Were there more contemporary artists at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 or were these artists just more noticeable because there were fewer galleries packed with Picassos, Kandinskys etcetera?
It is difficult to quantify but nonetheless the contemporary artists stood out. It also may be partly because this edition of Art Basel seemed scaled down, more manageable for the casual art fan, not looking for "investments" or something to impress the neighbors in the Hamptons.
I'm not disrespecting the notion of trying to impress the neighbors. I try to impress mine by shooting out street lights with a shotgun. Different sorts of neighbors I suppose.
Afriart (Kampala) was one of the first galleries to catch my eye, with the joyful, ecstatic work of Sungi Mlengeya. One of the most common apologies on this website is "the photos do not do the work justice." It is true here even more so than usual. You can see better images on the gallery website linked above. Even those do not capture this series.
Mlengeya is a Tanzanian painter whose portraits are a celebration of the women who surround her. If you can look at these works and not feel better about the universe? I am not entirely sure I want to know you. The composition too is intriguing. I couldn't help but notice that she often uses white in the way other artists use black, it is a background. Black is what matters in these paintings from a compositional standpoint.
In addition to the gallery website you can learn more about the artist at sungimlengeya.com.
Rele (Lagos, Los Angeles) showed work by Marcellina Akpojotor. She works with a more colorful palette and employs collage in her work. She is featured on the gallery website as well. The gallery link is to her show, Daughters of Esan. Akpojotor's father was her introduction to art which she followed by studying at Lagos State Polytechnic. She uses discarded fabric from fashion houses which calls to mind an earlier story from Art Basel on the Gee's Bend Quiltmakers.
You can find out more at marcellinaakpojotor.com.
by Sungi Mlengeya
James Castle is what was once referred to as a "folk artist" or, more recently, an "outsider artist." And this often means someone who labored in obscurity on their art, then was "discovered" after their death. Castle was from Idaho , was deaf and never ventured far from where he was born.
It is hard to imagine his work being welcomed in the world of fine art while he was alive. It is impossible to imagine him walking into a gallery in New York or San Francisco with these pieces during his lifetime and being welcomed. But after his death he has been shown worldwide and his residence is a cultural center and sponsors "artist in residence" programs.
I always cringe a little when I read stories like them, and I read them a lot. On the one hand? It is nice what he did with his life is being remembered. On the other hand? There are James Castles a plenty out there right now being scoffed at by people who curate shows of "outsider art" for sale. There are some who consider anyone without an MFA an outsider.
These pieces were shown as part of Art Basel's Kabinett sector; this is entirely appropriate, of course.
Works by James Castle (Art Basel Kabinett Sector)
Walter Price's Who can see forever on a clear day, was shown by The Modern Institute/Tony Webster Ltd. You can see more from the artist HERE. The piece is acrylic, enamel, photo collage, clothespins, various glues and staples on wood.
Guilleromo Kuitca's Idea de una pasion (1992) was shown by Sperone Westwater (New York). The painting is acrylic on canvas.
Chantal Joffe's Jessica (2012) was shown by Cheim & Reid (New York). The work is oi on linen.
You will notice these three paintings (which you can enlarge by clicking) are from the past 30 years. The majority of these paintings, even those not dated, are from recent years.
All are artists worth discovering.