Art Basel and Miami Art Week 2018 Winners and Losers

This guy, obviously, is winning.
This guy, obviously, is winning. Karli Evans
That's a wrap, everyone. Miami Art Week has come and gone. And whether you were a 24-hour party person all week or stayed home to avoid the crowds and traffic, you're probably relieved there'll be no more fairs, fests, or flaky tourists clogging the city.

So who came out on top last week? And who got trampled beneath the hordes of arty onlookers? 

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Institute of Contemporary Art Miami is among the recipients of Knight Foundation's $37 million in grants.
Iwan Baan

Year-round culture. Art Week had only just begun when the Knight Foundation dropped some major news: The organization pumped $37 million into Miami's arts community. The funds will buoy big names such as New World Symphony and the Institute of Contemporary Art, as well as individual artists such as Octavia Yearwood and the band Afrobeta. Art Basel mayhem lasts only one week, but investments like this allow Miamians to enjoy the arts year-round. 

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Butterflies at Free! Art Fair.
Carl Timpone/
Free! After the success of last year's all-women art fair, titled Fair, Anthony Spinello and his team returned to Brickell City Centre last week with Free!, a collection of works exploring what it means to be free. If a feminist art exhibit in an upscale retail mall seemed edgy last year, Free! upped the ante, exposing shoppers to critiques of consumerism, including one work that earned headlines early: Genevieve Gaignard’s Counter Fit, which hung over a Victoria's Secret shop, the juxtaposition seeming to push back against fat-shaming and anti-trans statements made by the company's CMO last month. But there was far more to the show, including artist Emilio Rojas' captivating, heart-wrenching performance, which included tattooing the shape of the U.S.-Mexico border along his spine and bringing several onlookers to tears; and Franky Cruz's canvases created by butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.

Marginalized groups. To be clear, the art world has a long, long way to go before women and people of color are fairly represented. But that doesn't mean we can't celebrate the justly popular works created by them at Miami Art Week this year. Derrick Adams' playground at Faena, inspired by Overtown's history, was a fixture on social media feeds. Judy Chicago's exhibits at the ICA and the gallery Nina Johnson made headlines. The Miami Girls' Foundation staged a public performance at Untitled. And events focusing on artists of color seemed to have multiplied, with the Museum of Contemporary Art's "AfriCobra," "Darker Gods," and others joining long-running fairs such as Art Africa and Prizm.


Live music. As New Times pointed out last week, Miami Art Week has transformed into a mini Miami Music Week, with all the DJ-heavy parties that implies. With several notable exceptions, live music was nearly absent in comparison with previous years. And maybe that's because audiences are no longer hungry for it. A Women/N/Sound showcase featuring Leikeli47 at Yo Space had onlookers fired up — but the crowd was sparse. And audiences at Saturday night's Pharrell performance, part of American Express's Platinum House at 1 Hotel South Beach, barely moved as the artist brought out N.E.R.D. collaborator Shay Haley for several throwback hits. The lack of enthusiasm was so apparent that Pharrell called it out, at one point shrugging, "OK, we'll be out of your hair soon."

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Red Bull's Rainbow Bridge
Julia DiMarco
Spectacle. Where was this year's 12-foot vagina? Where were the pink snails and the artist living in a literal pigsty? The art on view during Basel week this year was relatively subdued. Sure, there were outliers, such as the 30-foot tall homage to Pac-Man called Rainbow Bridge. But there wasn't that one piece of art that got the whole city talking, as has happened in past years. Maybe that's a good thing; art week needs more intimate experiences. But for looky-loos in search of Instagram gold, Basel was a bust.

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Crowds at Scope Art Fair.
Daniella Mia
Agoraphobics. It goes without saying that Art Basel isn't a place for anyone afraid of crowds. But the congestion seemed especially bad this year, particularly at the fairs. The tents seem to be packing more galleries inside and adding flourishes like pop-up restaurants and lounges, leaving less space for viewers to take in the work. Meanwhile, a creepy sense of unease seemed to be one of the goals of Raw Pop Up's takeover of the shuttered Burdine's department store, from a haunted house-like entrance through a service elevator to the wild-eyed, unsettlingly jittery performers covered in ice-cream toppings like syrup and sprinkles, who screamed and laughed their way through the exhibit. If you weren't prepared to get up close and personal with strangers this week, you better have stayed home.
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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle