[This blog series is about artists and curators who chose to work in Miami, and those who've been based here that decided to leave. For more info, read the introduction here.]
Wet Heat, our filmmaking project, produced a feature documentary on the formerly Miami-based painter Hernan Bas,“miamiHeights,” completed in 2009 after two years of following the young artist’s ascending career. This post and accompanying new short video marks the first time our producer Grela Orihuela and I revisited the artist, who has relocated to Detroit.
It was the day Hernan Bas–at age 31 the most successful Miami-based artist–knew he had to leave his home city. At the height of Miami’s most important art season, “people starting knocking at the door of the studio asking to come in and view my work, and I didn’t know who they were.” His studio assistant, who’d answered the door and queried the strangers, sent them away. That was three Basels* ago.
*(A ‘Basel’ is how the Miami art community measures time, a unit equal to 361 days; this unit is also known as “between Basels,” a period which runs from the day after Art Basel Miami Beach closes to the day before it opens.)
“That kind of access, being in the middle of a whole scene, it just became a little too much for me.” A street address listing Hernan Bas Studio had been published on an unofficial Art Basel map of Wynwood, the ever-transitioning Miami neighborhood highest in gallery density. Spunky art tourists assumed they could drop in anytime to view the celebrated artist making work in his natural habitat. Hernan laughs, “I’m very friendly and willing to talk to people, but, make an appointment!”
[ This blog series is about artists and curators who chose to work in Miami, and those who've been based here that decided to leave. For more info, read the introduction here. ]
“’I came here for a month, and that was eight years ago’ is what I hear from a lot of people I meet. I came here for three months, and that was eight months ago. There’s a vortex.” Sculptor and mixed media artist Brookhart Jonquil sits on the edge of his bed in a rented upstairs room at General Practice, an alternative exhibit space run by local artist Carlos Rigau at the western edge of Miami’s Design District. He knows the Vortex is drawing him in, deeper and deeper, and he chooses not to resist.
The Higgs boson is supposed to be important; if its true existence withstands further testing, we shall see. But the Miami Vortex is real. It is a known irresistible pull of assuaging, satiating elements such as warm ocean, clean sunshine, Latin food, unpretentious smiles, all served up on a foundation of affordable living. It adds a lubricating current to personal velocity, and creates an experience of pace apart from the world outside its field. Artists and art professionals are especially drawn into the Vortex by its fundamental force of “Yes,” thought to arise from a statistical concentration of optimistic art people converging in a small area, connecting by mutual desire. The “Yes” force is bi-directional (“Want to be in a group show?”–> “Yes” … “Can I be in your group show?”–> “Yes.”).
But enough science; back to Broookhart.
“I never really considered myself any good at networking,” he realizes, “it just sort of happens on its own here. Everybody goes to everything. You run into people, and they become your friends, and then you’re in a show with them, and hey, I guess I networked. In New York you couldn’t possibly go to everything but here you end up being friends with all the other artists, it’s your professional life as well as your social life.”
[ This blog series is about artists and curators who chose to work in Miami, and those who've been based here that decided to leave. For more info, read the introduction here. ]
Miami is not like Abu Dhabi. It gets hot in Miami (91F today, 20% chance of rain), but it gets hotter in Abu Dhabi (110F, 0% rain). On the other hand, both cities thrive at the water’s edge, and both are influenced by an international influx. Yet, in nearly countless ways–culturally, sociologically, politically–the two cities evolve on opposite sides of the planet.
“Sometimes I feel there’s a real similarity, like immense ambition, immense flow of capital, a city that seems to have a real vision of itself.” Through the eyes of young curator Diana Nawi, Miami can be like Abu Dhabi.
In a busy office at her new job, Diana continues, “It’s kind of a pioneering spirit, like Miami’s the final frontier of what is possible in the U.S. in a market and cultural economy that’s not saturated, a place where you can really accomplish something.”
Diana is singularly focused on her work, the imperatives of a new job and a new art community. She arrived in Miami fresh from the Guggenheim curatorial team that’s conceptualizing and planning exhibitions, collections and programming for the institution’s largest museum, a Frank Gehry-designed center on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, set to open in 2017.
