The glittering onslaught of art fairs, public projects, and pop-ups that consume Florida’s cultural capital for seven days each year known as Miami Art Week is back. From artist Leandro Erlich’s traffic jam of sand on Miami Beach to Instagram’s sustainability-focused booth at Design Miami to late-night DJ sets spun by celebrities like Diplo and Idris Elba, the city’s eclectic itinerary lives up to its reputation as one of the world’s foremost art spectacles. The event has long boasted an international outlook — both through the artworks shown and its clientele — but this year, the presence of China looms larger than ever.
The centrality of China within the global art market is obvious at this point: Western galleries have been flocking to Beijing and Shanghai for over a decade (more recently, museums have begun establishing ‘China branches’) setting the stage for China to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest art and antique market by 2011. And although the majority of this consumption occurs within Mainland China and in the auction-friendly environs of Hong Kong’s free port status (which led to Art Basel purchasing ART HK in 2013), international art events around the world are still eager to court Chinese art-lovers.
Miami hopes to position itself as the ideal getaway for a new generation of Chinese that is increasingly prioritizing art, culture, shopping, and large-scale events in their itineraries. Efforts range in scale from entire exhibitions devoted to contemporary artists to galleries micro-targeting potential clients on the Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo. Art Basel even boasts an Asia-based team to support its Chinese customers and has translated its promotional material for the Miami edition into Mandarin.
Indeed, avoiding contemporary Chinese art altogether at this year’s fair would be an impressive feat, so pervasive is its presence throughout Miami’s popups, museums, and even beaches.
Most overt in these efforts is the aptly named FOCUS | ART CHINA, which is being presented at SCOPE Miami Beach. The new showcase of more than 100 contemporary Chinese artists aims to broaden knowledge of the country’s burgeoning art scene on an international stage. “[It’s] an important new way for spreading China’s voice,” says founder Bruce Orosz, who claims the program aims to show “how Eastern arts and artists have impressed the West and how contemporary arts from the West, even the world, have impacted the East.” Sponsorship by state media giants CCTV, Shanghai Media Group, and China Daily hints at the investments by major players behind the scenes.
Prominent Chinese artists are also sprinkled liberally throughout the city’s art offerings. Zhang Huan is following his “Sydney Buddha” and “Berlin Buddha” large scale work with — you guessed it — “Miami Buddha”: a pair of 17-foot-high Buddhas, one made from aluminium and the other from ash incense collected at East China temples. Visitors to the Faena Festival’s beach should expect nothing less than meditations on life, death, and rebirth.
In the museum sphere, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (ICA) will showcase the racy cartoon videos of Hong Kong’s Wong Ping and the Rubell Museum’s inaugural exhibition will feature a generous display from the family’s acclaimed contemporary Chinese collection.
The Art Basel Miami art fair, which has traditionally been the epicenter of Miami’s art week, has expanded its Chinese contingency with the addition of Chancery Lane Gallery (Hong Kong), Magician Space (Beijing), and Hanart TZ Gallery (Hong Kong), all of which join an already reputable assembly of Chinese galleries. This includes Edouard Malingue Gallery (Hong Kong) which will present Zheng Bo’s latest exploration of fern culture and Antenna Space (Shanghai) which will juxtapose Canadian artist Allison Katz with Chinese artist Guan Xiao in the Nova section of the fair.
The ever-growing presence of China in the twin worlds of art and design is an unmistakable takeaway from this year’s Miami Art Week, a point succinctly made by the new curatorial director of Design Miami, Aric Chen, who states, “having things designed by China, by Chinese designers, is now something we can also take for granted.”