In only its third year, Art Basel is rapidly becoming the art festival of America. With events spoking out from its official hub at the Miami Beach Convention Center across Miami-Dade County and going on from noon to dawn for nearly a week, it is also one of most daunting to experience as a visitor or even as a full-time Magic City resident. The exhibits on hand are stunning, challenging, and important, and they span such a range of mediums, meanings, and backgrounds that several passes are required even to begin to appreciate them.
Staged in the city that has become the coolness catch-all for Latin America (and much of the rest of the world), Art Basel offers high art (in every sense of the word: some works will fetch upward of a million dollars), but also cocktail parties on the beach, soundscapes in historic hotels, excursions to Little Haiti and Coral Gables, interactive audio-visual theater, and more.
What Is Art Basel? Art Basel Miami Beach is a sibling of the enormous and prestigious festival that takes place each June in Basel, Switzerland. Like the European original, the festival attracts exclusive art galleries whose owners rent space at the MBCC and parts surrounding, subsequently attracting wealthy art collectors, museum curators, and about 25,000 other lovers of modern art who also like to party. So, Art Basel is really an art sale, not just an exhibit, and its product is work of the 20th and 21st centuries.
But, like meteors passing through the tail of a comet, newer, local galleries and emerging international artists also get a chance to blaze bright during Art Basel. Some extra-avant work is shown in cargo containers lined up on the beach, while Miami's stalwarts use the high-voltage event to call attention to their presence in the Design District, North Miami, and Wynwood neighborhoods. Some galleries are in Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, and there are even a sprinkling of activities in Homestead and in Broward County.
Who and What is Here? the exhibits offer established artists and artworks as well as pinpointing trends in new media. Art stars such as conceptualist Jenny Holzer and painter Kenny Scharf both have works showing, but local notables including Pepe Mar and Jiae Hwang are also represented. Further, two significant Miami collections, owned respectively by the Rubell and Margulies families, will open their private museum warehouses to the public.
Getting a Handle Apart from the sheer magnitude of Art Basel, one of its challenges is finding your way around from beach to warehouse to wine tasting and knowing what's happening when. We hope our listing of shows and events and collection of maps simplifies the effort.
Basel may not benefit every gallery in town, but it has put Miami on the map and the parties are excellent
Anyone who doesn't know about Art Basel Miami Beach must have been in a coma the past two years. Samuel Keller, director of the celebrated trade fair, has given more interviews than Bush and Kerry on election day, part of a public-relations juggernaut that has pushed Miami into the spotlight of the international art community.
Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB), now in its third year, brings nearly 175 of the world's leading galleries to town this week and unleashes a storm of parties and ancillary events that will churn Miami's art scene into a froth.
From its debut, the fair has attracted throngs of art dealers, collectors, curators, museum directors, artists, designers, architects, and academics -- some famous, some not -- and tens of thousands of locals, all eager to enjoy what has quickly become the most extraordinary exhibition of contemporary art in the Western Hemisphere.
ABMB has achieved this stature in large part by applying the rigorous jurying process long used by its venerable Swiss progenitor, Art Basel. More than 500 galleries from all around the globe competed for the privilege of paying up to $50,000 for a booth at the Miami Beach Convention Center where they can shop their wares for a few days. It's a high-stakes game for those who play in the billion-dollar art market, and dealers who didn't get invited to the prom have resorted to what Gean Moreno, of Miami's Locust Projects, terms "Kafkaesque machinations" to catch the eyes of the deep-pocketed cognoscenti gathered in town this week.
Gary Nader, of Gary Nader Fine Arts in Coral Gables, boasts of owning "the largest gallery south of New York, an inventory of 1000 blue chip works of contemporary Latin masters and $27 million in sales last year." He applied for a booth at ABMB this year and got a rejection letter.With 25 years experience in a business he calls "cutthroat," Nader sees art-dealing in martial terms. "People go to war for oil," he intones, "and they go to war for art."
Nader may be one of the few gallery owners in town who could actually afford a booth at ABMB, where $30,000 will buy you about 540 square feet of space, as expensive as Tokyo real estate. "Art Basel is great for the city," he says. "It promotes cultural tourism, fills hotel rooms and restaurants, and generates enthusiasm. My problem is that when no one from the fair has been in my gallery, how can they decide what's good or bad? The selection committee is playing judge and hangman. The whole process is arrogant and unfair. They can't just come to our city and insult us like the Mafia." Nader's response? He's rented a large space in the Design District to showcase the work of Nicolas Leiva, is sinking a small fortune into promotions, and waits for that elusive sit-down with Samuel Keller.
