By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Anat Ebgi and Nina Arias are two young, independent Miami curators who have produced interesting shows in the last year. Most recently during Art Miami, Ebgi put on an all-female exhibit called "Manifest Destiny," and Arias curated "Drawing Conclusions," both in the Design District and both critically acclaimed. They have energy, organizational skills, and a real commitment to Miami. Their main concern is not a "finished product" per se, in the traditional way that a museum or gallery would put on an exhibit, but more for the sake of social experiment and possible aesthetic provocation. Anyhow, we'll let them explain.
New Times: What makes you want to curate in Miami?
Anat Ebgi: I am interested in the social aspect of curating ... the bringing together of artists who might never have met. I was introduced to amazing artists working in New York, who became my friends, and I wanted them to meet my friends and incredible artists in Miami. That is what inspired my previous show, "Native." The upshot of the show was that a new community of young artists was formed; most of the artists still keep in touch with one another. Now, I wanted to do the same again, but in addition I wanted to build a stronger link connecting the women of Miami's art community.
Nina Arias: Miami has been my home base for most of my life. This is where I work best. Having been organizing art events in South Florida for the last three years, I've seen Miami's art scene brewing with energy and promise. There is such an amazing creative vibe floating around this city lately, it's hard not to catch it. And I truly enjoy curating shows for Miami's vibrant art community. I love what I do, and the people I get to work with.
Nina, what prompted "Drawing Conclusions"?
Arias: "Drawing Conclusions" was conceived months before "Going Out on a Limb" [a truly original show during Art Basel by the trio FeCuOp, which featured legs dangling from a ceiling]. What inspired me to curate a drawing exhibition was the fact that I had been collecting more drawings. I started collecting local art a couple of years ago, and when you are just starting out and don't have a big budget for art, you start by collecting small drawings of artists you like, because you can't afford their paintings yet. I [wanted] to curate a cutting-edge drawing exhibition to show how the medium has evolved, and how it is relevant to contemporary art.
What about your previous show, "Going Out on a Limb"?
Arias: It came out of working with my close friends from FeCuOp [Jason Ferguson, Christian Curiel, and Brandon Opalka]. I already had the Dacra space [from Craig Robins's development company for the drawing show in January], but still wanted to do another kind of project for Art Basel. A large installation -- and I only wanted to work with a few artists. So it was only natural that I offered the boys the space, and the opportunity to work with me and during Art Basel.
How did you both manage to get the space?
Ebgi: I envisioned "Manifest Destiny" to be in a space that had no past connotations or previous exhibitions to compare it to. I wanted a "virginal" space. Ironically Dacra donated the Madonna building for this exhibition, which was a perfect space for this show.
Arias: Last May I began inquiring about the procedures regarding getting Dacra to donate a space for these two exhibitions that I had in mind. I spoke with Tiffany Chestler, who is the exhibitions curator for Dacra and also handles Craig Robins Collection. She was very helpful to me in attaining the space. Through press releases, proposals, statements, and meetings, I was granted my request for free exhibition space and received keys to suite number 218 in the Buena Vista Building in early October.
Was there a particular criteria for the artists you selected?
Arias: Yes, there was. I wanted the drawing exhibition to consist of a diversity of contemporary artists: emerging, mid-career, established, local, national, and international artists, and who all work their drawings in nontraditional ways.
Ebgi: There were no particular criteria when selecting the artists other than I chose the artists whose work I respect -- even if I had never met them personally. I wanted a spectrum of women: some of them established professionals, while others still freshmen in college. I also wanted a spectrum of work: performance, photography, video, sculpture, et cetera. In other words a diverse range that represents the diversity of women.
Is there a theme to your shows?
Ebgi: If by theme you mean a preconceived idea, there was no theme to the show, which was the point. I wanted the women and the work just to come together in their own particular way, sort of an experiment, with no limitations or restrictions.
Arias: "Drawing Conclusions" extends the definition of drawing beyond pencil and ink on a sketchpad. Crossing the line, and over the edge these artists use different techniques and materials in order to create a conceptual frame for their investigation of the medium. The boundaries of their traditional definitions are bursting, and the result is a variety of possibilities, proposals in the space, and a mix of mediums, which opens a new field for drawings.
Ebgi: When I was sending out invitations for "Manifest Destiny," some people, especially men, were curious as to why I was curating a show based on gender. My response was: Why not? There was never a feminist movement in Miami like there was in New York or California -- and I don't particularly care if there is one or not. What bothered me when I lived in Miami and went to group shows -- where perhaps one or two of the artists were women -- was that no one else seemed to be bothered by this. I just thought that maybe there weren't as many women producing art, or if they were, they probably sucked. Of course when I began organizing "Manifest Destiny" and searched for women, I realized that there were so many more women with talent than I would have ever imagined.
How do you see your exhibit in the context of Art Miami?
Arias: I loved having the opening reception in conjunction to Art Miami's Design District party. Miami had a month to recover from all of the amazing Art Basel festivities, and Art Miami came soon after with a much broader market for Latin American art and its collectors. The attendance of visitors to the fair brought a new collector base to Miami and the Design District.
Ebgi: Honestly, I do not see "Manifest Destiny" in the context of Art Miami. Rather, I see the exhibition in the social context of Miami art.
Some have pointed out that "Manifest Destiny" is a xenophobic label. Why did you use it?
Ebgi: I know that historically Manifest Destiny has negative connotations, but I am utilizing the term in its most essential and idealistic definition: the inevitability of expansion. The female art community in Miami expanding and manifesting its destination within the context of the greater art community.