Highlights from Art Basel Miami Week 2017

by Sarvin Haghighi 

I strongly believe if you are in the Art field, you need to make a trip to Miami during Art Basel week, even if it is for the weekend it is surely worth it. For me, it has so many advantages and I have been trying to be there every year since I moved to the US. As an artist, you will be able to see many amazing works from artists around the world, get inspired by some, see what is hot in the current art market and also make some great connections.

This year’s Art Miami fair was amazing. I really enjoyed Art Basel itself located at the Miami Convention Center. Compared to the previous years, the layout had improved, the lighting was done right and overall made it easier for viewers to navigate around.

Untitled Art Fair was also one of my favorites this year. The venue is located by the beach and since it’s a relatively smaller fair, it is easy to navigate through and see everything but also the quality of art itself there has always been great. It was an honor to represent Art Nxt Level and I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.

I also visited Aqua Art Miami which is located in the Aqua Hotel. Art Miami had also some amazing pieces on view.

The only fair I did not have time sadly this time was NADA “New Art Dealers Alliance” and I heard really great things – but every year that is the one to see and sadly due to traffic I was not able to make enough time to see it this year.

Leaving Miami post Art Basel, I feel inspired, energetic and ready to work some new ideas and inspirations. I need to start planning for my next year’s visit soon and I urge everyone to do the same…

Below are some of the highlights from my trip specially selected for Art NXT Level Journal.

Art Miami

Yufuku Gallery – Japan

First visit was to our friend Elias Martin. I have always admired works of Hidenori Tsumori- As per Elias Martin described his works to me, he mentioned that Hidenori Tsumori is one of the few artists who have been able to successfully mix Clay and Glass together. The descriptions below are taken from the Gallery itself. You can see the images of the works selected as per Artists below.

Title : Remains of the day’17-7 – Artist : Hidenori Tsumori- Year: 2017

About Hidenori Tsumori: Born in 1986 (Glass Artist, Cast Glass mixed with Clay)
To capture the passing of time and the fragments of memories borne and lives lost, to limn the power of nature and its inevitable fossilisation, strike at the elegiac core of the young Hidenori Tsumori’s glass sculptures which call to mind the stalagmites found in caverns deep, or the skeletal remains of the day turned to sombre yet glisteningly cones of glass and clay. Utilizing an ingeniously original technique of mixing clay with glass, the artist enwraps this base material around multiple conical plaster casts, binding them together into a basic form. After firing in an electric kiln, the work is pulled and the plaster is removed – the remnants of the firing ultimately compose the final figure of the sculpture.

Title: Akatsuki (Dawn) – Artist: Kumi Sugai – Year: 1960

About The artist : Kumi Sugai (1919-1996) : His abstract paintings recount an ancient time when calligraphy and magic were entwined, inseparable and insurmountable in their power and potency. HIs early paintings have an elegantly elegiac vibrancy, conjuring primordial narratives of life, death, love, loss, victory, tragedy and transcendence. One of the great abstract expressions of post-war Japan, Sugai was an iconoclast and an inspiration for his fellow compatriots of the era. Since leaving for Paris in 1952, his career soon garnered critical success, with his early solo show in Paris and Brussels inn 1954 quickly cementing his reputation and establishing himself as one of Japan’s leaving abstract Painters.

Painted with oils in 1960’s, The work (Dawn) is considered to be one of Sugai’s best works from his early period, and is a captivating painting with its ethereal brushstrokes, dream-like colors and suggestive forms that are strangely figurative and almost talismanic. Exhibited by the influential Samuel Kootz Gallery of NYC, who was one of the first to champion the emergence of   Abstract Expressionism in post-war America, and acquired and de-accessioned by the Art Institute of Chicago (retaining the labels of the AIC on the back), the painting reveals tales of both morning and evening, the passing of time and hails not simply the dawn of morn but the beginning of a new day and age. Ultimately it is the clashing symbolism of what is painted within and what is consciously left to the imagination, the negative space found not within yet beyond the brushstrokes of Sugai, which makes this painting so compelling and poignant.