Fred Snitzer, of Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Wynwood, does have a booth at ABMB and moreover is the sole Miami representative on the art fair's international selection committee. As such he has become something of a lightning rod for criticism from those who feel shut out. But the selection committee, Snitzer asserts, is simply an earnest group of knowledgeable professionals with very high standards. "Believe me, the committee is not influenced in any way by collectors or outside interests," he says. "I'm the little fish in that pond -- and it's not a mafia. The only criterion is the quality of work." Of the 250 applicants who were turned down, Snitzer thinks 100 of them could have come together for a "great fair" -- though no local dealers would be among them. "The best Miami galleries are already accepted," he says. "Maybe those bitching deserve another ten years of Art Miami," Snitzer adds caustically, referring to the far less prestigious art fair that takes place next month in the same venue. (Four Miami galleries were accepted for the main fair -- Ambrosino Gallery, Diana Lowenstein Fine Art, Fredric Snitzer Gallery, and Bernice Steinbaum Gallery -- and one -- Placemaker Gallery -- was chosen for Art Positions, a collection of twenty cargo containers transformed into avant-garde galleries at 21st Street and Collins Avenue.)
Many people believe Snitzer, 28 years in the business, wrote the book on contemporary art-dealing in Miami. Veteran local observers remember him barely scraping by in his original space, selling furniture and experimental work that starchy collectors derided. But he shrewdly adapted to changing currents in contemporary art and was an early champion of Miami's young artists. Today he presides over a stable of the hottest stars in the city's art firmament. He offers this seasoned advice for those new to the game: "I can tell you that if you show something really good and the buzz gets out, collectors in town for Basel will respond voraciously. The reality is that if someone is showing something remarkable in a little hole in the wall, people will flock to see it. But with these [collectors], everyone gets one look and that's it --they won't respond to crap."
Nick Cindric, director of Rocket Projects in Wynwood, dismisses Snitzer's contention that Miami's best galleries are represented at ABMB, since not all of the best applied. But he and Snitzer agree that if good work is shown outside official Basel at the convention center, visitors will make the effort to find it. "Last year Cristina Lei Rodriguez's installation Enchanting Intruder drew dozens of taxi cabs from the Beach and really allowed people to experience her voice in a significant way."
Leonard Tachmes, a plastic surgeon turned gallerist and a genuinely nice guy, can only dream of cabs lined up outside his North Miami space during ABMB. In fact he finds himself frustrated in his efforts to siphon off a few of the Baselites who come north to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Tachmes, who has a growing stack of rejection letters from Basel, complains that as soon as MoCA's annual big party is over, the crowds are bused out and neighborhood galleries are left empty. This year he's pulling out all the stops with a Cuban buffet, a DJ, and mojitos to lure people to Leyden Rodriguez Casanova's solo show in his gallery. Hedging his investment, Tachmes plans to send a crew over to the Basel buses with flyers and butterfly nets to capture an audience. "Do I see any benefits from the fair?" he muses. "Ask me next year. So far Basel has been a big zero."
Not all local dealers share Tachmes's disappointment. Virginia Miller, owner of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables with 31 years in the business, believes ABMB plays an important role in educating people about contemporary and cutting edge art, a traditionally hard sell for her clients. "Before Art Basel, many collectors didn't know what they were looking at," she says. "The fair has opened their minds and made it easier for us. Also most of my clients from out of town who have a second or third home in Miami come to Art Basel and see me, and I manage a lot of dealer-to-dealer business at the fair."
Another ABMB booster is Bernice Steinbaum, a twenty-year veteran of the New York gallery scene. She relocated to Miami and four years ago opened a gallery in Wynwood. Paraphrasing the New York Times, she calls Art Basel the "Olympics of art fairs," and contends that it has prompted collectors living here to consider local galleries instead of instinctively looking to New York.
Steinbaum's gallery was accepted for Basel and has a booth at the convention center. "Those of us in the fair feel good about ourselves," she says, "our clients feel good about us, sales are wonderful, and last year's contacts brought three museum shows for my artists. Dealers from all over the world come to Art Basel and then schedule our artists in their galleries. There's a sense of sharing the wealth. And the Basel host committee has it down to a science: waiters give better service, cabbies are nicer, you get a sense that if there is a piece of paper on the street, someone will pick it up."
