Review: Art Basel goes ‘Afropolitan’

bit and dot

Ludlow E. Bailey reviews Art Basel, calling in “Afropolitan.” He includes all international artists of African descent, of course, and in this Afropolitan world, he includes Miami-based Caribbean artists Glexis Nova, Noelle Theard, Rodney Jackson, Fabian Pena and Misael Soto as well as the Global Caribbean exhibition and the outstanding work of Trinidadian artist Christopher Cozier (“The Arrest: Hands up, Hand out”—see detail above) at the Betsy Hotel. Here are excerpts:

Basel is no longer just a city in Switzerland. It is now used as both a verb and a noun by those drawn to Miami Beach for the four-day “winter meeting of the international art world.” It’s a kind of post 21st Century word with multiple uses, roughly translated as “bliss and beauty.” [. . .] With the presence of more artists of African descent than ever, Basel is also increasingly an amalgamation of rock and roll, the blues, and Yoruba rituals with a mixture of classical West African High Life, salsa, hip hop, regalia (reggae) and meringue. It is Raashid Newsome, Wangechi Mutu, Mikalene Thomas, Yinka Shonibare, Armando Marino, Kehinde Wiley, Christopher Cozier, Hank Willis, Ellington Robinson, Alexander Arrechea, Amadou Yacine, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Shinique Smith, Nick Cave, El Anatsui, Betye Saar, but also Kendrick Lamar, Swizz Beats and Pharrell. You might call it “Afropolitan.”

Basel Miami Beach (BMB) is young, but it already has far more potential than the original: Basel Switzerland. And that’s in no small part because “Basel on the beach” is significantly more multi-national and diverse. BMB 2013 was a wonderland of contemporary world culture with a pulsating global African presence. [. . .]

The Global African Presence at Basel 2013 continues to grow. This year saw the introduction of two new African centered fairs: Prizm and Miami Fusion. The iconic Bettye Saar (creator of the infamous “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima”) was honored by Miami Fusion with a lifetime achievement award. At eighty seven years old, she is still raising hell and challenging the status quo with her provocative pieces.

Meanwhile, the Global Caribbean exhibition has carved out a distinguished reputation for outstanding shows during the Basel Week. This year’s show featured the work of Miami-based Caribbean artists Glexis Nova, Noelle Theard, Rodney Jackson, Fabian Pena and Misael Soto.

The Betsy hotel has become the venue and the meeting place for the Afropolitan Art connoisseurs and is a requisite destination for Global African Art and art salon conversations during Basel. A highlight was Caribbean Artist (Trinidadian) Christopher Cozier’s light box Installation, “The Arrest: Hands up, Hand out.” Cozier’s imagination is unfathomable. He uses light and color to create parallel universes that are as powerful as the energy of matter.

The salon conversation at the Betsy on “Creative Collaborations in the 21st Century” was co-moderated by Lowery Sims, Saul Ostrow and Leslie Hammond King, and was very informative, interactive and engaging. The audience and dialogue was multi-cultural and global. All three moderators demonstrated a deep sense of knowledge and perspicacity of their subjects and in turn orchestrated a welcome and open discussion that inspired participation from a compelling audience of artists, writers, fashion designers, film makers, architects, photographers, curators and academics. The pace of Art Basel Miami Beach week is no doubt peripatetic, hectic and intense, but the experience is well worth it.

[Image above: Detail from Cozier’s “The Arrest: Hands up, Hand out” from ]

For full article, see

One thought on “Review: Art Basel goes ‘Afropolitan’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s