Art Basel Miami Beach 2015: Deitch and Gagosian Collaborate for Unrealism

Pulse Contemporary Art Fair Director Helen Toomer described Art Basel Miami Beach as a summer camp for the art world; an incubator week were community heavyweights are nestled together on a thin barrier island, traversing various parties, events, and exhibits. The whole experience has the capability of creating strange bedfellows, but the recent Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian announcement was pretty astounding, even for Basel.

The two gallerists, both proteges of Leo Castelli, have been embroiled in fierce competition over artists, press, and attention for decades. Yet, this Basel the pair are partnering in a joint exhibit of figurative painting from the '80s and '90s, entitled Unrealism, at the Moore Building in Miami's Design District. 

“He’s one of the most imaginative, innovative curators out there,” Gagosian told the New York Times of his upcoming project with Deitch. “My gallery represents a lot of figurative artists. I think it’s a very important part of what’s going on now.”

Rachel in the Garden (2003), by John Currin
Rachel in the Garden (2003), by John Currin
© John Currin. Photography by Rob McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Though Gagosian started his gallery in Los Angeles, he moved his enterprise to New York in the mid-eighties, just as the art market started its upward slope. With an influx of capital from emerging markets in the Far East, the New York art world boomed and work from contemporary American artists became as sought after as canonical classics. Through the '90s his gallery prospered and currently boasts several locations throughout the city as well as outposts in Beverly Hills, Hong Kong, Rome and Geneva. 

Deitch, on the other hand, served as the director if the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), one of the leading West Coast institutions for contemporary art. Through his curatorial efforts, MOCA has become the epicenter for the increasingly symbiotic relationship between high art and entertainment. Seamlessly blending performance, pop, canvas, and spectacle, Deitch created a space for the art market to not just be for the few but have enough broad appeal for mass consumption. During last year's Basel, he even played host to Miley Cyrus' unique artistic crafts and performance in a piece titled Dirty Hippie

Together, Deitch and Gagosian's planned exhibit promises to usher in one of the biggest trends on the market for the season. While figurative art from the latter half of the twentieth century has largely been discarded by critics are pure kitsch, Unrealism, promises to inject some much-needed interest in the genre. Work from undiscovered artists like Tala Madani and Jamian Juliano-Villani will be shown alongside more established figures like John Currin and David Salle. 

“The new energy in figuration inspired me to take this on and include artists from earlier generations, from the '80s and '90s, who continue to be doing exciting work today,” Deitch told the New York Times. “People have made figurative painting since the beginning of all art — it goes back to the cave painting — but every generation redefines it.”

Opens December 1 and will be on view through Art Basel Miami Beach 2015, from December 3 through 6, at the Moore Building: 3481 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-531-8700; bridgehouseevents.com.

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