The thing about Miami people who actively make, support and present art, is that they’re hot.
We see them through our lens all the time, January through December, day and night, indoors and out, and mostly they are all really sweating. With my partner Grela Orihuela, I’ve made many films about this city’s artists and art professionals, so I know. They’re sweating because it’s hard to work hard, consistently, to get things done despite the Miami hardships of boundless beaches, warm surf, whispering palms, Latin comfort food, all-night hooch, and the clutch of incessant socializing.
Working artists make work, working art professionals get it in front of viewers; when both persist in one place there becomes an art community. Those men and women who can live, learn and work in this particular community, and make traction in the sand of a tropical vacation paradise, are compelling characters for our Wet Heat Project films and events. They’re hot.
With Art Basel Miami Beach only two weeks away, we are all holding our breath in anticipation of the flurry of events that will be taking place throughout South Beach and the “mainland” of Miami.
The scramble will be on to find that seminal art piece, the most sought-after event to attend, the best opportunities to shoulder-rub. But how much is Miami’s art community impacted by the networking that takes place when the globe arrives on its doorstep?
From our interviews, it is evident that opportunities do arise from visitors coming to Miami. Artists have received exhibition opportunities, and there has been an increased interest in including Miami artists in major US survey exhibitions. A few years back, then-Whitney Museum curator Shamim Momin traveled to Miami in search of artists with Biennale potential, and Hans Ulrich Obrist selected several Miami artists for his group show Uncertain States of America. Yet how do we quantify the effect these opportunities have had on an artist’s career over the long term?
Who better to answer this question than the artists themselves? I have selected three artist quotes from Dirty Pink 305′s interviews that best describe what these opportunities have meant to them and to their artistic practice, going forward.
“And then again, another really great project based from here from a connection was to go and do a project through the Uncertain States of America exhibition in Denmark. So that in itself is amazing, to have the opportunity to showcase your work on an international platform. It gives you a completely different set of eyes on your work, a different critique, a different assessment, even for myself when I came back. How is my work being read [by others], by someone else who is speaking a different language; aesthetics are different. I think that led to a lot of the idea of shifting in my work to become a little bit more universally recognizable, and recognizing that artists, by physically being sequestered to a local area and just doing things locally, you can become very esoteric or very single-minded from where you are.”
TM Sisters (Monica and Natasha Lopez de Victoria)
Natasha: “…people happen to be in town, and different people spread the word in different ways, and different people that were in town saw stuff that way, just through the love of the family….”
Monica: “And yeah, specifically that Hans Ulrich Obrist picked us for the big Uncertain States of America exhibition and the way that came about was, we had done a collaborative show with a bunch of the Miami artists and everyone worked with each other, it was more about the process, we didn’t care about the end result. So it was a big exhibition, and someone had told him to go see this show, and I think it was locked up, and Bhakti (Baxter) happened to be passing by and have the key, and so he was able to let [Obrist] in and he saw a bunch of the artists that he ended up choosing from Miami from that show. So that helped us get more internationally out there, by him picking our work for this touring.”
“I think that it allowed working artists to seriously to get a lot of attention, and for me, it really allowed me to make a lot of connections nationally. A lot of people came through that were amazing, like early on Jeffrey Deitch came to see my studio behind my grandmother’s house, and a cab driver took him there, he drove for an hour and came to see my work. A lot of things like that happened because I think it was the moment, and it was really good timing.”
From these quotes we can deduce that the attention focused on Miami has impacted these specific artists in a very positive fashion.
The questions that immediately need to follow:
- Is this impact sustainable?
- What happens to artists working outside the paradigm of “American” exhibitions?
- How long would this attention last if Art Basel Miami Beach were to, say, move to Los Angeles?
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Art Basel Miami Beach, we are sure to see many attempts at writing its history, most likely in relation to Miami as a city, and even more likely depicting the Miami art community from a skewed vantage point that only describes practices in relation to the art fair and the art market paradigm. Of course we should hope for a different outcome.
