Glamour, Parties, and Oh Yes, Art

Miami plays host to one of the world's most illustrious art fairs

Although ABMB is in town for only four days, Castillo and others agree Basel's strong push has catapulted South Florida onto the international art radar during the rest of the season.

"Luminary collectors come here or send representatives for Art Basel who drop by local galleries during their stay, and many return throughout the next twelve months. I wouldn't be surprised if the major international galleries started opening their second, third, or fourth venues here," Castillo observes.

"What's happening due to the presence of Basel absolutely signifies increased activity for our art market," adds the dealer, who says more than 600 people attended his inaugural opening, for which he reports brisk sales.

Several of the galleries listed on the Wynwood Art District's map last year may have folded faster than a busted poker hand, but nearly twenty new spaces have opened in time for this year's edition of ABMB, demonstrating the rush for art moguldom's dollars is on.

Among them is a 50,000-square-foot commercial art space that might be the planet's largest, at least according to its colorful owner, who appears to be angling to land himself in the record books.

"I've opened the biggest gallery in the world with the most important inventory south of New York," Coral Gables transplant Gary Nader says of the former medical equipment factory he converted into a mammoth exhibition space. "It's larger than an airplane hangar and features a sculpture park where I plan to show monumental works. I'm exhibiting paintings from many of the galleries that couldn't get into Basel, from Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and I'm dedicating 15,000 square feet to house traveling museum shows at my space it's so immense," the veteran dealer crows unabashedly, sounding somewhat like a one-man art fair himself.

For collectors looking to pack shopping carts with Boteros, Rauschenbergs, Tamayos, Mattas, and Kippenbergers, Nader's sprawling superoutlet may be the one stop to visit.

The flurry of attention generated by ABMB has invigorated artists and alternate space owners who believe the fair has helped erase notions that Miami is a cultural backwater.

Curated by locals Charo Oquet and David Vardi, "Growth Spurt," on exhibit this week as part of the pair's Edge Zones project at the World Arts Building in Wynwood, features the work of 30 local and visiting talent reflecting the catalyst Basel has been for artists and dealers, organizers say.

"Because of Basel, Miami has become a world player and is now included in the discourse of contemporary art," Oquet mentions. "Not only has it brought us recognition as an art capital, but more importantly it has forced all of us to grow and compete with those the fair represents as the crme de la crme."

Oquet points out that the arrival of major European galleries means the bar has also been raised for local dealers, ticking off the names Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin from Paris and Luis Adelantado from Valencia, Spain, who have opened second spaces here among other recently inaugurated venues she feels are ratcheting up the scene's buzz.

"Local gallerists better keep their engines revved. The pace is accelerating, and these major players who are investing in the community are here to stay," the artist says. "Everyone needs to strap on their skates and rise to the occasion or risk being left staring at the back of the bus."

In a witty effort to develop young audiences, part of Edge Zones' mission, Oquet has also organized "My First Art Collection," a tyke-specific exhibit that might be spoofing Basel's bottom line.

"We've asked 50 artists to submit child-friendly artwork in the 20- to 500-dollar range, and will be serving hot dogs, popcorn, and refreshment for kids," Oquet explains. "We will also be entertaining them with performances and encouraging parents to help start their children collecting just in time for Christmas."

Other local artists express amazement at how far the perception that Miami has become an international art center extends.

Miami-based artist Edouard Duval-Carrié says he was shocked, during a visit to Paris this past summer, when he saw French dealer Emmanuel Perrotin giving a prime-time television interview in which he touted Wynwood as the new art center of the Americas.

"The man was going on about how Wynwood is becoming the epicenter of contemporary art outside of Europe and about the new space he opened here. I couldn't believe it and wondered if the French had ever even heard of Wynwood before," he muses.

Those making the pilgrimage to a landscape that many are convinced the contemporary art world is playing a role in reshaping, will be greeted by Duval-Carrié's Lady of Miami, a colossal bust of the seductive vodou deity Erzulie, which the artist hopes will kick visitors' teeth out.

"So blue she's black," Duval-Carrié says of the towering Janus-head sculpture. It features the goddess of love on one side and the mother goddess on the other and is unveiled this week as part of the One Miami Riverwalk project. His gallerist, Bernice Steinbaum, calls it "a new Statue of Liberty for the Americas."

The thrumming hive of homegrown talent, a growing collector base, an expanding gallery scene, and the fallout from ABMB is the formula European galleries cite as making Miami the place to be.

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