Baseled-Out? Art Miami to the Rescue
By Victor Barrenechea
BT Contributing Writer
Once the dust settles from Miami’s December art explosion of Art Basel and its surrounding fairs, Miami braces itself for a different kind of fair, the smaller, quieter, Art Miami Fair, which takes place this January at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Exhibiting a wide array of modern and contemporary art, the fair enters its 17th year this year, with 115 galleries participating, half of which will be new galleries, and eighteen of these new galleries from the U.S.
Art Miami started in 1990 when David and Lee-Ann Lester first saw Miami as a place with great potential for art.
“Because there was no buying market they had to create one,” said Ilana Vardy, an Art Miami show director.
At first, mostly art from Latin America appealed to local audiences. By the mid to late ’90s, the quality of Miami art had increased, but there was still no market. This changed by 2000 with a boom that saw the arrival of Art Basel one year later.
Art Basel is an overshadowing force in Miami, but even with all the surrounding fairs it attracts, many local galleries often fall by the wayside. Part of the appeal of Art Miami is its support of local galleries; it showcases galleries that weren’t at the big event.
“This is one focused more on Miami,” Tina Spiro, director at Chelsea Gallery, said of the fair. “There are more Miami galleries than at any other art fair.”
The main entrance will feature
a huge installation courtesy of Dot Fiftyone. The Damien B. gallery will have two different groups of performance art on each day
of the fair – performances
being a first for Art Miami.
Meanwhile, the Chelsea Gallery is heading up the fair’s 2nd annual Caribbean Project. A span of fairly large art space will be devoted to Caribbean art. Split into four sections, four nations will be represented each corresponding to one of the major languages of the Caribbean. The Jamaica section will have an installation by Tricia Johnston, exploring the
color red. For Puerto Rico, Arnaldo Morales will adorn the space with mechanical, interactive kinetic sculptures. Haiti’s Francesca Lalan will display paintings on bent wood, each one referring to the social plight taking place in that country.
Curaçao will be represented with a site-specific installation by Tirzo Martha that recreates a garage/chop- shop.
Prolific Miami artist Purvis Young will be the recipient of this year’s Director’s Choice award. With the goal of promoting artists in the community, Vardy felt “it was really important to honor Purvis.”
The space of the fair has been reconfigured to include room for a 17 ft. tall 36 ft. wide installation piece titled, “Wall of Peace.” There will also be a booth honoring his previous work.
The FIU project focuses on local FIU grad students and alumni alike with a multimedia exhibition titled “Inter-Sections, Nature and the City.”
“It’s not easy to continually improve the quality of the fair,” said Vardy, adding, “This year it’s a much stronger show.”
At the center of the Convention Center will be a lounge, similar to the VIP area at Basel, only this one will be open to the public.
Famous Alabama-born artist Nall will have a special exhibition titled “Nall: Encounter with the Artist,” taking up about a 3rd of the Westwood Gallery booth – about 300 sq. feet devoted to him.
Another fair highlight, SLICE, consists of young, edgy and provocative artists from all over the country picked by a selection committee for display. This, however, is probably the last attempt by Miami Art to showcase more cutting-edge works.
“That’s what all the other fairs are doing. That’s their whole mission,” said Vardy. Art Miami is moving in the opposite direction, trying to make the fair’s art more accessible. Vardy describes it as a show for the “general collector.”
The prices are on average lower than what you’ll find at Art Basel, with art selling in the $10,000-$30,000 range.
Galleries eager to be part of the U.S. market, said Vardy, have an easier time getting a foothold here in Miami as opposed to more established art cities like Chicago or New York. Because Art Miami showcases these commonly excluded galleries, you can find something there you won’t find anywhere else. New York’s Rare Gallery, for instance, started with Art Miami and Rare Gallery’s Alexis Hubshman went on to start the Scope Fair.
Another departure for Art Miami is that, this year, the fair moves away from Latin American galleries, featuring a mere 14 galleries.
“The world thinks that Art Miami is a Latin fair,” said Vardy. “What makes it Latin is really the audience.”
While other non-Latin galleries might feature works by Latin American artists, Vardy estimates that about 10% of the fair is Latin American in content.
“It didn’t make sense for us to labeled Latin, because it wasn’t true, for one,” Vardy explained. “We’re not any one kind of fair.”
Half of the galleries featured are American and the rest come from other parts of the world. This year, in fact, more Asian galleries are being featured, including four first-time galleries from Korea and one from Japan. There is also Chinese photography from the 10 Chancery Lane Gallery.
Despite the shift away from Latin American art, Vardy stressed that the fair continues to attract the top Latin American art galleries that know their market is in Miami.
The fair takes place January 5 – 8 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
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