Five Top Women Artists at Art Basel Miami

5 December 2021

Five Top Women Artists at Art Basel Miami

Bojana Popovic, a consultant in contemporary art and EduArt Start lecturer, has selected for us five of the most interesting female artists presented at the fair in Miami.

Maya Lin, Ghost Forest, 2021, Courtesy of Maya Lin Studio

Maya Lin was recently named Wall Street Journal Magazine Art Innovator for 2021. Lin was featured alongside Beatriz Milhazes, Jules de Balincourt and William Monk in a group display at Pace Gallery’s booth this year.

Maya Lin is as much an artist as an activist, whose installations often draw the public’s attention to the impact of our current state of environmental calamity. One of the most poignant examples is Ghost Forest, an overpowering symbol of the devastation of climate change composed of forty-nine haunting Atlantic white cedar trees installed in the heart of New York this autumn. Maya Lin critically tackles notions of site and place, creating objects that engage their audiences intellectually and physically while highlighting the presence of the natural world.

Sonia Boyce, In the Castle Of My Skin, 2021, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Sonia Boyce OBE RA was recently chosen to represent Great Britain at the 59th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia in 2022 – the first black woman to do so. Though this has inevitably resulted in a surge of interest in the artist’s work, Boyce had initially risen to prominence in the early 1980s as a key figure in the Black Arts Movement with figurative pastel drawings and photo collages that highlighted race and gender issues in the UK.

In 1987 she became one of the youngest artists of her generation to have her artwork acquired by Tate and the first Black-British female artist to enter the collection. Since then, Boyce has expanded her practice to incorporate all mediums, including multi-media installations that promote a collaborative approach with her audience, and in this way vocally question artistic authorship and cultural differences.

Sungi Mlengeya, Influence, 2021, Courtesy of Afriart Gallery

Continuing to showcase exciting emerging artists and galleries, the Positions section is always a highlight at Art Basel Miami and this year was no exception as the area featured 19 solo presentations.

Afriart from Kampala was participating in the fair for the first time with works by self-taught Tanzanian painter Sungi Mlengeya. Her portraits of women in Uganda are immediately recognizable as her detailed figures hover against pristine blank backgrounds. Mlengeya describes her work as offering ‘a place of calm, free and detached from social norms and restrictions, real and imagined’. At the same time, her paintings bring to light honest questions concerning women and freedom in East African society.

Izzy Barber, Night People, 2020, Courtesy of James Fuentes gallery

Izzy Barber is a young plein air painter whose small-scale canvases are shaped by vibrant, pulsating geometric allusions to New York City's moods and architecture. Standing on the cusp between abstraction and figuration, her atmospheric works offer glimpses of busy train platforms, packed street fairs, public park gatherings and hectic road crossings. They act as little windows into the artist’s world – specifically her local neighborhood in Queens.

What I love about her works is that she manages to compress the hubbub of a vast metropolis into small canvases that simply vibrate with life. At the Art Basel Miami, she was presented by James Fuentes gallery.

Julie Mehretu, Mind-Wind Field Drawings #18, 2021, Courtesy of White Cube gallery

Born in Ethiopia, but living and working now in New York, Julie Mehretu’s large compositions are like vortexes filled with spinning lines, shapes and colours. There is something so hypnotic about the web of spindly swirls and loops that intersect what appear to be underlying palimpsests. Sometimes her works remind us of landscapes - both old and new – but the wealth of inspiration ranges from politics, the media, music and literature. In this way, her works of art are an articulation of the contemporary experience.

Mehretu, represented by White Cube gallery, has received many prestigious awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship in 2005. More recently, she exhibited at the 58th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia in 2019. That same year, a career survey opened of her work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and travelled to The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.