Galleria RGR + Art – Mexico/Caracas

Title: Handle With Care – MOMA No.19, Year 2016, Artist : Shen Shaomin , Oil on Canvas
Title: Handle With Care – MOMA No.19, Year 2016, Artist : Shen Shaomin , Oil on Canvas

This piece really got my attention as I had read about it before during a show of this artist at MOMA and also after talking to some Art Dealer friends I got to know more about Shen Shaomin. His ‘MoMA’ series tricks the eye into believing that bubble wrap binds paintings in a layer of protective plastic, when it is actually an entirely hand-painted pattern, The pieces of this series depict reproductions of iconic paintings from various artistic movements like surrealism, and abstract impressionism, rendered as if wrapped in a semi-transparent packaging and ready to be shipped. He was born in Heilongjiang Province, China in 1956. He lives and works in Sydney, Australia and Beijing, China. Originally when shown in MOMA, The pieces were leaning against the wall of the gallery, furnished with veneers that deliver a deceptive effect, paintings from the “Handle with Care” series represent a pre-installation state, a transitional condition of artwork. The unconventional “hanging” method of this group also breaks the boundaries between painting and sculpture. The setting subverts the traditional manner in which one interacts with artworks inside a museum or gallery, further issuing a subtle statement of institutional critique.

Title : Escritura Panama , Year: 1996 , Acrylic on wood, Nylon and Metal – Artist: Jesus Soto (1923-2005)

This is one of a series of escrituras, or “writings,” created by the Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto in the 1966. In the beginning, the surface appears to reveal a mysterious script but moving closer, the curving lines literally dance into the foreground. These dynamic wires are the record of the artist’s hand, drawing with a calligraphic flourish and animating the space between painted surface and the viewer. Reminded me of music and it was surprising as I learned he used to play guitar and it was in the mathematical precision of the music of Bach and the modern serial composers that Soto recognized the pure abstraction he sought for his art.

Space has always been one of many universal themes that Soto explored in his work. Spatial relationships in Escritura are fluid. At the bottom, the wires have a physical presence that defines space.  But against the background of black and white striations, their materiality dissipates and space becomes ambiguous, indefinite…

Soto goes beyond reorienting the relationships between the physical elements of his work.  His art also requires a different kind of relationship with the viewer – one of active participation in bringing movement and the concept of time to these simple materials. Our lateral motion creates a corresponding wave of optical vibrations that pulse energetically across our field of vision, almost like a musical rhythm.

Heller Gallery  – NY

Title: 14/08/16 – Year 2016, Artist : Josepha Gasch-Muche – Glass on Canvas
Title: 06/12/16 – Year 2016, Artist : Josepha Gasch-Muche – Glass on Canvas

The german artist Josepha Gasch-Muche arranges ultra-thin layers of glass on top of each other, creating geometrical objects. These resemble dynamic energetic fields rather than static cubes. She creates sculptures of light and glass – powerful picture-puzzles. Light always plays a crucial role in her glass objects. The pieces are striking due to the reflection of the light and the use of glass.

Title: This made me think of that, Artist : Katherine Gray – Installation 

As per mentioned on Heller Gallery Website, Katherine Gray’s practice draws on the rich historical traditions of glassblowing as well as her explorations of the dichotomy that glass embodies, ranging from mundane to the sublime.  She often comments on aspects of glass, which make it physically invisible and psychologically absent.  The LA Times has praised her works for ‘emphasizing the broad potential of the medium while also showcasing Gray’s very considerable skills,’ and Artforum magazine described her major installation Forest Glass as a ‘neat conceptual maneuver.’ 

In This Makes Me Think of That, she shares the intimacy of her own experience as a glass-maker without relying solely on the visual, but rather by inviting our other senses, in particular smell and sound.  Gray collaborated with master perfumer Kedra Hart, who created four specially commissioned, hot-shop evoking scents: Wax, Paper, Block and Sleeve.  Other works include a sound piece entitled Back and Forth, Untitled, a limited edition photographic wall banner and A Rainbow Like You, an outsized spectral rainbow projection recalling stained glass windows with a reverse premise and implications.


Ten Contemporary  Gallery – California 

Title: Generacion 3 – Bronze with Patina (Edition of 7) : Max Levia

 I first saw his works at Chicago EXPO and really liked his sculptures. As I was talking to the Gallerist in Miami, found out that he is always biking around and hence the athletic form of the legs etc.  As mentioned on the Gallery introduction for the artist, Max Leiva is a contemporary Guatemalan artist known for his expressive figurative sculptures.  Leiva’s work explores the physicality and athletic limits of the human form, often placing the figures within an architectural context.  His style is informed by his travels around the world, from Switzerland to Bangkok, where he lived for two years.  This life experience allows Leiva to embrace a wide visual field in converging world cultures. From Mayan to European and American avant-garde art, the vocabulary of his work integrates the merging of families, of tribes and of cultures.

