The Miniature Art on Our Curator’s Wish List
Gifting art can be just as rewarding as buying art. Take it from me—I have a habit of purchasing small-scale artworks for friends and family year-round, and stashing them away until the next holiday or birthday. This Christmas, my basketball-obsessed little brother is getting a playing card–sized drawing of Dennis Rodman by Julian Pace, while my mother will receive a printer paper–sized abstract canvas by Meryl Yana to add to her growing gallery wall. Shh!
In my experience, choosing an artwork that’s tiny in scale can eliminate some of the challenges of gifting larger works without first consulting your loved ones to make sure they have wall space. Below, I’m sharing miniature artworks that can easily fit in a box, perfect for stashing under the tree, shipping to far-away loved ones, or tucking under your arm before heading out to your family’s holiday feast.
Mia Chaplin, Bulb, 2022
Cape Town–based Mia Chaplin’s spirited amphoras, jugs, and vases are fashioned from layers of papier-mâché, plaster cloth, wire, and oil paint applied with an Impressionist’s flair. While Chaplin also creates striking canvas and paper works rich with impasto, I’m particularly drawn to her three-dimensional plaster sculptures for their atypical forms.
While the curvaceous vessels evoke an initial softness in their voluptuous shapes, Chaplin’s sculptures stand defiant against traditional notions of femininity: Prickly spines arise from thickly applied oil paint, fleshy flowers at once bloom and rot, phrases like “swallow me” shout from the surface, and a poisonous scorpion appears coiled to sting. This particular work, Bulb (2022), stands less than 9.5 inches (24 centimeters) tall, with an off-kilter shape that suggests it could be upside down. Yet Chaplin has painted hibiscus flowers blooming resiliently toward the sky.
Craig Cameron-Mackintosh, Cosmos, 2023
Cape Town–based artist Craig Cameron-Mackintosh is best known for his photorealistic oil portrait paintings featuring graceful, backlit subjects that are so heavily shadowed, they nearly appear to be silhouettes. The artist has recently edged closer to abstraction with a new series of small-scale works inspired by religious iconography.
As a child, Cameron-Mackintosh attended Anglican school, where he first encountered religious art depicting saints and highly stylized scenes from the Bible. In his new works, he recontextualizes religious iconography, using traditionally sacred colors like lapis lazuli and halos of light to paint everyday subjects, transforming mundane objects into divine representations.
Each painting is based on blurry photographs from the artist’s archive, which Cameron-Mackintosh values for their accidental expressiveness and spontaneity. The resulting paintings have a cinematic effect, glowing from within as if the viewer is peering through an unfocused lens. In my favorite work, Cosmos (2023), we encounter what could be a meteor shower or a view of the night sky through a telescope—but is actually a sequined jacket, cropped so close as to transform into the infinite cosmos.
Asma Bahamim, I Managed You, 2022
Contemporary Saudi artist Asma Bahamim is inspired by ancient Islamic manuscripts, and aims to revive the art of miniature painting. A researcher in the fields of geospatial art and children’s art, Bahamim is a faculty member in the fine arts department at the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.
Her work depicts narrative-rich scenes of animals real and mythic, using materials like gouache, Arabic ink, handmade paper crafted from palm pulp, gold leaf, and natural fiber string. Cranes, goats, elephants, and foxes meet minotaurs, cretaceous sea critters, and winged hybrid beasts. These interactions between familiar and imagined creatures incorporate moral parables based in folklore, mythology, and oral tradition.
Pius Fox, ohne Titel, 2023
Berlin-based artist Pius Fox begins his small-scale works by applying various layers of paint in a muted palette, which he superimposes, sands down, and scratches out until he achieves a composition that dances at the edge of abstraction and reality. Through this layering technique, Fox captures the moment in which objects dissolve into shapes and fragments—all in a form factor of less than 7 by 10 inches.
Fox’s minimalistic works, such as Konstantins Traum (all works 2023), feature geometric shapes inspired by elements of his studio interior, such as door frames, curtains, and windows. The artist’s more representational works, like Portrait einer unbekannten Frau or Bleistiftbaum, capture people and scenes from nature, yet pared down to their most basic elements in a style reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn or David Hockney.
Fox has a bachelor of arts from the University of the Arts, Berlin, and his works have been collected by the SØR Rusche Collection, Museum Sander Darmstadt, and the FRAC Auvergne.
Azadeh Gholizadeh, Blue, 2021
Azadeh Gholizadeh is a Chicago-based artist and architect originally from Tehran, Iran. Through her tapestry and embroidery practice, Gholizadeh delves into themes of belonging, memory, and landscape. Her works merge traditional weaving with a pixelated configuration, giving her works a sense of digital precision despite being executed by hand.
Gholizadeh typically works in a square or rectangular format, which symbolizes windows to landscapes that evoke memories of her past life in Tehran. In Blue (2021), the artist creates a zoomed-in view of a nocturnal waterscape full of somber, nostalgic hues. It’s as if we’re looking at a closely cropped image that lacks its original sharpness. “This is how I reflect on the idea of home,” Gholizadeh has said. “Fragile, inconsistent, and perspectival.”
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