Art Basel Miami Beach 2021: The Transfixing Return of Meridians

Inspiring artwork within the large-scale sub-sector of the fair

For Art Basel‘s highly anticipated return to Miami, 253 galleries from around the world populated the floor of the sprawling Miami Beach Convention Center. In addition to the standard booths of covetable contemporary art at Art Basel Miami Beach, specific sectors like Nova or Positions offer presentations driven by further purpose—be that work solely created in the last three years (for the former) or solo installations dedicated to emerging artists (within the latter). For the Meridians section, however—returning after its riveting debut in 2019—Mexico City-based curator Magalí Arriola looked across galleries, cultures and continents to assemble 16 large-scale works with profound presence.

All of the works within the division grapple with cultural identity or, as Arriola succinctly explained in a press conference on opening day, “race, class and power.” The balance of recently commissioned art and iconographic entries also elevates this dialogue—with newer creations by Yinka Shonibare, Hank Willis Thomas, Rebecca Manson and Conrad Eggier conversing with audiences alongside historic pieces by Howardena Pindell, Keith Haring and others.

One stunning inclusion stands out in particular for its use of live performance. In Canadian contemporary artist Brendan Fernandes’ “Contract and Release” (2019/2020/2021), two dancers interact with six walnut sculptures. First shown at NYC’s Noguchi Museum (and inspired by props that Isamu Noguchi designed for legendary choreographer Martha Graham), this site-specific activation comes to life in the electric expanse of Meridians.

Once again, Arriola succeeds in assembling momentous works for Meridians that don’t simply speak to change, diversity, dreams and dimensionality; they represent it. Meridians is an undeniable must-see at Art Basel Miami Beach this year, which is on now through 4 December.

Images by David Graver