Cooper Cole @ Art Basel



Inside booth 3.17 stood a pair of clear plastic folding chairs which, from Dec. 3 to 5, were alternately unoccupied or sat upon. Three silkscreens by Toronto’s Jesse Harris were installed, one freestanding on the brown-coloured carpet, the others leaning against walls where more of Harris’ work hung, alongside the kitsch photographs of New York-based Sara Cwynar, and collages by L.A.’s Bjorn Copeland.

 Located near the centre of the Sparkle ballroom at the Fontainebleau, the booth had been assigned to Toronto’s Cooper Cole Gallery. To find it you had to cross the hotel’s main lobby with its three, million-apiece glass crystal chandeliers by artist Ai Weiwei (part of the hotel’s larger, $1 billion renovation) and weave your way through a maze of makeshift white walls that made up the 104 booths present at this year’s NADA fair.

 For six years the fair had called the beachside Deauville Resort, a much less grand Morris Lapidus design, home. There NADA was split among three ballrooms which attendees noted lacked reliable Wi-Fi. But part of the fair’s appeal, at least for me as a tourist rather than gallerist or collector or critic, was that location. Seven kilometers north of the convention centre and Art Basel, it felt on the periphery despite its dominant position within the contemporary market. It was a place where exciting discoveries could be made even if the galleries were reputable and the artists familiar, a place where you might see performances take place in the pool.

Now entering its teens, NADA’s southward leap could be considered coming-of-age, even if the Miami fair has been punching above its weight for years. Despite the grandeur of the new venue, Simon Cole, founder and director of Cooper Cole, could recall few details about the ballroom save for which galleries occupied the booths next to him. He compared the fair to a “summer camp” for him and his peers, an annual retreat where they all find themselves in the same cabin.