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Culture

'German art is hot' at the Art Basel Miami Beach show

Major investors flock every year to Miami Beach to the US show by the prestigious Swiss Art Basel fair. Art "Made in Germany" enjoys an excellent reputation there, and many German gallerists are among the 270 exhibitors.

"German art has always had a strong presence in the US. There is a great affinity between museums and private collectors," Melissa Chiu told DW. The director of the Washington-based Hirshhorn Museum has traveled to Florida specifically for the Art Basel Miami Beach.

The first stop on her route, however, is not the art show, but the Miami Design District, where Carlos del la Cruz has built a museum for his vast collection, the De la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space. The businessman of Cuban origin is working closely with the Art Basel Miami Beach.

For 25 years now, he and his wife Rosa have been collecting works of art, focusing particularly on German contemporary art. During the art fair, he will extend his opening hours to be show his collection, which includes several works by famous German artists, such as Sigmar Polke, Albert Oehlen and Martin Kippenberger.

Art Basel Miami Beach, Copyright: Mario M. Gonzalez

Sigmar Polke's painting "I Live In My Own World"

There are also sculptures and installations by Isa Genzken and Cosima von Bonin in the collection. De la Cruz's fascination with German art comes from the fact that he feels it expresses "a certain form of anxiety," he told DW. This does not show up very often in contemporary American art, he added. While De la Cruz sees uncertainty in German works of art, Melissa Chiu has her own interpretation: She wouldn't really call it anxiety. She rather sees a serious perception of the world reflecting on history.

German art, a good investment

De la Cruz and his curator have put these German works onto display with carefully selected American works of art."They talk to each other," the collector says. Describing the similarities, he adds, "They are all somehow unfinished." These works focus on the process, blurring the lines between abstraction and figuration.

De la Cruz has also transmitted his enthusiasm for German art to his daughter Isabel. "German art is hot," she calls out spontaneously while leading Melissa Chiu and her parents' other guests through the museum. And she adds: "It is also a good investment."

USA, Art Basel Miami Beach, Copyright: Gero Schließ

Carlos de la Cruz shows his collection to museum director Melissa Chui

The German galleries know well the preferences of Americans. That's why they are strongly represented in the fair which is taking place for the 14th time. Dozens of German gallery owners are among the 270 exhibitors, including Michael Kewenig and Burkhard Riemschneider from Berlin.

The Düsseldorf-based gallery family of Hans Mayer is even represented twice: Apart from Mayer himself, whose gallery celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, there is also his son Max, who opened his own gallery five years ago.

Basel show is a must for art dealers

Once a year, rich collectors come together here at the Art Basel Miami Beach for a whole week, in order to trade art on a large scale.

The art show in Miami is "an absolute magnet," confirms David Zwirner, one of the most influential art dealers worldwide. Running galleries in New York and London, Zwirner knows very well that the Art Basel is a multi-million dollar business - some estimates even claim it exceeds the billion-dollar range. "Miami has always been the big art show at the end of the year," he explains.

Art Basel Miami Beach, Copyright: Gero Schließ, DW

"Die Krake" (The Octopus) was created by conceptual artist Cosima von Bonin

German organization as a model?

This year, Noah Horowitz was appointed director of the fair in Miami Beach focusing on North and South America. Horowitz is expected to make the art show even more successful. He has detected an "incredible quality" in the exhibiting galleries.

While it would exaggerated to claim that German galleries make up the backbone of the Art Basel Miami Beach, but they embody a "great artistic tradition," reflecting many years of dedication to art, says Horowitz. According to him, the infrastructures of German galleries and museums can be looked up to as "a model for many other countries."

More business than art

The Munich-based gallery of Matthias Kunz is one of the smaller houses. Kunz has regularly been coming to the art show for five years. "For us, it is the most important US fair, complementing the Art Basel show in Switzerland," he says.

The fair provides the perfect meeting spot to get to know renowned collectors, as well as potential new investors, whose interest in art is still new. For 30 years, Kunz has been producing the works of Georg Baselitz and Jörg Immendorff. He is hoping for good sales, as attending the Miami fair is expensive. A gallery owner can expect to invest between $50,000 and $100,000 (46,000-92,000 euros), depending on the size of the exhibition space and the quantity of works to be displayed.

USA, Art Basel Miami Beach, Copyright: Gero Schließ

"The Tree" by Ai Weiwei is one of the most prominent exhibits of the fair.

The Berlin-based gallerist Burkhard Riemschneider's exhibition fees are likely among the high range. He has brought Ai Weiwei's "Tree" and the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson's "Aurum sphere" to Miami, two very huge exhibits.

"Trade shows are not made for art, but for the market," says Riemschneider. He would like to change this, to incite visitors to focus on the essence of art, beyond business trades.

At his booth, David Zwirner also presents some large works, including paintings by Neo Rauch. The trademark "Made in Germany" helps boost sales this week, the art dealer says. "I would like to sell more art in Germany as well. So far, unfortunately, I haven't been quite successful in that market - but who knows, maybe that is about to change."

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