With the dust (or the Miami Beach sand) settling on Art Basel 2012, we turn the spotlight on the seven best new artists we saw at the megafair.

Agustina Woodgate at Art Basel (Image: Heike Dempster)

1. Agustina Woodgate

Agustina Woodgate was the only Miami-based artist chosen for Art Positions at Art Basel, a platform for a single major project allowing curators, critics and collectors to discover new talent. Woodgate’s work creates a discourse with the environment and her installations, performances and projects deal with humanity, place and displacement and transformation. In ‘New Landscapes’, Woodgate uses positive and negative matter from three representations of Earth as a proposal for a new kind of territorial exploration as she moves towards an exploration of an optimistic realization of the world. The artist sanded a map, atlas and globe, modifying and recontextualizing the objects as a reaction to the world today, erasing countries and nations, creating one humankind and one planet.

Asif Farooq (Image: Robert Dempster)

2. Asif Farooq

Miami artist Asif Farooq and his gallery, Primary Projects, set up shop in Wynwood for Art Basel 2012. Farooq spent 7000 hours over a 9 months period to hand-craft 300 superb replica cardboard guns, ranging from snub-nosed revolvers to AK 47s and M16 assault rifles. Asif’s guns was easily the most outstanding and talked about art installation in the Wynwood Art District this year. Set up like a real gun store, the Primary Projects team paid attention to every minor detail to create an ideal space to present and sell Asif Farooq’s artillery – as well as an environment of art and a forum for a discourse on iconography and gun culture.

Andra Ursuta at Art Basel (Image: Heike Dempster)

3. Andra Ursuta

New York based Andra Ursuta was another artist chosen for the Art Position sector. Known for her dark, erotic and humorous sculptures, the young artist is heavily influenced by her Pentecostal Romanian family and strict upbringing. ‘Pole Woman 1’, presented by the gallery Ramiken Cucibles, is another example of Ursuta turning cultural clichés into art.

Julieta Aranda at Art Basel (Image: Robert Dempster)

4. Julieta Aranda

Art Positions is a platform to discover new artists and the Mexican artist Julieta Aranda was one of the chosen few to participate. Her installation ‘I Want to Give it to Someone Else’ raised questions about the role of architecture in society, low income housing, living space and dignity. Aranda reconstructed the floor plan of an apartment building for the poor that collapsed in an earthquake in Mexico in 1985 due to cheap building materials. “Part of the proposal was to give dignity to those people, which is something that I find complicated because I do not think that dignity is something you can do as a handout,” explains Aranda. “The question is, how can you give dignity to people by asking them to just let go of their possessions? Because you will give them something else that is better? The intentions are good but there is too much of an imposition there.”

Jumana Manna at Art Basel (Image: Robert Dempster)

5. Jumana Manna

Jumana Manna grew up with a feeling of transnational identity. The 25-year-old artist grew up between New Jersey and Jerusalem, feeling simultaneously Palestinian and Israeli and studying in California before relocating to Norway. CRG Gallery from New York presented Manna’s work at Art Basel via a piece entitled ‘Come to Rest’, a life size carousel like the barriers one needs to pass between Israel and Gaza or the West Bank. ‘Come to Rest’ is an inactive barrier that she confronts in her work. “It’s a reference to the fact that you are not supposed to enter until someone else has let the turnstile come to rest,” explains Mae Petra-Wong of CRG. “It’s also an irony of there is nothing restful or peaceful about a barrier between those two countries.”

Scott Campbell (Image: Heike Dempster)

6. Scott Campbell

American artist and tattoo artist Scott Campbell’s star has risen fast in the art world. Within a mere five years Campbell has reached a level few artists ever reach, with works selling for six figures and a rumored retrospective in 2013. At this year’s Art Basel, Campbell was particularly prominent. At the main vernissage he was present with his delicate sculptures made out of US dollar bills (and yes, he is the only artist in the world who has permission to use US currency) and the satellite fair ‘It Ain’t Fair’ by OH WOW presented a hand engraved 24k gold plated copper rainbow.

Theaster Gates at Art Basel (Image: Robert Dempster)

7. Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates’ ‘Soul Manufacturing Corporation’ took over Locust Projects in Miami’s Design District. Gates, a sculptor and trained urban planner who lives and works in Chicago, created a factory occupied by “skilled makers” featuring everyone from a DJ to a yoga instructor. Beginning with an empty space things were produced during the duration of the exhibition. Inspired by the early industrial era, Gates’ project is an effort to explore urban intervention, space transformation and relationships between aesthetics, labor and race.

Words: Heike Dempster
Images: Heike and Robert Dempster