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Defining Trends at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019

Art Basel Miami Beach serves as a bellwether for international art market trends, and Chubb’s team of fine art specialists identified a number of prominent themes at the December fair:

Emerging artists were well represented.

The fair featured work by a number of emerging artists, including:

A self-taught artist in her late 20s, Tau Lewis uses found objects and recycled material to create portraits that address historical traumas, and investigates black identity, memory and recovery.  Lewis sold all of her works at her solo presentation at the fair.

Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson was featured at the Monique Meloche gallery. One of her hand-cut paper works was purchased for $65,000 by the Miami Beach Art in Public Places Committee. Patterson has achieved international acclaim and her works have been exhibited at major museums.

The New York Academy of Art’s Chubb Fellows were featured in Chubb’s space in the Collector’s Lounge. On display were paintings by Esteban Ocampo Giraldo, Chloe Chiasson, Shiqing Demo, Atalanta Xanthe, and Danica Lundy, and animation by Erin Pollock.

Female artists and artists of color

Many of these artists are receiving renewed market attention with major museum and gallery shows, and rising prices at auction and through private sales.

Two notable works from Joan Mitchell, an important postwar painter, were on display: Sunflowers (a large-scale work inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers) was on reserve for $8 million and Days was priced at $4.5 million. Significant market activity and appreciation in value is expected to continue as a major Mitchell retrospective opens at the Baltimore Museum of Art this fall.  

The prolific Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama also had several works at the fair, including a monumental flower sculpture titled Flowers that Speak All About My Heart Given to the Sky at Victoria Miro. The record-setting 2019 sale of Interminable Net #4 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong reflects the strong international interest in her work.

African-American artist Sam Gilliam’s canonical unstretched canvas drape paintings were on view at multiple galleries. According to Artnet, two of his works, both titled Untitled (2019), were sold before the conclusion of the fair.

Environmental awareness

We saw a significant amount of artwork with an environmental message, created in a multitude of traditional and non-traditional mediums including digital platforms, recycled materials, and natural materials. Norwegian artist Jana Winderen’s site-specific sound installation, The Art of Listening: Under Water, provided listeners a unique opportunity to listen to ocean recordings from Miami harbor to the North Pole, and reflect on the fragility of global ecosystems.

Fresh to market: The Banana

We can’t talk about Art Basel Miami Beach 2019 without mentioning Maurizio Cattelan’s banana, titled Comedian, which was duct taped to a wall in the Galerie Perrotin booth. The work is arguably the most popular multiple of our time and all three editions of Comedian sold before the end of the fair, for $120,000 - $150,000.

Comedian is a conceptual work, meaning the concept or idea is more important than the material work itself, and what is being sold is the idea, along with a certificate of authenticity.


The article contains contributions from the Chubb Fine Art team – Laura Doyle, Michelle Impey, Maggie Reynolds, Stephanie McNeil and Tannie Ng.

Chubb was an official partner of Art Basel Miami Beach. Our team of fine art specialists was on-site to offer bespoke tours of the fair and share their expertise in Modern and Contemporary art with collecting clients. Learn more about this sponsorship and discover more detailed insights on these trends at https://www.chubb.com/us-en/individuals-families/our-community/art-basel.aspx

The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.