His artistic path materializes in the figurative or the abstract, claiming not only his roots from the Mayan culture of Central America, but also his experiences traveling the world.  The artist states:  “I like what I do, and I do not think much about the reasons that have led me to be a sculptor or where this may lead. The demands of art are not tangible; they do not belong to the world of needs. This is why I believe it is a constant act of defiance, which happily provides freedom.  I want people to get to know my work better. I want them to take their time to observe it more. I intend this to be a meditative exercise.”

Title: Chain Link – Artist : Gale Hart –  Polished Aluminum, Nickel, Gold 

This piece was also very empowering for me. Living in Chicago I could totally relate to the Artist’s message.

As per mentioned on the Gallery website: A childhood fascination with creating objects out of nuts, bolts, scrap metal and wood evolved into an intensely energetic creative drive.    From metal sculpture to monumental canvases, Gale Hart’s repertoire of visual images grabs, engages, and speaks volumes about universal humanity.  A narrative characterized by humor, angst and sarcasm presents itself through a constantly evolving cast of characters and subject matters.

Hart’s recent series of enlarged firearm sculptures and projectiles examine the disturbing concept of weapons being used to maintain peace.  Since the beginning of time with rocks, arrows and spears – to modern day bullets, missiles and bombs – projectiles are constantly evolving to be larger, faster, and more accurate.  Often referencing those primitive weapons, she enhances and expands the concept by including abstracted versions of those historical weapons into her contemporary sculptures.

With her new series of bullet sculptures Hart is poking fun at the manufacturing, implementation and advancing of weaponry with the notion to “keep the peace”.  Far too many people believe the misguided idea that more weaponry will make the world a safer place.  Hart’s exploration of the politically charged and controversial subject convincingly concludes that there are no machines so varied, so beautifully crafted and yet so equally disturbing as firearms.

Gale Hart is a Northern California based artist and activist.  Her award winning works have been exhibited widely throughout the US.

Title: Safeties On  – Artist : Gale Hart –  Polished Aluminum, Nickel, Gold

Ten Contemporary  Gallery – California

Title: Jar with Dragon  – Artist : Steven Young Lee –  Porcelain with cobalt inlay

I’ve always admired Steven Lee’s works not only because he is a great friend but because his pieces are truly unique. He creates contemporary ceramic pieces that appropriate elements of form, decoration, color, imagery and material from various cultures and historical periods. This collage of forms and motifs draws from various origins, including Chinese, Korean, French, Dutch, English and Minoan traditions. His work reflects a fascination with historical ceramic objects as both a representation of individual cultures and a hybridization of outside influences. I think the destruction of these beautiful pieces and the imperfection of them is what make them so unique and interesting.

Gallery Laura Rather Fine Art

Title: 17-VI-023  – Artist : Zhuang hong Yi –  Rice Paper and Acrylic on Canvas 

Liquid Art System 

Artist : Peter Demetz
Artist : Peter Demetz


I really enjoyed visiting Untitled this year. The layout was open and easy to navigate through out and the selection of art was really good as well.  I was pleased to find works by Iranian artists at this fair.

Dastan Basement – Iran/Tehran

Dastan Basement theme this year at Untitle was “Universal Pink” as it is the color of human flesh and therefore all of the works had the color pink on them.

Artist : Farokh Mahdavi – The structure and form of the wounded, exterminated, deformed body is the thing that he tries to reveal through his paintings.

Haines Gallery- London

Untitled – Artist : Monir Farmanfarmaian  – Mirror and reverse glass painting on plaster and wood – 2008

She is one of my favorite artists who has been ahead of her time. Monir’s mirror and reverse glass painting mosaic sculptures are built around principles of Islamic geometry and that is why I am fascinated by her work mostly. Through wall based panels and free standing works, she presents both a detailed craft and contemporary abstraction that employs an interaction of surface texture, light and reflection, color and form. Monir’s work is an Iranian decorative form known as aineh-kari which dates back to the sixteenth century, when glass was imported from Europe and would often arrive broken. Her works have been shown in many Galleries and museums including Guggenheim.


I spent my last day at the convention center. There was so much to see and I have to say the quality of art was great this year. I loved the layout of the fair as it was easy to navigate through and was not overwhelming.

