Just two weeks before Art Basel in Miami Beach opened, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York released the artist list for its 2017 biennial: co-organised by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, it is due to open next March. But visitors to the fair can get a sneak preview in the aisles this week as dealers show off their newly anointed talents.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash has brought works by Pope.L, Leigh Ledare and the collective GCC, highlighting a trio of urgent topics that are likely to come up in the biennial: race, gender and collective action. The Chicago-based performance artist and painter Pope.L has made a new canvas for his Skin Set series, Sunny Day White Power (2016), incorporating newspaper, a shower curtain and a pointedly dangling rope. Despite the provocative title, the way he likes to frame it, its about race, but its not just about race, says the gallerys Josephine Nash. Its more about social constructs. The work sold during Wednesdays VIP preview in the region of $100,000 to a fantastic New York collection.
In the 1990s, the Whitney Biennial was virtually synonymous with the phrase identity politics, but many in next years crop of artists take a more complex, fluid approach to questions of subjectivity and being in the world. In the fairs Nova sector, 47 Canals stand is given over to Anicka Yi, who recently won the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize, which includes an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Based around a body of work the artist made after a trip to the Amazon, Yis installation marries the natural and the artificial with organic and technological processes.
Discovering new names
Altman Siegel, of San Francisco, has brought small sculptures by Zarouhie Abdalian, a New Orleans-based conceptual artist who examines issues of labour history and politics. The works are made of clusters of defunct tools, such as mallets and oil cans, and plated in polished nickel; Abdalian arranges them in a way that each one supports the others, says the gallerys Facundo Argaaraz, who was in the process of swapping out one version that sold during the VIP preview.
Another Whitney artist who has found success in Miami is Austrian-born, New York-based Ulrike Mller, whose work is on show with Callicoon Fine Arts in the Positions sector. With nods to Bauhaus-inflected Modernism and an appealingly spare vocabulary, Mller explores the relationship of the body to abstraction in woven wool rugs and vitreous enamel paintings. Weve had a wonderful response, says the gallerys Elizabeth Lamb, noting that the stand was already sold out.
Inclusion in a major biennial can boost a young artists market, but most dealers say that their strategy for Miami was unchanged by the unveiling of the Whitneys list. The announcement just happened, says a spokeswoman for Los Angeless Moran Bondaroff gallery, which is showing abstract collage-paintings by Torey Thornton at Nada, the more curatorially minded fair that focuses on younger dealers. Its too early to tell if the value [of the artists work] will increase.
You can talk about monetary value, but its more about recognition theres a lot of attention being paid to the artists work now, says a spokeswoman for New Yorks Company gallery, which is showing pearly beaded figures and paintings by Ral de Nieves at Nada. We had planned to show him here before the biennial announcement.
Additional reporting by Gabriella Angeleti