While it was a simple banana taped to a wall that seemed to steal the show at this year’s Miami Art Week, opulence abounded throughout the various fairs too. Many bold, beautiful pieces involved meticulous beading, weaving, and fringing. From fur to fluorite, tassels to tiger’s eye, the materials used in some of our favorite pieces are unexpected and glorious. Sometimes these seemingly ostentatious elements result in sumptuous and lavish pieces, other times they reflect subtle and tender use. The one commonality here is the artists’ creativity and patience, and the results of those skills being undeniably exquisite.
Jeffrey Gibson’s “LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME!” (2016)
Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson‘s 2017 exhibition LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME! at Haggerty Museum of Art showcased many intricate, colorful and bold pieces. From that show, a piece of the same title was on view at Sikkema Jenkins & Co‘s booth at Art Basel this year. Rich and decadent, this 2016 piece is mounted on canvas and employs countless glass beads; metal jingles, cones and studs; nylon fringe; artificial sinew; and acrylic paint on wool blanket. This striking piece draws inspiration from Gibson’s background—be it Native American culture or the ’90s club scene and beyond.
Roxanne Jackson’s “Pearl Clutching” (2018)
Brooklyn-based Roxanne Jackson‘s pieces are meticulously crafted, but also unexpected and delightfully grotesque. One of two pieces on display at Richard Heller Gallery‘s booth at Untitled, “Pearl Clutching” (2018) resembles some kind of mythical creature’s claw, grasping a piece of coral. The hand (or paw) is made from ceramic, glaze, luster with faux fur on the underside and invites the viewer to create their own fantastical narratives surrounding it.
Kathleen Ryan’s “Pleasures Known” (2019)
Collectively titled “Pleasures Unknown,” Kathleen Ryan’s jeweled sculptures command the space at London gallery Josh Lilley‘s booth at Art Basel. With polystyrene foam bases, the oversized fruit sculptures are given the appearance of molding and decaying, thanks to her careful placement of countless semi-precious stones. Everything from aventurine to malachite, moss agate, rose quartz, serpentine and turquoise is used in this piece, which blurs the line between delicate and decaying. Ryan’s sparkly, large-scale work also makes a comment on rampant consumption and where we place value in the West.
Cosmo Whyte’s “The Enigma of Arrival in 4 Sections, Section 3: Carry On” (2017)
With floral upholstery, delicate doilies and bunches of gold fringing, Jamaican artist Cosmo Whyte‘s “The Enigma of Arrival in 4 Sections, Section 3: Carry On” (2017) creates an interesting sense of lavishness in an unexpected way. The airline seats are reupholstered and decorated to resemble a family couch, an heirloom, and something not only special, but also permanent. By creating this dichotomy—a sense of pandemonium and preciousness—he makes a strong point about the hidden trauma of immigration and finding a sense of place and belonging. This striking piece was on view at Anat Ebgi‘s booth at Art Basel.
Leonardo Benzant’s “Ngonda Magic and the Language of Circles and Spirals” (2019)
Linked to identity, tradition, spirituality and Yoruba (the West African religion practiced by his elders), Leonardo Benzant‘s stunning hanging pieces are labor-intensive, made with glass and ceramic beads, leather and fabric. While abstract, the intricate loops, circles and intertwining shapes of “Ngonda Magic and the Language of Circles and Spirals” (2019) represent roots and chromosomes, combining concepts of identity and tradition within a decidedly contemporary work of art. This piece was presented by Claire Oliver Gallery at Untitled.
Raúl de Nieves’ “Salacia” (2019)
Alongside works by Cajsa von Zeipel, Mexico-born, NYC–based Raúl de Nieves placed his extravagant beaded sculptures atop the pink shag-pile carpet at Company Gallery’s booth to dramatic effect. Along with pairs of jewel-encrusted knee-high boots placed on a lightbox, de Nieves showed “Salacia” (2019) from his Animism series. The fiberglass creature is covered in milliner trimming, faux pearls and fake flowers, with an intricately beaded face. It’s an absurd, somewhat anthropomorphic, creation that’s a wonder to behold.