Miami Art Fairs Draw Jennifer Lopez, Bill Gates and Armie Hammer to Beachside Exhibitions

Yun Lee (FITZ & CO)
Art Basel Miami Beach 2018.

Multiple fairs this week drew collectors, A-list artists and moguls to buy (and give a little) at more than a dozen satellites built around the buzzy central event, Art Basel Miami Beach.

For regulars at Miami's December art fairs, things really kick off with the Tuesday-night cocktail party hosted by hip hoteliers Mera and Don Rubell (brother of the late Studio 54 founder Steve Rubell) at their private museum.

By now, the Rubells' collection was supposed to be in its new, much larger home: a former nearby food distribution warehouse that the art world's favorite architect, Annabelle Selldorf, is morphing into a massive art campus. But the work is still being done on "Miami time," and someone close to the project hints that they'd be lucky for a 2019 debut.

The first floor of the Rubell Family Collection is currently devoted to the late, great, self-taught Miami artist Purvis Young. The upper floor is dedicated to new acquisitions from 20 artists, including rising star Tschabalala Self, who recently completed the inaugural three-month Red Bull art residency in Detroit and is represented in the big tent of Art Basel Miami Beach in two booths: London-based gallerist Pilar Corrias and a solo presentation from gallerist Thierry Goldberg. 

But this year, the festivities were set in motion earlier — on Monday night — with the VIP opening for the Faena Festival (through Dec. 9). During the opening, a band of drummers and dancers led guests throughout the hotel property developed by Argentine hotelier Alan Faena, who greeted guests in his trademark white hat. His hotel's gift shop is also where Serena Williams chose to launch her pop-up this week.

Over the course of the week at the Faena Festival, David Beckham, Winnie Harlow, Chloe Sevigny, Naomi Campbell and Vito Schnabel have taken in installations and performances by Derrick Adams, Cecilia Bengolea, Isabel Lewis, Luna Paiva, Tavares Strachan, Miya Ando, and Wu Tsang + boychild, among others, as well as Alfredo Jaar's seminal 1987 video piece, A Logo for America, acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2014. The theme of this year's festival, "This is Not America," emphasizes Miami's enduring role as a hemispheric hub and port that has long welcomed not just tourists but also migrants and refugees from throughout the world. For the duration of the festival, Jaar's piece is installed on a boat (usually promoting Miami nightclubs) that chugs along the shoreline for eight hours a day.

The hot ticket Wednesday was naturally the VIP preview for Art Basel Miami Beach, the star around which more than a dozen satellite fairs rotate. And there was a lot of star power art- and wallet-wise, with at least one preview morning sale hitting eight figures: New York-based gallery Van de Weghe sold Picasso's Tete de Femme (1971), priced at $17 million. Mark Rothko's Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) (1955) was priced at $50 million at Helly Nahmad Gallery, where THR spotted L.A. gallerist and former MOCA head, Jeffrey Deitch, who is doing a talk with artist Judy Chicago Saturday afternoon (Deitch will be presenting a solo exhibtion of her work next September at his L.A. gallery). And the art advisor Todd Levin, seen walking clients through the fair, touted the Romare Beardens and Jacob Lawrences at the booths of the New York-based DC Moore and Michael Rosenfield galleries, and the "amazing Bridget Riley" at Spruth Magers, which also has an exhibition of Riley's artwork on view now at the mid-Wilshire gallery in L.A. (through Jan. 26).

Providing major star power were Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, who were seen walking hand in hand with an entourage of friends and family as gallerist Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn led them to each booth. The couple admired work by Keith Haring, Tom Wesselman and Roy Lichtenstein on view from New York-based gallery Levy Gorvy. Even Brett Gorvy, shot along with his staff in custom white sneakers with Haring-ish designs made to match their booth, could not resist snapping a few photos.

