Whether you’re just starting to buy art or you’re looking to add to an existing collection, don’t let momentary passion run away with your common sense. Before you venture into a fair as big and expensive as Art Basel Miami Beach, research the galleries that represent the artists that interest you. Look up recent sales records for the works.
And don’t think you can just wander around and hit on the next big thing unless you are already pretty savvy about collecting — pretty much everyone else who walks in on opening day has experience as a collector and knows the majority of dealers and their stable of artists.
That said, both Basel and the many satellite fairs offer a broad range of styles and price points. Make a target list ahead of time and also be open to the unexpected. My advice this year: Keep an eye out for artists from South Asia, Turkey and the Middle East, hotbeds of activity and emerging art.
Here are recommendations for every wallet.
My picks for the top end of the market are fairly conservative — tried-and-true artists whose work has already stood the test of time. For me, they are also intellectually compelling and steady in their long practices, which means they can anchor any important collection. It’s impossible to pin down to just a few, and I long to include superstars such as Ed Ruscha, Louise Bourgeois and Ellsworth Kelly. But they, like so many blue-chip artists, will be out of reach for all but a small number of people.
Somewhat less pricey:
• Anselm Kiefer. Yes, he is prolific, and his works can be challenging to own, but he has a unique voice and his narratives are forceful and visually stunning and carry the weight of 20th century history. (Galleries: White Cube, Gagosian);
• Sean Scully. A serious artist whose painterly renditions of stripes and geometric forms is close to the sublime. (Galerie Lelong, Timothy Taylor);
• Chuck Close. One of the great portrait artists, Close can be categorized as Photo-Realist, Pop or any one of a number of contemporary genres. His stylistic evolution has been subtle but still evident in his exploration of materials for his distinctive, monumental faces. (Pace Gallery);
• Paul McCarthy: A provocative and often profane chronicler of modern life, he takes on consumer culture through his raw appropriation of beloved icons like Snow White and Santa Claus. (Hauser and Wirth).
$100,000 to $499,000
• William Kentridge: A personal favorite, he is a filmmaker, sculptor, draughtsman. His subject is apartheid and Africa and personal responsibility in the face of tyranny. I never tire of his inventiveness. (Marian Goodman).
• Bharti Kher: Part of a wave of prominent South Asian and Indian artists, Kher explores imagery related to women, including her series with bindi dots, the ubiquitous mark on the foreheads of Indian women, and odd animal hybrid objects. (Hauser and Wirth)
• Aaron Curry: A sculptor from Los Angeles, he does works that vaguely resemble Calder and David Smith but with a contemporary twist — they are fun, smart and strangely classic. (David Kordansky)
• Juan Munoz: A sleeper, he was a brilliant sculptor whose early death cut short a practice devoted to figurative works with deeply moving and enigmatic narratives. (Marian Goodman)
Mid-career and emerging artists whose work is more affordable and eminently collectible.
• Jitish Kallat: Painting, sculpture, photography and video are the broad range of this Indian artist. After viewing his latest video at the Delhi Art Fair this year, I became passionate about his work. (Chemould Prescott Road, Arndt)
• Diana al-Hadid: Sculpture and works on paper relating to architecture, ruins and ancient civilizations. Tough and powerful objects, with drawings that are somewhat ethereal and elegant. (Marianne Boesky)
• Orly Genger: Inventive and monumental installations of rope, as well as more collectible works in bronze and metals. Smaller “tabletop”-size works are less costly and very affordable. (Larissa Goldston)
$5,000 to $25,000
Best to find these next artists in the satellite fairs surrounding the Basel mother ship. Some of my best discoveries have been at NADA, which deals with young galleries, many from the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
• Sarah Dwyer: Colorful, organic, gestural paintings that can be aggressive and startling. What abstract expressionism looks like in the 21st century. (Josh Lilley)
• Sarah Crowner: Inventive young artist referencing classic geometric painting with sewn and collaged canvasses. (Nicelle Beauchene)
• Agustina Woodgate: Argentine-born, Miami-based artist whose smart and varied practice includes everything from sculpture and installations to billboards and bus shelters. (Spinello Projects)
Less than $5,000
Look for multiples and photography by some of the better-known artists and rising stars. Good dealers to check out are: Pace Prints, Mixografia, Tandem Press, Yancey Richardson, Mary Ryan, Gemini GEL and Poligrafa Obra Grafica. Many can be found during Basel week at the INK fair, which specializes in multiples. Miami’s best galleries
My favorite local spot for new talent is Locust Projects, whose director has a great eye; Cannonball is another good source. And just opened in Wynwood is Kowal + Odermatt Projects, concentrating on artist residencies.
Miami’s best artists
A quick and by no means complete list of local faves includes:
Mario Algaze (at Spencer Throckmorton), Maria Martinez Canas (Fred Snitzer), Naomi Fischer (Fred Snitzer), Jim Drain (Greene Naftali), Kate Gilmore (David Castillo), Bhakti Baxter (Gallery Diet), Mette Tommerup (Emerson Dorsch Gallery), Brookhart Jonquil (Emerson Dorsch Gallery), Lynn Gelfman (Alejandra von Hartz) and Jorge Pantoja (Carol Jazzar).