Dirty Pink 305 provides a resource for future writings about Miami contemporary art that includes the voice of artists. In the words of Adler Guerrier:
“I think the larger PR machine of Art Basel kind of rephrased [the Miami art scene], for it to be more institution and collector led. But I’m going to say that really hasn’t really been the case, they lead by virtue of the fact that they are an institution and they’re collectors, but it’s only by virtue of being, you know, true leaders. I think they reflect what we do. So I think that’s Miami.”
Patti Her discussing community in Miami in a video produced for Dirty Pink 305.
Art has the power to foster and ameliorate communities, to drive markets and economies; it even has the power to heal, and yet in our society art often exists as something of an afterthought. Despite its value, art is often thought of as “frivolous,” “unimportant,” or simply “not a priority.”
Back in February, the House of Representatives stripped funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, voting to cut a quarter of the NEA’s budget for the 2011 fiscal year–a deep cut the NEA will suffer yet again in 2012. In many ways, this outcome could be considered a positive one, because two amendments in favor of getting rid of the NEA altogether were introduced earlier this year. Luckily, they were never put on the table for a House vote.
That “good fortune” ends at the federal level, because several states have begun cutting a great number of arts organizations and arts education programs. The governor of South Carolina even proposed that the state arts agency in South Carolina be eliminated. Florida, on the other hand, has plenty of substantial grants and programs that aid artists, events, institutions, etc. One well-known foundation gave more than 3.7 million in grant money in 2011, which is more than that provided by several states through their own arts agencies.
I think that Miami, and most of the state of Florida, recognizes that funding art programs isn’t a waste of time–it’s an investment. I believe Miami recognizes that art is very much an agent of social, political and economic change. So South Florida’s arts enthusiasts are still here, ten years after Basel first came to Miami, after the major galleries have sprung up, in the midst of a recession–they are still pushing non-stop towards the future. It is its resilient and united community that makes Miami’s bright future a reachable reality, a journey of sorts that is being documented by our organization Dirty Pink 305.
When Claire Breukel first told me about this project, I knew I had to be a part of it. I was fascinated by the fact that it documents history in motion, that it strives to capture Miami’s real art history and the people who make it. Most importantly, I was fascinated by the fact that it is open to everyone. There are no long lines and velvet ropes. People are free to dig into the history that’s being made or has been made, whether it’s good or bad. Therein lies the beauty of this project.
It gives me immense joy to be a part of Dirty Pink 305 and to be blogging about the project for the Art21 Blog. We are bridging gaps and fostering a dialogue that doesn’t begin or end with any one specific community. It all comes down to this:
In a socio-economic climate where the arts are considered to be “unnecessary” and “expendable,” it has become even more important to foster cross-community dialogue. This happens by communicating, by spreading information, by engaging with one another. We cannot veil ourselves in exclusivity or cloaks of self-importance and shut ourselves off to the potential that lies in teamwork and the community collaboration that comes from a common love for the arts.
This post was written by Tina Acevedo of Dirty Pink 305.
I’ve lived in Miami my whole life, and yet I first heard about Art Basel when I was in my senior year of high school. That was 2009 and I was 18. My “backyard” happened to be one of the greatest art havens in the world, yet I was oblivious to its existence. So were my neighbors, my parents, the townies, teachers, my friends. My introduction to the art world began when I signed up for an internship program. I searched Google for internships at museums and galleries. Search result after search result, the surprise and shock kept adding up. I had never heard of these places. What was the Design district? What was Wynwood? It was only when I scored my internship that a serious education on the Miami art scene ensued.
Despite my obvious ignorance, the people I encountered in Miami’s bustling art community couldn’t have been more welcoming. People offered me advice, invited me to openings, introduced me to their peers, and told me where to go to see the best collections. They were eager to show me, to have me experience and contribute to a unique and valuable community.
So with a scene that is open to anyone that shows interest, that hosts prestigious art fairs, that is home to incredibly talented artists, that offers impressive collections and museums–how is it that Miami gets lost, never making it to that point in time where its stories and successes can roll off people’s tongues? How is it possible to live a mere 30 minutes away from the arts district, from where Art Basel Miami takes place, and not have a clue about any of it?
