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Every work of art was once contemporary. This has never been so true as in Art Basel Miami Beach’s Survey sector, which is solely dedicated to art historical projects. This year, 16 galleries are bringing to the fore artists that emerged decades ago, but whose creative output remains in tune with our times.
British artist Shelagh Wakely (1932-2011) is a case in point. Her oeuvre is characterized by a celebration of nature and the ephemeral, which chimes with many contemporary practices. Using fruits, spices, or feathers, Wakely created an artistic universe that addressed the poetics of fragility. The use of non-traditional materials, as well as an ability to convey lightness, infuses her work with a peaceful vivacity. While barely known to the public in her home country, Wakely’s work struck a chord in Brazil, where she spent a significant amount of time. Her poignant reflections on finitude will be exhibited by London’s Richard Saltoun Gallery.
After years trying to adapt to the then-fashionable Abstract Expressionist movement, American painter David Park (1911-1960) decided to focus on a vigorous, colorful form of figurative painting instead. From the mid-1950s, he almost exclusively painted bathers, an art-historical motif that he considered both timeless and subtly subversive. Park went on to found the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Almost sixty years after his death, the contemporaneity of his practice is striking, particularly when compared with the work of younger artists exploring figuration today. Park’s canvases will be presented by San Francisco gallery Hackett Mill.
Ceysson & Bénétière’s presentation will feature Louis Cane (b. 1934) and the late Marc Devade (1943-1983). Both are associated with the Supports/Surfaces movement, which emerged in 1960s France and interrogated the very essence of painting. The two men met in 1968 Paris, bonding over shared political and artistic concerns. While Devade focused on ink as the ultimate material to liberate his work from painterly conventions, Cane’s experiments were driven by a will to radically reinvent the medium; both artists refused to abide by the formal rules of the past. Presented together, their works create an inspiring dialogue, anchored in artistic friendship.
At Sabrina Amrani’s booth, textiles by Egyptian artist Chant Avedissian (b. 1951) will tackle the rifts between occidental and Middle Eastern perspectives on culture. Avedissian blends the codes of Islamic art and calligraphy with elements of Constructivism, creating patterned compositions. These not only attest to the artist’s rejection of Western canons, but also to his challenge of art being judged from such a narrow perspective. Here, repetitiveness and the occasional inclusion of Egyptian figurative elements oppose the cultural hegemony the artist fundamentally disagrees with.
Los Angeles gallery Anat Ebgi will bring powerful pieces by Paraguay-born artist Faith Wilding (b. 1943) to Miami Beach. Wilding has been involved with feminist initiatives for her entire career, and her work is a testament to this cause. The artist explores the physical and psychological complexity of womanhood, borrowing from natural elements to address the topic. Leaves, bones, buds, and animals populate her world, in which the female condition gets deciphered from all angles.
Discover more artists and galleries participating in this year’s Survey sector here.
Top image: Faith Wilding finishing touches on Crocheted Environment at Womanhouse, 1971. Image courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.