Strolling through the light-filled, airy aisles of the Untitled Art Fair, you can tell you’re at the beach. People wear sandy flip-flops with chic bathing suits and expensive cabana-wear. When you look out the plexi ‘windows’ of the tent, there are people body-surfing in aquamarine waves about a hundred feet away. At one point, looking up, my friends and I noticed graceful silhouettes of seagulls glancing off the roof of the tent and we had an argument as to whether or not it was an amazing video/installation piece or actual birds flying overhead. They were just birds, but their shadow images on the ceiling seemed choreographed at regular intervals, just another seamless and elegant part of Untitled, that made viewing art by mid-career artists an inspired experience.
Aside from NADA, this was my favorite art fair at Miami Beach Art Basel this year. Not only was the work engaging and professional, without tacky art fair crap, you actually got the sense of a community of artists, many working in New York and abroad, and on the cusp of achieving international renown. Put it this way, if you are an artist living and exhibiting in New York and you’ve reached a reasonable degree of success, you’ll see works by your colleagues and friends here. Unlike Basel, this fair was crowded without being obnoxious and the work was more accessible, although not as sexy with youth as NADA.
At every booth, everyone kept talking about Omar… For example, “We had to do this fair because of Omar’s involvement” and “Omar is an old friend and I completely trust his vision.” Despite this fair being untested and only in its second year, curators and artists appeared to be happy with the curatorial direction of the fair, the attention from collectors, and expect great things in the future.
Who is this person who participants cited for their sole reason for participation in a two year old fair? Omar Lopez-Chahoud is the main curator of the fair, and he is said to be instrumental in bringing in a number of international galleries. This year exhibitors hailed from 19 different countries with a special emphasis on Latin America, as well as a strong selection from New York and the United States in general. Since its first inception, Untitled has almost doubled in size, growing from 40 to 100 exhibitors this year. Most folks I spoke to attributed the success and growth to Omar and referred to him by first name only.
Although the vote is still out as to whether it’s a good idea for an art blog to become part of the institution rather than critiquing it, Paddy Johnson of Art F City hosted a booth at Untitled to raise money for the publication. She was hawking a portfolio series called “AFC Editions,” which was realized as a 256-foot-long print of the Tumblr Cloaque, along with a PDF and HTML of the Tumblr. The project was displayed on retro-looking wooden spools that required hand-cranking to view the piece about two feet at a time, which was both awkward and charming. Cloaque combines the work of 36 artists and was conceived and run by Carlos Saez and Claudia Mate. If you purchase, the digital materials is available on a “luxury Mobiado USB drive crafted from a single piece of sapphire crystal.” Cabinet Magazine also had a booth at Untitled, so Art F City wasn’t the only publication to participate.
Overall, the Untitled fair’s roster of exhibitors is more general and less homogeneous than the other fairs. This is a good thing. There are certain trends apparent, but there’s a good mix of experimental exhibitors and young galleries showing in tandem with international galleries, and also NY names like Anna Kustera, Winkleman Gallery, Benrimon Contemporary, the Lower Eeast Side Printshop, DC Moore, and others. A strong curatorial presence coupled with an open, beachy vibe maximized the best of what Miami has to offer in December. I wish more fairs followed their model and exhibited on the beach.
We had to try and lift the golden boulder! Don’t worry – permission was granted first. And YES – it was heavy!
JULIAN CHARRIÈRE @Dittrich & Schlechtriem