December 16, 2019
Standard booths on art fair selling floors aren’t amenable to large-scale artworks. Try mounting a 50-foot-long tent or a multi-channel video, and you’ll find there’s little space for anything else. To accommodate galleries’ desires to show such ambitious art, the 2019 edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach debuted a new sector, “Meridians.” The Grand Ballroom in the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center offered an ideal hosting space, just an escalator ride up from the main show.
Meridians’s first iteration, which featured 34 projects organized by Museo Tamayo director Magalí Arriola, served as an experiment for the Miami Beach fair and its participating galleries. However, the idea is not new: Sections for large-scale works have been integral to Art Basel’s fairs in Basel and Hong Kong, called “Unlimited” and “Encounters,” respectively, for several years. At Meridians, artworks ranged from Tom Friedman’s giant tableau of a cocktail party to Isaac Julien’s nine-screen film, Lina Bo Bardi-A Marvelous Entanglement (2019). Woody De Othello’s canary yellow, 8-by-8-foot bronze fan towered over viewers, while a complex Candice Lin sculpture offered a steadily dripping tincture of tobacco, sugar, tea, poppy, and piss. By looking at the works that sold at Meridians, we can get a picture of the market for large-scale artworks-as well as evidence of Art Basel’s competitive edge in the vast art fair landscape.
Galleries’ participation in Meridians could also aid a public relations push. Galerie Lelong, which has been showing at Art Basel in Miami Beach since its first edition in 2002,exhibited work by three artists—
Most of the Meridians projects had at least one gallery based in the Americas supporting them. And of the Meridians sales that were reported, all buyers were based in the United States. Almine Rech said that she sold