most significant works of contemporary art can be daunting without a guide. Whether you’re attending Art Basel Miami for inspiration, for networking, or for the party, we’re here to help: We’ve rounded up some of the best booths, discussions, and special exhibitions to check out during the weekend’s signature fair.

Expect a grand entrance to catch your eye as you saunter into the fair this year, where Helly Nahmad gallery is showcasing perhaps the most recognizable painter of the 20th century. Picasso’s galvanizing paintings are front and center at the New York gallery’s booth, which predominantly features some of the artist’s later works, dating from the 1960s and 1970s. Especially striking is “Homme Assis” (1972), a remarkable Cubist figure painted in subtle hues of gray and rosy pinks. The cost of such a prized possession? A cool $19 million, said the Nahmad gallery representative.

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Pablo Picasso’s “Homme Assis”

While you may not be able to afford most of the works on display at Helly Nahmad, being this close to such astonishing works of art is certainly worth the trip. In addition to several Picasso paintings, the New York-based gallery is also featuring work by Barcelona-born painter Joan Miró and playful sculptures by American artist Alexander Calder.

Perhaps the most immersive installation we’ve ever seen at Art Basel, Fondation Beyeler’s Toiletpaper x Fondation Beyeler was a richly textured if absurdly chaotic spectacle among the standard fare commonly seen at Art Basel Miami Beach. A collaborative project between artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, who have run Toiletpaper magazine since 2010, famed Swiss gallery Fondation Beyeler commissioned Toiletpaper for their annual gala this past September. The installation was such a hit among the art world elite that they decided to bring Toiletpaper down to Miami Beach this year.

A cagey wonderland of sorts, Toiletpaper x Fondation Beyeler took viewers to a spectacularly tacky, simulated dwelling: a bathroom wallpapered in clouds and multi-colored toilet paper rolls hanging throughout; the sink filled with overflowing spaghetti. In the next room, a floral bed that invites viewers to lay down without remorse; the wall art reminiscent of the collages of your youth. The Basel-based gallery also took the opportunity to highlight their upcoming exhibitions: Claude Monet in January, and Ernesto Neto in June, among others.

World-famous Galerie Perrotin, which boasts locations across Hong Kong, Paris, New York and Seoul, has brought several of its artists to Art Basel Miami Beach this year. That includes new works by artist Julio Le Parc, the 88-year-old Argentinian wunderkind that single-handedly shaped the kinetic art movement of the 1960s. Showcasing Le Parc is especially fitting this year, as the artist’s first North American museum retrospective is currently on display at Perez Art Museum Miami. In addition, Le Parc will be a featured speaker at one of Art Basel Miami Beach’s many Salon conversations over the weekend. On Thursday, December 1 at 10am, Le Parc will speak with curator Estrellita B. Brodsky regarding his PAMM exhibition, a seminal step in his over 60-year career.

Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari’s Toiletpaper x Fondation Beyeler

Another Salon series conversation that will certainly interest artists just getting their footing in the art market, “The Artist and the Gallerist” will host an artist and a gallery owner in a discussion centered around this ever-complex relationship. Featuring Pamela Echevarria of Labor, Mexico, and artist Jill Magid, the panel will focus on Echevarria’s and Magid’s personal relationship, how they came to work together, and how their partnership has changed over time. Meant to offer a window into the nuanced affair between gallerist and artist, this panel discussion will be especially useful for emerging artists who continue to seek representation. The conversation will take place on Sunday, Dec. 4th at 10am.

Emerging artists will also want to pay special attention to Art Nova, a section of Art Basel Miami Beach reserved for new and emerging galleries. The sector has turned out to be such a success at the fair that it’s expanded tremendously in the last couple of years. Art Nova offers galleries a platform on which to present the latest works by a maximum of three representatives of their young program. Highlights from this year’s program include David Castillo gallery, a Miami-based gallerist credited with pioneering the gallery scene in the Magic City. Castillo will show Xaviera Simmons, who is currently promoting a solo show in New York, and Sanford Biggers.

Another highlight of the Art Nova section is Galeria Leme, a Sao Paolo-based gallery presenting exciting new works by Jaime Lauriano and Vivian Cacurri, two very young artists (born in 1985 and 1986, respectively) who draw on their experiences in their home country to create wholly sensory works of art. In Leme’s exhibition, Cacurri and Lauriano each highlight the African populations that were brought to and enslaved in Brazil during the country’s colonization, a violent displacement that has had marked repercussions on Brazilian societal constructs. Cacurri’s practice, deeply entrenched in sound and experimentation, will show a set of works that merge sound and movement to express the plight of the African population in Brazil. For his part, Lauriano focuses geography, texture, and history in a series dubbed “Routes.”

The Kabinett section of Art Basel Miami Beach is another popular section of the fair that once again merits recognition. Each year, Kabinett chooses 29 artists for specially curated exhibitions within their gallery booths. Dispersed throughout the fair, Kabinett shows are marked with a flag denoting that a particular booth also has a Kabinett exhibition present.

One of our favorites this year is a performance piece by artist Irena Haiduk, represented by Kavi Gupta in Chicago. Haiduk often draws a correlation between Balkan candy and oppressive eastern European regimes, and her Kabinett work invites visitors to fill out a survey designed by the artist. Within the questionnaire, visitors answer questions about their income (Lower? Middle? Upper?), their stress level measured in weight they can carry on their shoulders (high is considered “five heads or more, spine bending”) and their preferred candy period (Do you prefer imperialism or fascism? Communism or Socialism?) Based on their answers, participating visitors will then get a candy designed by the artist to satisfy their cravings.

At the fair last year, we talked at length with gallerist Elizabeth Dee – her advice for young emerging artists, and what it takes to find representation in today’s market. She’s back at Art Basel this year, showcasing – among others – a painting by the legendary poet John Giorno, who only recently turned to the canvas as a form of expression. Perhaps inspired by his longtime partner, artist Ugo Rondinone, Giorno infuses his poetry with multicolored hues: “God is Man Made” is scrawled in block letters across a vibrant, rainbow-dyed background.

Heading to Art Basel this year? We’d love to link up! Let us know what you’re most excited about in the comments below.


About the author

Nicole Martinez

Nicole is a veteran arts and culture journalist. Her work has appeared in Reuters, VICE, Hyperallergic, Univision, and more.

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