Of only slightly less interest to the art crowd was Leonardo DiCaprio. Hoodie-clad and hatted, the actor and avid collector popped into a number of booths including L.A.-based David Kordansky Gallery where there was a wall sculpture on view by the artist-turned-filmmaker Rashid Johnson. Johnson's feature adaptation of Richard Wright's seminal novel Native Son was recently chosen to premiere at Sundance.

Sold within the first minutes of the fair, on preview day, were the colorful biomorphic table top ceramics at Marianne Boesky Gallery, based in New York and Aspen, by the L.A.-based artist/design team known as The Haas Brothers. That's no shock considering the warm reception the artist duo — the fraternal twins Nikolai and Simon Haas, brothers of actor Lukas — have received since the opening earlier this week of their first solo museum show "Ferngully" at Miami's Bass Museum earlier this week. There the brothers' artwork is presented as an imaginarium of hirsute, beaded, ceramic and velvet animals, monsters, mushrooms, trees and biomorphic furniture. (At Boesky, their works sold in the range of $15,000 to $60,000.)

As evening approached, it was all about Sotheby's (RED) auction, founded by musician and activist Bono and artist Damien Hirst. It's been five years since the last (RED) auction took place, and the crowd was bursting to bid in support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS and their HIV/AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Chicago artist Theaster Gates' Rebuild Foundation

The auction took place in the Moore Building of Miami's Design District. (That's also where Larry Gagosian, who co-organized the sale, is again co-presenting a pop-up show with Jeffrey Deitch. This year, it's Pop and minimalist art with broad appeal, and few women.) Gagosian, Bono, Naomi Campbell, and designer and architect Sir David Adjaye were seated in the front row for the show. 

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda were also in attendance and have committed to matching $10 million raised through the auction. Other participating artists present included: Theaster Gates (a triple threat as one of the evening's curators, artists and buyers — and no relation to Bill); Adjaye, whose work Campbell acquired for $45,000; Ebony G. Patterson, whose work was acquired by Theaster Gates and who was celebrated with a party hosted by Christian Louboutin at the Perez Art Museum Miami (where her ongoing solo show is on view through May 5); and British artist Marc Quinn, who recently announced a major artistic philanthropic project to benefit the International Rescue Committee

Meanwhile, fashion designer Naeem Khan and the collector — and onetime Dynasty producer — Douglas Cramer attended a private dinner at the home of Bass Museum board members to celebrate artist Paola Pivi's exhibition "Art with a View."   

Over the course of the week, Armie Hammer, Sela Ward, Major Lazer's Jillionaire and tennis star Andy Murray have been spotted at the beachside Untitled art fair. A treat at Untitled — whose third San Francisco edition takes place Jan. 18 through Jan. 20 — is L.A.-based Steve Turner Gallery, with a cohesive presentation of nine artists (all insiders and graduates of prestigious art institutions) whose work appears to be folk art or art by self-taught artists.

One standout is Hannah Epstein, with her smattering of soft textile wall sculptures. Epstein's solo show at the gallery opens Jan. 5 and runs through Feb. 16. The other standout is the Colombian artist Camilo Restrepo, whose new painting and collage work A Land Reform references Hollywood and pop culture icons that are often used as criminal aliases as a means of commenting on the absurdity and violence of drug trafficking. Such icons include Donald Duck, Barney, Luigi from Mario Bros., the classic shark image from the film Jaws, a Teletubby, and "quite a few Rambos," according to gallery staff.

A new exhibitor and presenter is the nonprofit LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, part of Columbia University's School of the Arts. The center has a sliver of space along one long wall where relatively affordable prints from master artists, including Kara Walker, Kiki Smith, Jasper Johns, Sanford Biggers, and hip-hop pioneer Feb 5 Freddy — who was inspired by his pal Biggers to learn the craft of printmaking at the Neiman center. On view from Freddy are images of Huey Newton, Jim Kelly and Jack Johnson that each have screenprinted glow-in-the-dark ink on black velvet flocked with glitter. All artwork sold will support scholarships, work opportunities for alumni, and future collaborations with artists.