Five Pieces That Stole the Show at Art Basel Miami Beach

Art fair fatigue is real, but seeing these pieces made trekking through the convention center's maze of booths worthwhile.

Art Basel Miami Beach VIP Preview 2023
The Pequod booth at Art Basel Miami Beach. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

This year’s Art Basel Miami Beach offered plenty of parties and “inspiration” but what about the art? Turns out that was pretty good, too. I happened to be in town last week and decided to swing by the fair. With little more ado, please enjoy my irresponsibly subjective list of the top five works that I enjoyed at Miami Basel.

Woody De Othello, thought in mind (2023) @ Karma

Woody De Othello, ‘thought in mind’ (2023). Photo: Dan Duray

It’s hard to be near the entrance! There’s a lot of pressure. But Karma rose to the challenge, as they always seem to. Sometimes booths have a big work just to have a big work, but I’ve noticed at other fairs that Karma isn’t above cramming the booth with lots of little stuff. To me, this lends authority to their deployment of size. This big sculpture kind of looks like a Claes Oldenburg or a Jeff Koons but seems to relish its subjectivity and errors. This makes sense as that’s pretty much what Art Week Miami is all about. Subjectivity and errors. And phones. And hair. What sickly colors, too. Love it.

Cosima Von Bonin, What If They Bark 07 (2023) @ Petzel Gallery

Cosima Von Bonin, ‘What If They Bark 07’ (2023). Photo: Dan Duray

“Friedrich Petzel, Friedrich Petzel,” I heard a man tell his wife as they entered the Petzel booth. “This is the guy who discovered Dana Schutz. And what does he get for it? Pffft!” He made that classic sound signifying bupkis. I perused the booth as the man proceeded to introduce his wife to Friedrich, and then re-introduce himself to Friedrich, and agreed that this dealer may not get enough credit. The gallery always feels a few years ahead of trends and maybe even too clever for its audiences. The new Derek Foujour show is a great example. You can enjoy it on several levels, some of which might be critical of the others. Cosima Von Bonin’s show there last summer was similarly dense and this work hits different at the latitude of 25.761681. Never underestimate that Friedrich.

Florian Krewer, winding (2023) @ Michael Werner

Florian Krewer, ‘winding’ (2023). Photo: Dan Duray

One of my favorite shows from this past year was Florian Krewer’s at Michael Werner. Its Fauvism-meets-Eyes Wide Shut goofiness might allow a viewer to overlook the deftness of technique, but the paint is layered as creatively as the concepts. Check out the eyes and hair of the hungover guy. Bonus points for the Florida wildlife, of course—especially that veiny one. The fields of color that comprise the various planes make this feel like a flag of some kind. Krewer’s cast of punky glam fuckers seem to hail from one strange nation. Not Florida, not Germany, but perhaps somewhere in-between.

Hew Locke, Gilt (2022) @ Meridians (Almine Rech)

Hew Locke, ‘Gilt’ (2022). Photo: Dan Duray

Nintendo just emailed me to let me know how much time I’ve spent playing the new Zelda game this year. Why don’t you tell me how many drinks I’ve had as well, Nintendo? But I don’t really feel that much shame about all that time in Hyrule because its art direction is something else, and this work by Hew Locke feels plucked right from that game. Originally commissioned for the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it reinvigorates visual themes familiar to us from museums in an anthropological or mythological context and makes them new. It makes me think about Joseph Cambell, and how humans have always been drawn to shiny things. Is it fair for me to choose a work from the non-selling Meridians portion of the fair, curated by Magalí Arriola? No, definitely not! None of this is fair! I should have a system!

Cynthia Talmadge, Half Light (2023) @ 56 Henry

Cynthia Talmadge, ‘Half Light’ (2023). Photo: Dan Duray

Cynthia Talmadge’s room-sized installation reproduces the studio of painter Mary Pinchot Meyer—an artist in dialogue with Kenneth Noland, Anne Truitt and other artists of the so-called D.C. Color School. She was a lover of J.F.K.’s and was murdered in 1964, some say by the CIA. The installation explores a version of 1969 where she is still alive, with references to James Jesus Angleton, Timothy Leary and Vietnam. Talmadge is excellent on WASPs, and in 2018 had a show at the Upper East Side’s famous Frank E. Campbell funeral home. This was one of the most ambitious booths at the fair, and it really worked. The dealers said they were trying to keep all the works together and I do hope they were able to. It’s the perfect piece for a museum seeking a little bleakness for the collection.

Five Pieces That Stole the Show at Art Basel Miami Beach