Herein lies the problem. There is a lack of communication, or better yet, an inconsistent and ineffective flow of information. If news of Miami’s cultural events can’t make it past a 30-minute car ride, how is it supposed to reach the rest of the world? And I’m not talking about Basel and art fair press which has made its way around the world, I’m talking about the real meat of the Miami art world burger, the things that make it past the first week of December, the artists, the exhibits, the curators, the institutions that make such a delicious and happening community possible.
Here in lies the solution. WE NEED DIALOGUE. We need to talk about what happens in our communities with groups outside of our communities and WE NEED TO DOCUMENT our stories and contributions. Naturally we talk about things we care about, and in a sense it can be used to measure levels of importance. Documenting works very much the same way. It says “we care about this, this is important so we have to document it.” It gives us the power to believe the unbelievable, to see what we couldn’t see in person or to re-live what we did see in person. It gives us the power to reference the past and to learn from it. The point is that in doing these things the vital people and events that contribute to the scene aren’t lost in a sea of obscurity, where they remain completely unacknowledged. This is the way to avoid the trap of cultural amnesia.
In this video produced for Dirty Pink 305, artist Cristina Peterson gives us her take on the lack of engagement and intellectual dialogue she’s experienced during her years as an artist in Miami.
Post written by Tina Acevedo of Dirty Pink 305.
When I started Dirty Pink 305, I was well aware of two very important projects that have already taken big strides in documenting Miami’s artist community. The first was the Miami Contemporary Artists book edited by artists Julie Davidow and Paul Clemence that, in 2007, published the work of over 100 artists living and working in Miami, making it the first comprehensive collection of artist information from the area.
The other is Wet Heat Project, an ongoing collaboration by the artist/documentary team Grela Orihuela (producer) and Bill Billowit (director), who created two artist documentaries on Miami-born artists Hernan Bas and Bert Rodriguez. Under this project name, they started Wet Heat TV, a platform to create ongoing short films of artists-in-studio, artist couples, and art professionals sharing personal insights, as well as a series of performance projects by New World School of the Arts students.These two projects focused specifically on documenting artististic practice, and offer us invaluable insight into the ideas circulating within Miami’s art community. However, the value of such initiatives hasn’t quite resonated within that community as yet.
As it stands, no one in Miami seems very interested in investing in documentation. As a result, Miami has been in what Domingo Castillo has referred to as a state of “amnesia.” The desire to constantly push forward to discover the next “hot thing,” fueled by Miami’s prevailing commercial art forces—art fairs, galleries, collectors—has left little interest in placing those practices with a context, and even less interest in spending money to preserve Miami art’s recent history. Why so little support for documentation, the need for which is usually so easily understood?
Over the past decade, Miami galleries have been incentivized by Art Basel Miami Beach, and as a result, they have shifted their focus toward a single week of exhibiting emerging artists, fostering collectorship, and moneymaking. Perhaps inadvertently, Art Basel offers a somewhat superficial aura of inclusion by encouraging galleries to present something “new” each year. Young artists fresh out of art school are given wonderful opportunities to exhibit their work to an international audience. However, these opportunities are a kind of double-edged sword. Encumbered to create work in the same mode for anywhere between one and five years, depending on how their career sustains the market, these artists quickly find themselves outmoded as soon as the next “new” comes on the scene. Investment in an artist’s career over the long term has been rare. This inclusion of local artists in Art Basel Miami is, however, peripheral to the showcase of internationally renowned artists for which Miami provides the proverbial white walls. The last ten years have provided a fascinating case study on how an art community has been (somewhat willingly) cajoled into becoming something for which they are perhaps not best suited, or ready, to be. However, this seems to be changing.
Most cities have their “art stars.” Instead, Miami has an art fair, a handful of renowned institutions, and some really impressive private collections. This is not due to a lack of creative and boundary-pushing artists and artist spaces—a local “underground,” or what I like to call “real;” Miami’s art scene is very present and also, refreshingly , a little “wild west” in feel.
This “real art world” just happens to be out of the mainstream dialogue that characterizes Miami and is, as a result, under-recognized and placed as secondary to the institutions whose “bark” is louder.
