Better Than: Watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on PBS.
Art Battles started nine years ago as a one-off event for promising artists to showcase their skills in downtown New York. It's now become a full-blown tour, with its first stop in Miami this past Saturday, February 27. Three men and three women competed to win a trip to show off their exceptional talent.
No, Art Battles wasn't officially a battle of the sexes, but it might as well have been. Participants were given a theme of sexes, and each given one, audience-selected paint color to work with for the first hour. Julie Friel got red, Kazilla got blue, N.F. Romero got orange, Andres Correa got purple, Sveltana Kepezhinskas got yellow, and Jeff Dekal got green. That decided, the hopefuls raced the clock as they painted live.
A digital countdown displayed on one of Eazy Street Gallery's walls ticked away as local band AluKarD spun a DJ set that began with a lot of OutKast to hype up the crowd ("Bombs over Baghdad," anyone?). It segued to everything from the Strokes and Method Man to Radiohead, with cheers for favorite artists intermingled between recorded guitar riffs.
At the end of the first hour came a 15-minute artist intermission and crowd now buzzed both on $4 drinks and the prospects of buying one of the finished works. Drink tickets could either be used for the obvious, or entered into a raffle to try to win a favorite artist's competition creation.
The crowd's mixed bag of artists, auction pros, aficionados, and eccentrics created a familiar and welcoming energy for art show neophytes. For the newbies, the vibe was more as though they'd entered a friend's house party than a snooty fine art opening.
Although the first hour focused on one color for each artist, during the second hour, all bets were off -- any color, and any found utensil was allowed. It was then that everyone really brought it. At the buzzer, it was time for a democratic selection of a winner, via number of raffle entries, crowd cheers, and judge's votes. The victor here was Julie Friel, whose street-inspired canvas was loaded with shout-outs to Miami culture.
In celebration, AluKarD performed a moving surprise two-song acoustic set to close out the night, belting "305 love" every minute or so within the first song. It worked as both a nod to the winning artist's work, and the general vibe of Miami love in the room.
Personal Bias: I'm an art lover, but not a big fan of standing in heels for long periods of time. Occasional seating options of some kind during the four-hour event would've made it even more enjoyable.
Random Detail: The industrial-sized fan on the wall facing the bar made it a bit hard to wait in line without getting blown away -- or appearing as though one were in the midst of a photo shoot.
By the Way: The winning artist, Julie Friel, will be flown to New York City, courtesy of Scion, to participate in the Art Battles show at Artexpo on March 27, an event attended by thousands of international gallery owners and art collectors.
-- Christine Borges
Kazilla's blue entry
NF Romero's orange entry
Andrés Correa's purple entry
Svetlana Kepezhinskas's yellow entry
Jeff Deka's green entry
Alukard's surprise acoustic set