The Best Art of 2014: The Magic City's Visual Arts Scene Attracted Major Headlines

The Best Art of 2014: The Magic City's Visual Arts Scene Attracted Major Headlines
Photo by Jipsy/Nefariousgirl.com

The year began with a local artist smashing a vase at the newly opened Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and concluded with hundreds of activists shutting down I-195 during Art Basel to protest cop violence.

Sandwiched between were plenty of provocative museum and gallery shows and the David-versus-Goliath story of a homegrown street artist who sued a greedy international retail chain for copyright infringement and won.

Here's a look back at some of the biggest developments of the past 12 months.

See also: Bramans Write ICA Blank Check, PAMM Faltering Financially

The Best Art of 2014: The Magic City's Visual Arts Scene Attracted Major Headlines
Photo by Chris Carter

MOCA reconfiguration. Nothing good usually comes of a bitter public divorce, but the rancorous split of North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and its board of trustees is cause for celebration. After dueling lawsuits, plenty of bad blood, and court-ordered mediation, the sides resolved their issues amicably and decided to share funding and parts of the museum's collection. The former MOCA board has since established the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in the Design District, where the organization has secured private funding for a 37,500-square-foot permanent home set to open in December 2016.

The Best Art of 2014: The Magic City's Visual Arts Scene Attracted Major Headlines
Courtesy of Gary Nader

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Two new art centers announced for Miami. This fall, Wynwood art dealer and collector Gary Nader revealed plans to construct the Latin American Art Museum (LAAM) at a downtown Miami location yet to be determined. Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, who also planned Mexico City's Museo Soumaya, it will house a vast selection of Nader's permanent holdings and the works of contemporary masters from the region. The proposed 90,000-square-foot facility is slated to open in early 2016, the dealer says. Also planned is a 50,000-square-foot arts center called the Faena Forum at 32nd Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Argentine hotelier and property developer Alan Faena is building the facility, which is being designed by Rem Koolhaas. Set to open in December 2015, it will aim to foster dialogue about Latin American practices. The program will be led by Ximena Caminos, the executive director of its sister institution, Faena Art Buenos Aires.

The growth of local grassroots arts organizations. For years local artists and cultural producers have been pining for more funding, educational programming, commissioning of original works, and critical discourse. Since taking the helm as artistic director for the nonprofit Cannonball this past summer, Gean Moreno has focused on these tasks. Moreno, an author, critic, and artist, says Miami is maturing with the coming of age of small, grassroots outfits such as the Borscht Film Festival; Jai-Alai Books/O, Miami; SpringBreak; and the Miami Rail. "It's a shift top to bottom," he says.

AholSniffsGlue sues American Eagle Outfitters. This past July, Ahol, whose real name is David Anasagasti, sued American Eagle Outfitters for copyright infringement after the corporate Goliath hijacked his trademark sleepy-eyeball motif for a worldwide marketing blitz promoting its spring fashion line. The retail giant, which in 2013 reported revenues exceeding $3 billion, chose to settle out of court in early December. It was not only a victory for the local artist but also a strong warning to greedy corporate types with little regard for the value of intellectual property.

 

Wynwood pioneers decamp from the neighborhood. Many argue that Wynwood wouldn't be what it is today without the presence of the Fredric Snitzer and David Castillo galleries. But this past summer, both spaces decamped from the rapidly changing neighborhood. Snitzer moved to the fringes of downtown Miami, and Castillo relocated to South Beach's Lincoln Road. Snitzer planted the flag in Wynwood in 2003, and Castillo followed in 2005. In recent years, though, Wynwood has become less edgy and more focused on nightlife and entertainment. Unruly Second Saturday Art Walk crowds have driven serious collectors away, Snitzer says. For Castillo, proximity to the Miami Beach Convention Center, which hosts Art Basel, made Miami Beach the ideal hub for an expanding clientele. Their departures left a notable vacuum on Wynwood's gallery scene.

ArtCenter/South Florida sells iconic Lincoln Road space. Since its inception, ArtCenter/South Florida has provided studio spaces and artist residencies to a long list of talents. The space made big headlines in October when it sold its iconic, bubble-shaped Richard Shack Gallery on Lincoln Road to a retail developer for $88 million. Then it sponsored a sprawling exhibit, "Thirty Years on the Road," featuring more than 100 artists -- including Agustina Woodgate, Antonia Wright, the TM Sisters, and Luis Gispert -- all alumni of the historic organization.

Maria Jose Arjona, Right At The Center There Is Silence, from Auto Body
Maria Jose Arjona, Right At The Center There Is Silence, from Auto Body
Courtesy of the artist and Mor-Charpentier Gallery

Stellar year for museum and gallery shows. Topping 2014's feast of memorable exhibits were the Tracey Emin and Wangechi Mutu shows at MOCA and the Ai Weiwei and Beatriz Milhazes exhibits at PAMM. The Pulitzer photo show at the Frost Art Museum in the spring garnered plenty of attention, while the "Gold" exhibition at the Bass capped the Miami Beach museum's 50th-anniversary bash.

But it was "Auto Body," an exhibit staged by Spinello Projects in December during Basel, that left the most tongues wagging in 2014. The four-day video and performance project at the defunct Giant Motors Auto Body & Paint in South Beach featured works by 33 female artists. "It wasn't an exhibition I initially expected to like because I find survey shows based on gender suspect and a little tired," said Aramis Gutierrez, cofounder of the Upper Eastside's Guccivuitton gallery. "It had an anti-commoditized, subversive element to it that was absent from almost every other event during Art Basel, and even though many of the works dealt directly with the naked female body and violence, the presentation felt inclusive and comforting. It was a show for everyone."

Poltergeists at PAMM? During Basel 2013, the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Pérez Art Museum Miami stole all the headlines when it opened on Biscayne Bay. The gorgeous museum quickly became a favorite lunch stop for downtown office workers, while PAMM honchos reveled in the glow of the Magic City's sparkling new cultural gem. But this past February, PAMM unexpectedly became fodder for downbeat national and international headlines when local artist Maximo Caminero shattered a pricey painted vase that was part of an installation created by renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Then, in early December, a drunken patron tripped over and broke a floor-based installation by Gean Moreno and Ernesto Oroza during the museum's Basel bash.

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