To escape the crush of the Art Basel art fair, which ended Sunday, and visit Martin Z. Margulies at his voluminous warehouse and exhibition space for art in the Wynwood Arts District is to realize that this collector was there before it all began. Before his Twomblys were trading for more than $70 million at auction. Before the Arte Povera pieces he started buying years ago became chic. Before the market got red-hot and art became an asset class.
Almost two years ago, when the Hallen für Neue Kunst, a pioneering contemporary art museum in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, closed after a decade of legal strife, nearly two dozen works by the 85-year-old minimalist painter Robert Rymanneeded to find their way back home to New York City. The paintings, which, like his other pieces, feature tonal variations of the color white on surfaces from unprimed canvases to fiberglass panels, had been installed since the early ’80s in the converted factory, where each 15,000-square-foot floor was dedicated to just a few artists, including other 20th-century icons like Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre and Robert Mangold. Ryman’s sons Cordy, 43, and Ethan, 51, soon flew to Switzerland to “repatriate Dad’s paintings.”
The rap on the annual contemporary art fair here is that much of the art has already been presold and most of the collectors come only for the parties. Veterans of Art Basel Miami Beach say there is plenty of fun to be had — it’s hard to keep track of the dozens of events on offer, including seated gallery dinners and liquor promotions. But there is also serious art-buying to be done and many dealers say they have their best results here. “It’s my favorite fair and normally it’s the most successful,” the dealer Paul Kasmin said. “I don’t think I’ve ever presold anything.”
Ah, to be among the glitterati who will descend this week on Art Basel Miami Beach. Nibbling on canapés. Clinking glasses of bubbly. Perusing modern masterpieces. And … writing checks to politicians? That’s the hope of several 2016 presidential candidates who, on purpose or by happenstance, have scheduled fundraising receptions to coincide with the annual art fair that swells the ranks of South Florida’s moneyed elite.
Street murals, pop-up fairs, installations depicting a post-rising-seas Miami and even a portal to the far reaches of the planet will stretch along Miami Beach and across the causeways for the annual art week frenzy that begins Monday. Here’s our list of Best Bets for art viewing available this week only.
There may come a day when having a critical mass of women featured in an art fair is no longer noteworthy, but we’re not there yet. So it’s worth noting that Art Basel Miami Beach, which starts next week, has a significant number of female artists.