Letters from the Issue of December 9-15, 2004

Basel, bistros, and The Bitch

Art Basel Transformed My Life

In three short years I went from vulgarian to sophisticate: Reading through the New Times guide to Art Basel Miami Beach ("Artquake," December 2) reminded me that three years ago I knew next to nothing about art. I had a Marlins poster on my wall and fancied myself a talented stick-figure draftsman. My sources of culture ranged from Maxim magazine to MTV. I didn't see Art Basel coming, so when it hit, I was at least as stunned as I was stimulated.

That first day was an all-access buffet of complimentary catalogues, magazines, and an abundance of business cards -- in one day I acquired nearly 100. I could hardly believe it when well-dressed collectors, artists, and dealers decided to give me their card. I immediately drove to a Kinko's and made up twenty business cards of my own.

That fateful edition of twenty would be the first of many. In the three years since, I accelerated my college trajectory and received my bachelor's in fine art a year early, opened a storefront gallery, interned at the cutting-edge Van Harrison Gallery in Chicago, became a member at a handful of art museums, and have written countless articles and reviews.

Maxwell G. Graham

Miami

Stalking the Elusive Bistro

Follow the cracked sidewalk to the painted post, then ten paces east to the talking bird, listen for instructions, then...: My name is Rosa Valderrama and my sisters and I own Lila's Bistro. We always read New Times's restaurant reviews, so we were excited to see that Pamela Robin Brandt had come to our little restaurant and wrote such wonderful things about our food ("Hidden Treasure," November 25).

We want to thank her for everything she wrote -- even the things we weren't too crazy about. We're now looking for different smoked salmon for our carpaccio, and my sister Elisa, the chef, has promised to make sure we don't run out of our soufflé chantilly.

We're glad Ms. Brandt went out of her way to explain to readers how difficult it is to find our restaurant and that they should "have faith." However, the entrance to the courtyard closest to us is on SE First Avenue between First and Second streets; the other two are on SE Second Street between First Avenue and S. Miami Avenue, and on SE First Street between First Avenue and S. Miami Avenue.

Rosa Valderrama

Miami

As the Art World Turns

He said, she said, we said: We are writing in response to the article about the Rocket Projects gallery that appeared in The Bitch ("Thou Art a Villain," November 25). We did not have any "on the record" conversation with The Bitch at any time. After personal e-mails sent from us to Rocket Projects staff were forwarded without our permission to The Bitch to use in her article, she contacted us for comment on the matter. When we did not return her phone calls, she contacted gallery owner Nick Cindric and told him she had in fact talked to us. This was a blatant lie.

After this we contacted The Bitch directly by telephone and e-mail to state that we did not want to be involved in her article or the dispute [between Cindric and former Rocket Projects curator Nina Arias]. This telephone call and e-mail are what The Bitch quoted in her article, again without our permission.

Whether legal or not, such behavior is extremely unethical. The fact that The Bitch could not get any on-the-record quotes or complaints from Miami-based artists speaks volumes about the lack of substance in her article. Clearly she had to stoop to new lows by manipulating out-of-town artists into responding to a situation they cannot be as directly involved in as those actually living in Miami.

While it is true that Geoff Chadsey had a drawing damaged en route from Miami, Rocket Projects has promised to compensate him. Leah Modigliani, meanwhile, has been paid in full for art sold at the gallery. We are sorry for whatever combination of facts led to the dissolution of the partnership between Nina and Nick. Despite recent developments, the gallery is a dynamic venue for the exhibition and promotion of contemporary artists.

Sadly, the forwarding of personal e-mail from artists like ourselves and attempts at discrediting each other via poorly researched articles such as this one seem to be par for the course for everyone involved in the Rocket Projects dispute. It is amazing to us that what should be a personal matter between two business associates has been handled so unprofessionally and immaturely. The result is that the artists will suffer. The Bitch's allegations of lack of payment may mean that current Rocket Projects artists' sales will decrease during Art Basel Miami Beach. If this is how the Miami art and journalism communities do business, we are happy to disengage ourselves completely.

Leah Modigliani

Oakland, California

Geoff Chadsey

Brooklyn, New York

The Bitch replies: Both Ms. Modigliani and Mr. Chadsey were aware that their dialogue, whether electronic or spoken, was on the record with a reporter seeking comment for publication. I did not tell Mr. Cindric that I had spoken with Modigliani or Chadsey, despite what he may have conveyed to the artists.

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