Miami Nice isn't the only attraction for Basel patrons. The mad party hook has become a favorite ploy to draw crowds. Last year Casa Casuarina on Ocean Drive (the Versace mansion) put on a Miami-style clinic on the art of partying. An unofficial Basel art-patron bash was themed after the Hieronymus Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. It featured nude, snake-entwined Adam and Eve models serving canapés and decadent desserts, an aphrodisiac raw bar, and scantily clad dancers writhing to the tribal pounding of congas. Jaded South Beach revelers were snared with the promise that "they could aid and abet all their vices at the open bar."
At the Bass Museum's party the Gucci and Prada set jettisoned all propriety and muscled each other for free cocktails at the bar. Sweating like a shipload of sailors on leave, some snatched full bottles of vodka from overwhelmed bartenders, elbowing away from the bar through the crowd.
Don't expect quite the same Animal House atmosphere this week. Barbara Gillman, whose gallery recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and who is a member of Art Basel's host committee, explains that "this year's parties are not that lavish and have been toned down." Dewar's, however, may have not gotten the memo on party protocol. Kevin Bruk, whose gallery anchors the scene in the Design District, was contacted by the liquor company. He says they offered him "fourteen bars, twenty-eight bartenders, four bar backs, and a truck full of stock" for 1500 revelers during Saturday night's Art Loves Design street party. (Dewar's is also a sponsor of the sprawling Omniarts event near downtown's Performing Arts Center, where the spirits company will tend bar for crowds of up to 3000.)
Regarding Basel's impact on the city's cultural development, Bruk cuts through the hype with the sharp eye of an insider, providing some thought-provoking insight. "People overlook the fact that Basel, which is excellent for Miami, is still just a trade show in town for four days," he notes. "Don't get me wrong. I love Art Basel. For young artists and students who only get to read about the stuff that comes to town during the fair, it's a huge deal. But what about the rest of the year?
"When our captains of industry don't support our museums, when our major collectors fight over who has the best cookies, when we don't have a Tony Oursler, Mike Kelly, or Shirin Neshat teaching in our art schools, how can we take the next step?"
Bruk says that unlike New York City, the art capital of the world where the Museum of Modern Art recently raised more than $800 million, Miami's star collectors function more as private holding institutions than as supporters of museums whose collections could serve generations in the public interest. "We live in paradise," Bruk continues. "Everyone wants to come here, but we need to grow beyond the colloquial bullshit. With the Basel spotlight shining on Miami, my greatest hope is that we can rise to the occasion." -- Carlos Suarez de Jesus
You can explore London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, São Paulo, New York, and Los Angeles -- or you can see it all right here
For a few days in December, Miami is the undisputed vortex of the international art world, pulling gallerists out of their lofts in Chelsea and Berlin, collectors from their aeries in midtown Manhattan and Caracas, from their pieds-à-terre in Paris, their villas in Tuscany or Bahia. Barely clinging to the southern edge of the United States, wedged conveniently between Europe and Latin America, and just a quick skip from culture capital New York, Miami is doing a brisk business in art -- import and export.
During Art Basel Miami Beach, the population attentive to art swells astronomically and embraces the city at large, exploring a vast menu of events scattered all over town. Now in its third year, Basel fears little competition from other art bonanzas, in part because Miami is free of the constraints imposed by older cities with strong personalities and distinct agendas. It's a perfect hub for art-world transactions.
A foolhardy gallery in New York might schedule an opening on Friday, December 3, but no one will show up. They'll all be here.
Twenty-first-century transportation and communications technology have played a huge role in creating a vibrant, heterogeneous international art scene. Lightning-fast Internet connections permit artists and dealers to check out each others' stylish Websites instantaneously. Artists, gallery dealers, and collectors can jet all over the map for studio visits and exhibitions. Many artists live, work, and are represented in two or more locations, sometimes reflecting their own mixed ethnicity and cultural heritage. At Art Basel Miami Beach all this coalesces in one place, face-to-face, under one big, marvelously messy, cultural tent.
The Basel fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center is the main stage for the weekend and covers all imaginable territory on the art pyramid, from small works by fearless neophytes to blue chip modernist masterworks. Younger, highly regarded galleries like Espacio Minimo from Madrid and Meyer Riegger from Karlsruhe, Germany, can vie for the attention of collectors who normally target established dealers like Gagosian Gallery (New York, London, Los Angeles) and Galeria Joan Prats (Barcelona).