Rhona hoffman Gallery – Chicago

Of course my first visit was to our lovely local chicago gallery. I admire Rhona’s personality so much and so  honored to have gotten to know her through a mutual friend. She is truly an inspiring woman.

The devil with the three golden – Artist : Natalie Frank – Couache and Chalk Pastel
The near Emptiness of Space, perfect timing and the clutch – Artist: Jacob Hashimoto – Wood, acrylic, bamboo, paper and Dacron
The near Emptiness of Space, perfect timing and the clutch – Artist: Jacob Hashimoto – Wood, acrylic, bamboo, paper and Dacron

Bio taken from Rochini Gallery : Born, Greeley Colorado 1973 | Lives in New York City

Jacob Hashimoto simulates nature without purporting to replicate it. Based in New York and of Japanese decent, Hashimoto redefines Japanese screen painting with his assemblages of paper “kites” in undulating, interactive compositions.

Hashimoto’s artwork embodies his longtime fascination with the intersections of painting and sculpture, abstraction and landscape. Each work is comprised of hundreds of small bamboo and paper kite-like elements. These kite elements are strung together in chains, and layers of these chains are stretched taught between short dowels that project from wall-mounted brackets, creating a densely layered and fragmented tapestry of image or pattern.

The elements forming these tapestries are a solid color of paper, or a complex, collaged pattern of multicolored cut paper. While the individual components remain more or less abstract, overall, clusters of pattern, stripes, or waves of color are formed, giving the works a pictorial quality that suggests organic forms, vistas, scrolling video games, or even board games. Through this unique process Hashimoto’s works convey an ephemeral wonder, entrancing the viewer with their continuously shifting illusion of light, space, motion, and sense of flight. Hashimoto’s working method is very open-ended, allowing him to sample art-historical references, icons of the every-day, and mismatched narratives within each composition.

Rhona Hoffman and Sarvin Haghigui

Lisson Gallery  – London/NY

Title : Galazio – Mixed Media on Aluminium (Oriental Blue) – Artist : Jason Martin

Jason Martin Bio taken from Lisson Gallery : Jason Martin effects oscillations between sculpture and painting, with the vigour of action painting but a controlled hand. He is perhaps best known for his monochromatic paintings, where layers of oil or acrylic gel are dragged across hard surfaces such as aluminium, stainless steel or Plexiglas with a fine, comb-like piece of metal or board in one movement, often repeated many times. Striations catch the light, their rhythmic textures suggestive of the ridges in a vinyl record, strands of wet hair, the grain of a feather – and whose titles flirt with association (Comrade, Amphibian, Corinthian). Martin does away with paint altogether in his wall-mounted casts of copper, bronze and nickel, whose surfaces are unctuous but frozen. In pure pigment works, vivid colour is applied to moulded panels, whose baroque contortions appear like an extreme close-up of a painter’s palette. These raw, worked surfaces find their equal and opposite in the recent sculpture Behemoth (2012), where the object (a huge cubic pile of cork on the floor) is impregnated with black pigment, rendering it a mass of surface.

White Cube  – London

Title : Clearing  – Wood, Rubber and Tar – Artist: Theaster Gates

Having worked at Theaster Gates studio, I obviously admire his work. His practice includes sculpture, installation, performance and urban interventions that aim to bridge the gap between art and life. Gates works as an artist, curator, urbanist and facilitator and his projects attempt to instigate the creation of cultural communities by acting as catalysts for social engagement that leads to political and spatial change.

As per the Gallery bio, Gates has described his working method as “critique through collaboration” – often with architects, researchers and performers – to create works that stretch the idea of what we usually understand visual-based practices to be.

What I love about these pieces is the fact that he brought tar into these pieces, a material he learned how to worked with through his dad since he was a roofer. It is just amazing how his mind works.

Title : Shine Study 1 – Wood, Roofing Paper, tar and metal – Theaster Gates

Regen Projects – LA

Title : Mirror (Oriental Blue) – Stainless Steel and lacquer – Anish Kapoor

Always loved Anish Kapoor’s works. His works have been a popular choice on social media due to the shininess of the pieces. In this video you can see in the background Glenn Ligon’s “Come out study#23” piece as well behind me. Its highly polished mirrored surface replicates feelings of vertigo: walking towards it gives an uncanny sense of magnified closeness and a temptation to fall into the work – or fall down. Mirrors are seductive and Kapoor’s works here really explores space and mirrors.

Follow the author of this post Sarvin Haghighi in Instagram @sarvinhaghighi


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