by Micke Tong

Last week was Art Basel Miami Beach’s 10th edition, and after attending ten out of the eighteen participating art fairs, walking nearly 20 miles and visiting over 400 galleries, we were proud to see our Bay Area visual arts ambassadors well represented. We stayed on Collins street in the heart of Miami Beach where many of the art hotels took place.

A few blocks from us, Mission district’s Triple Base and Eleanor Harwood galleries were exhibiting work at the Aqua Art Hotel. A bit further down the street, NADA Art Fair (New Art Dealers) was happening at the Deauville Beach Resort, where local artist Andrew Schoultz sold out his framed gold prints of American flags, some inscribed with messages like “Handcrafted with Pride in China” or “Owned and Operated Since 2011 By China”.

Conveniently located around the corner from our hotel, The Catalina, was the convention center where Art Basel took place. The event was extensive with over 200 participating galleries. We were able to locate local high brow gallery, John Berggruen, where he showcased mylar and ink work by Julie Mehretu, Richard Tuttle’s simple wood and acrylic wall sculpture titled “Two with any to #1” and Rachel Whiteread’s minimal metal and plaster cupboard.

Basel’s Art Salon featured Jens Hoffmann, Director, CCA Wattis institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, in a panel discussion about Artworld Regionism. Following the many aisles of Basel’s art maze we happened upon Anthony Meier Fine Arts where Rob Reynold’s large painting of majestic clouds, reminiscent of a post card, read “BONANZA”. Around the corner hung a mixed-medium framed collage by John Baldessari titled, “Blue Abyss and Candy Mountain”. Newer works were also on display by Kate Shepherd. Her “Four Japanese Dresses” depicted a cut and tape screen print of four works on paper which added to the analogous shapes curated by Anthony Meier Fine Arts.

Scope Art Fair and Art Miami took place In Midtown Miami. Two enormous white twin tent structures lined the streets, a convenient location where the art fairs were adjacent to each other flooding the streets with art enthusiasts walking back and forth. We had planned our trip to Scope first since we had heard so many great things about it. Tracing its corridors we recognized the vast colonization of many Chinese galleries that were there. More so than any other art fair we attended. We couldn’t miss Jennybird Alcantara occupying the walls at Varnish Fine Arts, which was lined with dark feminine dolls. Opposite were the wild and busy paintings of Chris Mars.

Shuffling around we noticed White Walls had taken up a number of booths for artist ROA, who displayed dark paintings of caged animals as if they are ready to be shipped in wooden boxes. On the other side of the White Walls booth we witnessed lettering works by artist Eine and the luxurious gold taxidermy sculpture of Peter Gronquist. At the furthest back corner we reached Arts Fund, who claims to be a venture capital that invests in creative endeavors. We are happy to see that they invested in one, Brett Amory, a fine art painter who has made a statement in the Bay Area with his “Waiting” series.

While standing in line for our press passes at Art Miami, we ran into 111 Minna Gallery curators and artist, Micah LeBrun and Anthony Culmer. Although they had said that 111 Minna was not participating in this year’s fairs, it was good to see them dedicated to traveling so far to experience the decade old event.

Within the tent walls, we stood before the delicate paintings of Kate Eric at Frey Norris Contemporary & Modern along with a surreal sculpture titled “Underworlder” by Lionel Bawden, which depicts an organic melting subject made up of pencils, epoxy, incralac on black Perspex shelves. Moving from Geary street downtown, Frey Norris has found a new home on New Montgomery in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts District.

No stranger to the Yerba Buena district is Catharine Clark Gallery. This season's San Francisco Arts Quarterly's cover girl’s inspired works included Walter Robinson’s strange double ended animal sculptures, two-dimensional vases by Stephanie Syjuco and an impressive dark metal gothic cathedral made up of bullets and pistols by Al Farrow.

A real treat for us was attending Miami’s fastest growing art colony in Wynwood. This district was lined with galleries, art studios, and art warehouses. Graffiti and street art littered the public walls and you could find artists spray painting these walls day and night without fear of any police backlash. We even found artists creating a temporary wall made of plastic wrap to paint on. The Wynwood district definitely tended to the younger hip crowd and collectors.

As we made our way to the Fountain Art Fair gates, we were warmly greeted by large wheat pasted murals by San Francisco’s own, Hugh Leeman and David Young V. We see much of their work plastered all over the Tenderloin district, two-toned images of elderly homeless types on patterned graphical backgrounds and of a woman in an occult draping headdress. Within the gates, Chor Boogie’s abstract mural could be spotted easily as his work leads us passed the stage where Fab 5 Freddy and VHS or Beta dropped records all night to a dancing party crowd.

Inside Fountain, the walls lacked any free real estate. Art was everywhere, from top to bottom. Kip Malone, band member of TV on the Radio, stood intently looking at art and it was quite comforting to see urban works by Eddie Colla and colorful abstract paintings by Carly Ivan Garcia. We have to say, Fountain Art Fair was the most social and friendly of all the art fairs. We frequented the neighborhood more than once before heading to Deuces, the dive bar in Miami Beach that so many say reminded them of home, San Francisco.