We Are the Darling City of the Art World
By Brett Sokol
Liam Gillick’s Study for La aparente union del cielo y la tierra was one of a series of artfully designed billboards displayed around town during Art Basel Miami Beach 2010.
Nearly a decade after the annual Art Basel fair first arrived on Miami Beach, the local art scene is anything but underground, and far more entrenched than merely a one-week-a-year phenomenon. Indeed, instead of leaving town for greener pastures in New York, Miami artists are increasingly bumping into transplanted New Yorkers hoping to kick-start their art careers in Wynwood. Can you blame them? Our local mandarins seem to have gone art crazy, dispensing grants, real estate and media exposure with a fervor that would’ve made even the Medici blush. But common sense, slow growth and clear-headed moderation have never been notions popular among Miamians. Go big or go home! That’s not to say this burg has fully transformed itself into the New Art City its cultural boosters envision. Post-market crash, there are still too few collectors with empty walls and unholstered checkbooks. And those freshly arrived New Yorkers have been towing an awful lot of conceptual baggage in their wake, adding a layer of theoretical clutter to what was previously an almost deliriously accessible—and viscerally inviting—visual arts scene. Moreover, several of Miami’s standard-bearers, such as sculptor Daniel Arsham and painter Hernan Bas, don’t even live in Miami anymore.
However, though a few notable tyros may have packed their bags, a host of veteran artists—Carol Brown, Robert Chambers, Barbara Neijna and Robert Thiele, just for starters—continue to produce transcendent work that demands attention. Discerning gallery owners like David Castillo, Brook Dorsch, Carol Jazzar, Nina Johnson and Fredric Snitzer are supporting new talent in the way that matters most—by offering them exhibition space. And after much drama, that new Miami Art Museum might just get built after all. Indeed, for all its growing pains and premature sense of grandeur, Miami’s art whirl remains one of the most vibrant of such milieus in the country. If you can avoid choking to death from the exhaust of Wynwood’s swarming food trucks, it’s still the best show in town.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LEIF GABRIELSON