9 Must-See Artworks at Art Basel Miami Beach
Standouts from this year’s offerings include pieces by Flora Yukhnovich, Erwin Wurm, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Emma Webster
The Miami Art Week website lists 15 art and design fairs in Miami and Miami Beach this year, but only one fair is on the top of everyone’s must-see list: Art Basel Miami Beach. The fair that started the massive art bash in 2002 returned to the Miami Beach Convention Center this week with 277 notable galleries from 33 countries and territories presenting their star artists and best artworks in the 2023 edition, which runs through Sunday, December 10. Spread out across six sectors, Art Basel Miami Beach offers a wide range of modern and contemporary art in a variety of genres and media.
“Visitors to our Miami Beach show this year are met with surprises, and an expanded platform for discovering a diversity of artistic voices and perspectives, which echo and reverberate across Miami Beach’s ever-growing cultural offer,” Vincenzo de Bellis, Art Basel’s Director of Fairs and Exhibition Platforms, shared. “With new participants from Mexico to Poland and Egypt, and a program both within and beyond the fair like we have never done before, there is an injection of freshness to the fair, and a vigor of experience which we are playing out in full.”
Surveying the abundance of this year’s offerings, we’ve rounded up nine not-to-be-missed paintings and sculptures at the fair. These are Galerie’s prized pieces at Art Basel Miami Beach 2023.
1. Flora Yukhnovich, Bacchanalia (2023) at Hauser & Wirth
Employing the language of Rococo, Flora Yukhnovich makes lush, layered paintings that beautifully blur the boundary between representation and abstraction. With bold gestural brushstrokes, the young British artist synthesizes historic pictures to create contemporary interpretations of the past. Spiritedly referencing such 18th-century painters Watteau, Tiepolo, and Boucher, she explores notions of femininity by ambiguously blending women’s bodies with facets of nature. Recalling a fête galante type of Rococo painting in her large-scale canvas Bacchanalia, Yukhnovich—who joined Hauser & Wirth in June—compellingly captures a vision of amorous figures frolicking in a parkland setting beneath a glowing celestial sky.
2. Erwin Wurm, Slow (Bag Sculptures) (2023) at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art
Celebrated for his comical approach to formalism, Erwin Wurm has been creating his series of one-minute sculptures, fat cars, and inflated houses since the 1990s. Initially making an art world name for himself with body-altering performances using clothing, the artist has gone on to combine everything from giant water bottles, sweaters, and sausages to furniture and fruit in his physical pieces. In his surreal series of bag sculptures, the Austrian artist joins fashionable handbags with human legs to lampoon the public’s fascination with luxury brands. His bright chartreuse walking bag sculpture at the fair humorously reproduces a chic Hermès Birkin bag atop long skinny legs in stylish boots. One can only hope that there’s enough money in the bag to buy the rest of the works on view in the venerable Lisbon gallery’s booth.
3. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu (2013) at at Victoria Miro
Fusing figurative painting with collaged transfers of found imagery, Njideka Akunyili Crosby draws on art historical, political and personal references to create densely layered realistic compositions. Born in Nigeria and schooled in the United States, the 2017 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow has been a sought-after artist ever since earning an MFA from Yale in 2011. Her 2013 painting Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu is a prime example of her breakout work. Recording family life in great detail, the back wall, chairs, placemats and shadows cast on the floor are collaged with family photos and clippings from old Nigerian magazines, which build a meaningful memory of the past and a distinct identity for the artist.
4. Robert Longo, Untitled (Typhoon X) (2023) at Thaddaeus Ropac
An artist, filmmaker, and musician, Robert Longo has been fascinated with mass media since childhood. An original member of the Pictures Generation, a group of American artists who came of age in the early 1970s and who were known for their critical analysis of media culture, he makes monumental charcoal drawings that comment on the state of the world through the reproduction of mediated imagery. With his recent work addressing political upheaval, war, protest movements, immigration and climate change, one could see his black-and-white rendition of an aerial view of a tropical storm, Untitled (Typhoon X), as a powerful visual metaphor for more than one of those crucial topics.
5. Tursic & Mille, Cheerfulness (2023) at Galerie Max Hetzler
Mining the overloaded image world of the internet, magazines, and movies, Ida Tursic and Wilfried Mille have been working together to create mediated paintings and sculptures since 2000. Appropriating diverse imagery that they realistically reproduce and alter through the addition of abstract mark-making, they’ve created a delightful series of odd landscapes, still lifes, and portraits that absurdly mix high and low references. Flirting with Surrealism, their joyfully eccentric works use art historical tropes to cleverly critique the practice of painting. For example, the work Cheerfulness layers an illustration of a happy couple over a woman petting a pony, further overlaid with abstract brushwork and botanical patterning to wonderfully produce an eye-catching outcome.
6. Sarah Sze, Flicker (2023) at Gagosian
After initially studying painting, Sarah Sze launched her career as a sculptor, but over the years she’s added photography, video, printmaking, painting, and installation art to her experimental process to bring the studio directly into the gallery. A winner of the MacArthur Fellowship in 2003 and the United States representative at the 2013 Venice Biennale, Sze recently returned to her painterly roots in expansive solo shows and public installations, including her highly acclaimed photographic sculpture at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B in New York. Her massive mixed-media painting Flicker presents a swirling constellation of landscape imagery on torn and taped photographs, which are brilliantly mingled with painterly actions.
7. Cosima von Bonin, WHAT IF THEY BARK 07 (2022) at Petzel
A standout in Cecelia Alemani’s sensational Venice Biennale exhibition last year, where her marine life sculptures graced the roof of the Central Pavilion, Cosima von Bonin has been conceptually exploring the watery underworld and its beach culture in her sculptures, cloth paintings, and installations for more than two decades. Highlighting the human destruction of the deep seas with references to myths and pop culture, the German artist’s anthropomorphic fish sculptures wear theatrical costumes, play musical instruments, and grasp checkered missiles. Part of a series of fish sculptures titled WHAT IF THEY BARK?, a selection of which is currently on view on the High Line in Manhattan, her bucketed shark with a missile down its throat is right at home in Florida’s explosive cultural realm.
8. Matthew Wong, The Hermit’s Path (2019) at Cheim & Read
A self-taught Canadian painter who rapidly gained success before tragically committing suicide in 2019 at age 35, Matthew Wong started out making abstract ink drawings but later became most identified with the mystical landscapes and poetic still life paintings that brought him art world acclaim in the three years before his untimely death. After he studied the history of art through library books and online research, Wong’s big break came via a 2015 solo show at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, but it was his postings on Facebook that led to his discovery by a handful of influential New York art dealers, critics, and curators. The Hermit’s Path, a painting that was once part of the artist’s personal collection and is now on view at the fair, is a visual symphony of brushstrokes, color, and movement—a masterfully produced vision of the artist’s place in nature.
9. Emma Webster, Anima (2023) at Perrotin
During her studies at Yale’s MFA program, Emma Webster speculated that the history of landscape was more related to scenography than it was to painting natural spaces as they exist. Making maquettes out of paper mache and clay, staging them with light, photographing them and then creating her paintings from the images, Webster turned her theory about the artificial world into a reality—and it’s one that sublimely touches on our current environmental concerns. Utilizing virtual reality to create hallucinatory paintings that highlight our relationship with nature in her more recent work, she constructs fantastical sculptural scenery in digital space and then paints them as dramatic vistas. Focused on climate change, her striking Anima painting powerfully portrays developing storm clouds for their apocalyptic possibilities—pointing to how a mere prediction for rain can turn into a catastrophic event.