Art Basel Preview: Pop Up Piano Miami Brings Art, Music Together Again

Music and art often go hand in hand, especially during the temporary party paradise that is Art Basel in Miami. Last night at the Pop Up Piano Miami Mixer, they were one and the same.

Artists from around the world were invited to trade in their usual canvas or building wall and instead paint a work of art on a piano. There were five pianos on display at the Miami Iron Side venue from artists Evoca1, Rone, Chor Boogie, Nathan Delinois, and Tomas Loewy. The pianos featured in last night's event were just a preview; more will be seen and up for sale during Art Basel next week. The proceeds will go to benefit the non-profit organization Guitar Over Guns.

Guitars Over Guns is a mentorship program for at-risk youth that pairs kids with professional musicians and teaches them the value of musical education over negative influences like guns. Three of the program's students were on site and performed in honor of the featured artists. One student sang Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," while another used a Solo cup and made like Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect, singing "Cups." A third student rounded off the tribute by playing his original guitar arrangement of the Beatles' "Imagine."

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One of the most interesting parts of the evening -- aside from the pianos and performances, of course -- was the make-your-own-cocktail stations sponsored by Bombay Sapphire. Guests could move around the room and stop by one of the three stations and be directed by the bartender on how to make your own drink. You felt like a professional while holding the jigger measure and the long silver mixing spoon. Plus, you left with an easy and memorable cocktail recipe.

The five artists who were previewing their work were walking about the space, and a few of them still had some paint on their clothes, as they are still putting the final touches on their pianos. Rone, who hails all the way from Melbourne, Australia, saw the Pop Up Pianos last year. When he got an email invitation to paint one himself this year, he thought that was pretty cool. "I learned how it's helping younger creatives and the auction of these works go back into a creative community, and it feels awesome that I can help someone else out with just my own talents."

Rone's piano featured a pensive female looking off in sadness. He says he mostly paints female portraits, building the images from photographs of models he takes himself. "I paint them in a way that's kind of messy and raw and rough, but I try to get this kind of beautiful finish to it in the end so it's like this beauty is coming through all the texture."

"Painting these beautiful, calming females is quite a contrast to a lot of the stuff that happens [in the world of graffiti]," he adds. And while he's in town, he intends to leave his mark (literally), saying, "I just want to paint a bunch of walls while I'm here and hang out with some friends."

Evoca1 was brought on to the project by the folks over at Mixed Media Collective, one of the members of the event's organizing committee. The artist thinks the whole idea of Pop Up Piano is amazing. "I was happy to be able to give back to the kids; once they told me it was for a non-profit, I was hooked."

The painting Evoca1 did on the piano was based on a previous drawing he did called "Sleeping Sanctuary" - "It's about finding the inner peace within yourself," he says. What he loves most about the blending of the pianos and art is how much "music and art both coincide: a lot of painters want to be musicians, and a lot of musicians want to be painters." He himself has about ten instruments he's still working on mastering, but for now he'll stick to the paint and brush.

The pianos will be popping up again during Basel, so be on the look out for a musical instrument with art all over it.

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