Miami Art Week 2023 Review: Best of NADA, Untitled, Design Miami | Miami New Times

Miami Art Week's Satellite Fairs Defy Expectations

During Miami Art Week, there are more than a dozen concurrent art fairs, each offering a unique snapshot of contemporary art and design.
Primary. booth featuring work by Dustin Emory at NADA Miami 2023
Primary. booth featuring work by Dustin Emory at NADA Miami 2023 NADA photo
Share this:
How can you even begin to summarize the massive amount of art on display during Miami Art Week? Besides the main fair, Art Basel, there are more than a dozen concurrent art fairs, each offering a unique snapshot of contemporary art and design.

Throughout this week, I attended a handful of new and returning fairs and found a wide array of remarkable artworks, daring designs, and things that defy expectations.
click to enlarge Abstract painting by Joseph Aina at NADA art fair in Miami
A painting by Joseph Aina at NADA Miami 2023
Photo by Douglas Markowitz
NADA at Ice Palace Studios was first on the list, and in my mind, it had the most interesting art, much of it from emerging artists and galleries. Fans of interesting paintings found plenty to love, such as Nigerian-British Joseph Aina's shimmering abstractions of clouds, shown by Lagos-based gallery Affinity. A wall of prints from New Yorker Sadie Laska at Ceysson & Benetiere featured stick figure-like silhouettes and faces wandering through fields of color. The works were inspired by the logofication of body parts in early internet applications, interrogating the aimlessness of our current moment and the feeling of scrolling through one's life.
click to enlarge Ten different prints at Sadie Laska at NADA art fair in Miami
Prints by Sadie Laska at NADA Miami 2023
Photo by Douglas Markowitz
The local galleries also impressed me. KDR showed a wall of paintings from Troy, New York-based Jeff Wigman featuring surreal, Bosch-esque scenes of vagabond skeletons, leaning towers, and biblically flooded landscapes. Primary., meanwhile, had a series of dark figurative paintings by Dustin Emory dealing with the artist's experiences of indoor isolation, as well as his father's incarceration. The evocative grayscale canvases depicted a man in boxer shorts trapped inside his home, yet still watched by spotlights.
click to enlarge Two transgender women fold American flags as part of the performance art of Ms. Z Tye at Untitled art fair in Miami Beach
Ms. Z Tye's performance artwork "American Idol" at Untitled Miami Beach
Photo by Douglas Markowitz
Untitled may be the most quintessentially Miami of the major fairs — it's right on the beach and tantalizingly close to the water, and the bright white of the tent interior is almost blinding. It's also the one fair where you'll likely see the most performance art, often more memorable than the rows upon rows of paintings. As I was on my way out, I caught a bit of Ms. Z Tye's "American Idol," where two transgender women, identically dressed in blue jeans, black bras, and straight, blonde hair each carefully, gently folded a stack of American flags, an activity usually reserved for Boy Scouts and the military. I found it to be a very layered work, commenting on the performance of patriotism, as well as the paradox of a country that demands patriotic submission while denying fundamental rights, especially to Black and queer people.
click to enlarge CyKiK's art installation, Decades (in space), at Alcova art fair in Miami
Decades ( in space ) at Alcova Miami
Photo by KamranV, courtesy of CyKiK
Alcova, a Milan-based design fair, took advantage of Miami's motel landscape by turning each room of the Selina Gold Dust Motel in the Upper Eastside into a booth. Most of the projects were based on furniture of various shapes and forms, with varying levels of cleverness, weirdness, and feasibility. Los Angeles-based Objects for Objects created tables and shelves using trophy parts, while Zachary A showed off chairs that resemble paper but are made of rigid resin and fiberglass. One project room by Boston-based collective Oyay featured a curtain being built from Styrofoam pellets; visitors would blow into the pellets, imbuing them with their innermost desires.

The single most impressive display at Alcova came from another collective, CyKiK. Supporting the LA-based internet radio station Dublab, its project decades ( in space ) saw the collective wrap an entire room in gold-colored Mylar — visitors had to remove their shoes when entering. The chairs were made of paper printed with a pattern showing AI-generated images of galaxies, and the room also featured a spacial audio system playing a unique quadraphonic vinyl record. The album features contributions from plenty of high-profile musicians, including Laraaji, Sudan Archives, Dntel, Suzanne Ciani, and members of Tortoise, Warpaint, and No Age, among others. A one-of-one edition of the record, featuring a vinyl embedded with actual space rocks, was being advertised for $76,543.21, with similar countdown pricing schemes for the furniture, all benefiting Dublab. Far out, man.
click to enlarge Aman Interiors booth at Design Miami, featuring a chair and table designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma
Aman Interiors booth at Design Miami/. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed a special table and chair collection.
Photo by Douglas Markowitz
Of course, Design Miami/, the traditional leader in wacky home furnishings, also returned to its usual haunt across the street from the Miami Beach Convention Center. Alongside booths full of classic modernist furniture and weird ceramics, brand activations felt especially prevalent this year. There was the Maestro Dobel tequila booth full of traditional furniture from Oaxaca — despite tequila being produced entirely in Jalisco — and Birkenstock sponsored a foliage-filled booth giving out foot massages. (Why one would want to have their feet touched by a stranger in public is beyond me.) Panerai simply put a sailboat mast next to a display of their luxury watches, which felt lazy and obvious — you've got to pretend just a little that you're not just at the fair to sell things, guys.

The highest-profile project had to be from Aman Interiors, a home-furnishings brand from the luxury minimalist resort chain currently renovating the Versailles Hotel. Japanese starchitect and cedar-wood fetishist Kengo Kuma is designing an Aman-branded condo tower next door to the hotel (all the apartments are sold out, so don't even ask), and he's also made them a very complicated chair that looks like a bunch of Jenga blocks glued together. A sign on the seat of the chair banned people from planting their asses, so I couldn't test whether the chair was actually studier than a Jenga tower.
click to enlarge Two women face each other sitting in wooden chairs by artist Marina Abramovic
Jenna Balfe (left) performs at Design Miami/ in Marina Abramovic's Chairs for Human and Spirit Use.
Photo by Douglas Markowitz
The most attention-grabbing booth at Design Miami/ came from nomadic gallery Haada, which was collaborating with none other than famed performance artist Marina Abramovic. Her Chairs for Human and Spirit Use, which suspended a giant quartz crystal above the sitter's head, featured a performance component: A pair of sitters in each chair would face one another, à la Abramovic's famous piece The Artist Is Present. I'm sure it must be a unique experience to participate in a piece like this — Jenna Balfe, frontwoman of beloved local band Donzii, happened to be one of the performers when I visited — but I do feel somewhat that Abramovic is slightly undermining the impact of her work by, for one, not participating directly, and two, using her boundary-pushing performance art to hawk expensive chairs. At least they look nice.

For information on these and other fairs, check out New Times' Miami Art Week fair guide.
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. Your membership allows us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls. You can support us by joining as a member for as little as $1.