The place to look for new and lively expressions from smaller international galleries is the Art Nova area at the convention center. London's Alison Jacques Gallery will feature work by Paul Morrison, who is represented in some Miami collections. Engholm Engelhorn from Vienna is bringing some delightful work by Mark Hosking, who is obsessed with solar energy. Kurimanzutto, a nomadic gallery from Mexico City originally conceived by artist Gabriel Orozco, will take up temporary residence at Art Nova.
Today galleries are not content simply to bring art and hang it on the wall. They are now the powerhouses of cultural production. For example, New York's Deitch Projects, in addition to its centerpiece (an early, large Keith Haring piece), presents a special installation of work by Barry McGee; a book launch for photographer Terry Richardson; works by Ghada Amer, Vanessa Beecroft, Liza Lou, and Jonathan Borofsky; an outdoor project by the Dearraindrop collective; and a live performance by indie-rock phenom Scissor Sisters.
Not all artwork is collectible in the conventional sense of being an object. Pierogi 2000 from Brooklyn presents Simon Lee's Bus Obscura, which will circulate between the convention center and the shipping containers of Art Positions on the Beach. Also on the schedule is an event celebrating the publication of Do It, a series of artists' instructions for making art, assembled by dynamo curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Aside from the high caliber of work being exhibited at the fair itself, many visiting gallery dealers I contacted praise the exceptional support of local collectors, the abundance of top-quality events and exhibitions elsewhere in town, and the general fun to be had at the nightly parties, performances, and cocktail receptions.
The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) is here for the second time, now ensconced at the Ice Palace Studios just north of downtown Miami and stocked with 60 innovative galleries from around the world. "Definitely ready for round two," says local curator José-Carlos Diaz, who is consulting for a NADA gallery and has his feet in the art worlds of Miami, San Francisco, and Mexico City.
NADA participants from New York who seem to have their fingers assuredly on the pulse of the moment are Daniel Reich Gallery, LFL Gallery, Bellwether Gallery, John Connelly Presents, and Cohan and Leslie. Zach Feuer, owner of LFL, echoed the sentiments of several galleries when he explained that exposure for his artists is a greater draw than the prospect of actual sales. To land a work in a prestigious collection or museum show -- these are the real fruits of having a presence in Miami during Art Basel.
While -scope/Miami, the boutique-hotel fair with annual events in Los Angeles, London, and New York, aims to "demystify the process of buying contemporary art," some of its novelty may be wearing thin. There have been grumblings about the expense of participating versus less-than-robust sales. This year -scope will take over the Townhouse Hotel on South Beach, where some 70 exhibitors and curators will transform the rooms and common areas into improvised galleries. The roster of participants, mainly North American but also a half-dozen from Europe, should not by any means be written off. Attending from the provinces are Wendy Cooper Gallery from Chicago; Rebecca Ibel Gallery from Columbus, Ohio; and Conner Contemporary Art from Washington, D.C. -- all reputable galleries showing strong work. Also look for Caren Golden Fine Art from New York, featuring the work of Nicola Lopez; and Bernard Toale Gallery from Boston, bringing Joe Fig's dollhouse-size dioramas of artists' studios.
Responding to the siren call of large crowds of art enthusiasts, yet another independent exhibition has cropped up this year. Frisbee Fair, organized by New York curator Anat Ebgi at the Cavalier Hotel on Ocean Drive, is a new event created to provide exposure for artists, curators, and dealers not involved in Basel, NADA, or -scope/Miami. Among many others, New York artists Chris Verene and Christian Holstad will present a collaborative project there. Miami's José-Carlos Diaz also will be participating. Ebgi repeats the mantra being chanted even at the highest echelons of the art world: "It's a cheap two-hour flight to get here, it's warm, and it's the most international exposure you can get in a few days."
Galleries from that other sunshine coast are also well represented at Basel, -scope, and NADA. More than fifteen will be here from Los Angeles alone, among them Michael Kohn, Margo Leavin, Patrick Painter, Regen Projects, Peres Projects, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, the Black Dragon Society, and the Happy Lion. Another, the year-old David Kordansky Gallery, was thrilled to be invited to Art Positions, Basel's container show, and will present a group exhibit.
Even galleries not represented at Basel or any of the ancillary events will be in Miami this week, the possibilities for networking being so great. For example, several galleries from Mexico City will take advantage of the festivities to meet and plan their own fair called MACO (México Arte Contemporáneo), which takes place in April.
New York curator Renee Riccardo, another participant in Frisbee Fair, believes that people come to Basel looking for the new or for a seminal piece by a favorite artist. Predominant trends she sees at the moment include art that's handmade, highly crafted using low-tech materials, and making reference to music and popular culture. Others say drawings are a lure, and that there has been a resurgence of interest in photography.