I have lived and worked in Miami for over eight years, and–at the risk of sounding sentimental–artists living and working in Miami are used to the exposure that comes with having the art world at their doorstep, and yet despite this, they have chosen to maintain an ethic of community (or rather, of communities plural, echoing Miami’s true diversity). These artist communities remain largely undiscovered, and as a result, the artists’ voices have remained unheard, undocumented, and in many respects excluded from a larger global art dialogue. There are of course individual exceptions: artists such as Robert Chambers, Bob Thiele, Mark Handforth and Dara Friedman have managed to create careers outside of Miami, and are well-known outside of their home base. There are also artists like Bert Rodriguez and Adler Guerrier who have been featured in the Whitney Biennal—but has this helped them to capitalize on further opportunities and establish their careers elsewhere? Bert Rodriguez, in an interview with Dirty Pink 305, shared his experience of the Miami art landscape:
Over the past decade, the commercial forces in the field have encouraged a fervor among collectors to seek out the “new.” Over time, this has created a lot of frustration amongst artists—an older generation of artists felt excluded, and a younger generation recognized their moment of recognition to be fleeting. This cultivated an attitude that emphasized “the now” along with the compulsion to consistently push forward without taking stock of what had come before. To make matters worse, aside from a few individual initiatives, nobody seemed to be documenting what was happening. In my next blog post, I will introduce these initiatives and the partners in our project.
To capture a moment that felt like it could slip away undocumented, I started Dirty Pink 305. This has begun as a website (www.dirtypink305.com) to collate artist interviews and provide a resource for artist opinion. The interviews are straightforward and roughly edited, and each interview has been transcribed to create links to every person, place and thing an artist talks about in order to establish who has really impacted the artist community. So far through these interviews, I have learned of many events and exhibitions that I had no idea about, even though I was living and working in Miami’s art community. I have also seen how multi-faceted that art community is, and how Art Basel Miami has acted as a singular unifying force on Miami’s art scene–and not always to a positive end. Magnus Sigurdarson elaborated on this point in his interview with us:
Dirty Pink 305 aims to do two things: document artist opinion in order to re-create history in the context of those artists’ experiences, and expand the public’s understanding of the local art scene beyond the peripheral and superficial.
Next step… a publication that collates, statistically analyzes and contextualizes the interview material we’ve collected in order to redevelop a narrative and statistical overview based on artist opinion alone. I, along with my blogging partner Tina Acevedo, will be explaining what this means in more detail in our upcoming posts.
Post written by Claire Breukel of Dirty Pink 305.
Thanks to our previous blogger-in-residence DeWitt Cheng for highlighting the fascinating work of several under-recognized artists from the San Francisco Bay area. You can read more of DeWitt’s SF Bay coverage on his personal webpage.
Next up, we turn to Miami, where a significant faction of the global art world will descend next month for the Art Basel Miami and New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) art fairs. Miami is known as the site of this glitzy convergence of the international art world– but what about the artists who live and work there all year round? Dirty Pink 305, a new organization founded by independent curator and writer Claire Breukel, is in the process of mapping that scene. Along with her Dirty Pink 305 partner Tina Acevedo, Claire will take up residence here on the Art21 Blog for the next two weeks to share some of what they’ve learned from their ongoing research into Miami’s artists and vibrant art community.
Claire Breukel, Founder, Dirty Pink 305, is an independent curator/writer and works as a Creative Advisor for Miami DDA. She has worked as Curator for Sportlifestyle company PUMA and as Executive Director for Locust Projects, Miami, and has written for Eikon, ArtPulse, Wynwood magazine, Arte Aldia and has a weekly column on Hyperallergic.com. She has curated exhibitions in Cape Town, New York, Miami, Vienna and San Salvador.
Tina Acevedo, Project Coordinator, Dirty Pink 305 is an artist and art student. For reasons she cannot recall she decided to pursue art and to become immersed in the art world. She completed her A.A. at Parsons School for Design and is currently working on obtaining her B.F.A. with a concentration in painting and film/electronic arts. Tina is interested in art that is compelling and breaks new ground. She is the project coordinator for Dirty Pink 305 and is based in Miami for the time being.