Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Untitled art fair takes on the human cost of climate crisis

Exhibitors and special projects at the Miami Beach fair will tackle both the global and local ramifications of a planet in serious perilEarlier this month, the Trump administration formally notified the United Nations that the US would begin the year-long process of withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the global response to the threat of climate change. It is against this backdrop that the eighth edition of Untitled, Art Miami Beach sees exhibitors intent on highlighting the human toll of unchecked global warming.

“This year, in particular, all of our special projects have to do with the climate, especially how social and political situations relate to the crisis,” says Manuela Mozo, the executive director of Untitled.

One of those special projects, Monuments, launched for 2019, brings outdoor, site-specific programming to the fair, similar in ambition to Meridians, Art Basel Miami Beach’s sprawling new platform for large-scale sculpture, video and performance. A collaboration between Miami-based artists Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares is one of two to inaugurate the Monuments series. Their animated outdoor work of 16 continuously circulating flags along a pair of flagpoles speaks, in part, to the plight of climate and war refugees seeking humanitarian relief.A collaboration between Miami-based artists Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares is one of two to inaugurate the Monuments series

The fair is also hosting an exhibition with Facebook’s Art Department, housed in a set of reconfigured shipping containers, in which artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho have installed an illuminated band around Facebook Art Department Miami Beach, a warning of the long-term effects of the crisis on the landscape, like their project in a Scottish coastal town where sensors interacted with the tide to trigger synchronised beams of light.

Attention is also pulled specifically to the changing climate’s impact on Floridians. Benrubi Gallery displays ecological interventions in Coral Projects: Everglades Art Lab, an artist-led initiative that includes Vanessa Albury’s floating screens woven from plant debris in the wetlands, blurring the boundary between human beings and nature.

This year’s guest curator, Jordan Stein, has organised a special section that showcases works by the 89-year-old, Everglades artist Dick Jay, as well as programming with AIRIE (Artists in Residence in Everglades). Stein describes Jay’s paintings as “lovingly rendered, folksy depictions” that provide a kind of oral history of the region.

“One of the things Dick said was, ‘the Everglades is in a lot of trouble’,” recalls Stein. “If there is anything I can do to raise awareness about this environment, that’s what I’m trying to do. The work is about where I live.”