With art auction houses in New York reporting recent sales of contemporary work far exceeding estimated prices, calculating the investment return on art becomes a risky but potentially lucrative endeavor. Lisa Austin, a Miami-based corporate art consultant with clients in Washington and New York, assessed accurately that an expanding collector base over the past twenty years competes aggressively for works by a small pool of fashionable artists, driving up prices.
Should you have a small bundle of disposable income with which to start your own contemporary art collection, and should you lack the expertise of a personal curator or a hired-gun art consultant, here's some unsolicited advice: Look for the visionary, don't be afraid of the unpopular, avoid the formulaic, and buy something you would love to live with. You'll never find a greater selection than right now, right here. -- Michelle Weinberg
Basel has been a boost to Miami's thriving art scene, but didn't create it -- that happened all by itself
What some are calling the Miami arts explosion may have begun around 1999, pulled together by the gravitation of events during the mid-Nineties, when several local museums (the Lowe, FIU, MoCA, and MAM) underwent expansions. Added to that was a rising visibility of the formidable Miami-based art collections of Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, the Rubell family, Martin Margulies, and Norman Braman -- among others.
By 2000 Eugenia Vargas was rocking the town with her home shows. Genaro Ambrosino and Fred Snitzer had already moved their galleries off-Gables, and Brook Dorsch had bought a huge space in Wynwood. These three galleries represented artists from different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and art styles, a true Miami mix. Among them were Florencio Gelabert, William Cordova, Hernan Bas, Naomi Fisher, Bert Rodriguez, Purvis Young, José Bedia, Lynne Golob Gelfman, Jordan Massengale, Kyle Trowbridge, and Kerry Ware.
Locust Projects and Bernice Steinbaum Gallery were only blocks apart, their contrasting programs reflecting a more diverse and complex scene. Steinbaum went for intensity of labor, gender, and social issues with established figures. Locust understood experimental and risky programming that emphasized locals.
Our museums were in tune with the street. Miami Art Museum curators Lori Mertes and Amy Rosenblum picked up on the burgeoning scene and in 1999 began planning the "New Work Miami" series at MAM, which ran in four installments during 2001 and exhibited many of today's stars. Also in 2001 Bonnie Clearwater curated "Making Art in Miami: Travels in Hyperreality," which presented many of these artists together (for the first time) in a museum setting. These had been preceded by "Departing Perspectives," a seminal show curated in 2000 by Fred Snitzer in which 44 local artists created site-specific work in the Espirito Santo Building on Brickell Avenue, shortly before it was demolished. "Departing Perspectives" was a definite turning point.
When the Swiss, known for their business acumen and prudence, decided to bring Art Basel to the Miami area in 2001, they had already observed this activity. Then the terrorist attacks of September 11 caused the fair to be postponed for a year. But "non-Basel" helped galvanize the local arts scene around the stunning group show "globe>miami>island," organized by artist Robert Chambers at the Bass Museum. On the show's opening night in December 2001, it dawned on many of us that Miami had unquestionably changed. Two installments of Art Basel Miami Beach later, Miami is now perceived as one of the most exciting art cities in America.
Art Basel 2002 and 2003 brought together tens of thousands of visitors, thousands of collectors, and hundreds of galleries exhibiting world-class contemporary art inside and outside the Miami Beach Convention Center. "An unprecedented critical mass for the consumption of culture," according to Cathy Leff, director of the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum. But even with the momentum created by Basel, local contemporary art remains a risky and very difficult enterprise. After the fair's high has dissipated, museums and galleries must keep strategizing and programming. Some are more successful than others, and yes, at times nasty politics are involved.
"Call it passion, a calling, or something. The dealer just has to do whatever it takes," says gallerist Leonard Tachmes.
Brook Dorsch agrees: "It's tough, but you have to go on. There's just too much at stake. But our art base has expanded because of the fair. Two years ago we didn't have a Marina Kessler Gallery, Karpio-Facchini Gallery, Ingalls & Associates."
"It's a great four-day test for Miami's arts," says Snitzer, also an art teacher at the New World School of the Arts. He has a point. Exhibiting is what moves the work, develops the style, and initiates the criticism. Then he adds, "Miami has become a fertile ground for artists' shows, and Basel has to do with it."
A review of this past year's thriving art scene helps to put in perspective Basel's "critical mass." At the Dorsch Gallery I recall two great sculpture shows, one by Robin Griffiths (who is featured this month in Art in America) and the other by Ralph Provisero (a superior Miami sculptor).
Rocket Projects put up a flurry of shows featuring Emilio Perez, Odalis Valdivieso, Pepe Mar, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, and Diego Singh, whose works brought glam and a youthful sharpness. Under Nina Arias, the venue injected energy into the art scene.
Fredric Snitzer Gallery is one of Miami's most committed supporters of young art. This year about half of his artists featured at Art Basel in the convention center are New World School of the Arts graduates (a new addition is Jiae Hwang, a young Korean artist who hasn't even gotten her BFA yet). In 2004 he exhibited Gean Moreno, Bhakti Baxter, and Jacin Giordano, among others.
Bernice Steinbaum Gallery exhibited Glexis Novoa, already established as a significant Miami artist; Liz Cerejido, a strong female voice and an FIU curator; and Karen Rifas, a veteran teacher and exquisite sculptress.
The North Miami circuit has MoCA, Ambrosino Gallery, and Leonard Tachmes Gallery. MoCA's premiere of Pablo Cano's "Marionettes as Sculpture" was a winner. Tachmes had one-person shows for Maritza Molina, Leyden Rodriguez Casanova, and Victor Muñiz. Molina is one of Miami's best performers and Rodriguez has emerged as an artist to watch. Also this year Ambrosino presented Vicky Pierre, Carol Brown, and Annie Wharton. Pierre's "What You Feel Is What I Feel For You" was a notable show.
The Design District wouldn't be the same without the Moore Space, the nonprofit arts organization and exhibition space founded by Rosa de la Cruz. Directed by Silvia Karman Cubiña, the Moore Space shows heavyweights from around the world but keeps a substantial Miami profile. Another Design District space for contemporary locals is Placemaker, an artist-based project related to The House (flattened by redevelopment this summer) and directed by Martin Oppel and Daniel Arsham. Placemaker has produced a solid series of shows with consistent work from the likes of Tom Scicluna, Natalia Benedetti, Jason Hedges, and Tao Rey. (Placemaker has its own place at Basel this year -- one of the shipping containers at Art Positions on the Beach at 21st Street.)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
You may have noticed an increase in coverage of art during 2004. In the mid-Nineties Miami had only one full-time art critic, Helen Kohen of the Miami Herald. Since Kohen's retirement, though, the Herald has relied on part-time critics. At the same time, more critics, with diverse voices and backgrounds, have been appearing in weekly papers (like this one) and in art-related magazines and on Websites such as Franklin Einspruch's artblog.net and Onajide Shabaka's miamiartexchange.com.
Miami's art scene would not be possible without its booming art activism, pushed further, in my view, because of Basel. Susan Caraballo's "Surreal Saturdays" at Little Havana's old PS 742 was a performer's heaven, with local curators producing over-the-top events (my picks: José Elias's "Arroz con Mango" and performer Octavio Campos). Another favorite was Vivian Marthell's "Fleshroom," a powerful one-night event. From his apartment José-Carlos Diaz launched the Worm Hole Laboratory and co-produced engaging events all over the city. Charo Oquet's Edge Zones at the World Arts Building has shaped some of our best independent events. Collector Arturo Mosquera keeps showing a worthy lineup of local artists from the office of his dental practice in Westchester.
Miami's art activists also helped fellow artists: Edouard Duval-Carrié's "Nepotism: The Art of Friendship" at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale and Carlos Betancourt's "Miami Visions of Now" at the J. Johnson Gallery in Jacksonville Beach both featured well-known South Florida talents, among them Carlos de Villasante, Sergio Garcia, Beatriz Monteavaro, and Alfredo Ceibal. New York exile Anat Ebgi and Carla Stellweg produced "Domestic Arrivals" at New York's White Box, featuring Adler Guerrier, Christian Curiel, Brandon Opalka, A.A. Rucci, and Gavin Perry, among others.
All this energy is also shaping our art schools. This year FIU, the University of Miami, and the New World School of the Arts have all designed components to be part of Art Basel Miami Beach. Louise Romeo, dean of visual arts at the New World School, is optimistic: "Because of Art Basel, our community has initiated an artistic dialogue and collaboration, breaking the boundaries from local to global." These encounters with the outside, provided by Basel, have helped us to grow culturally. And if self-knowledge is always dependent upon how others perceive us, with these exchanges we've learned to look at ourselves through the eyes of the world. -- Alfredo Triff