Miami: A Refresher by Lydia Ruby

Art Basel Miami Beach 2010, The Day After (via hyperallergic)

If images of saccharine palm tree paintings, or the cube and booth chaos of Basel automatically come to mind when the words “art” and “Miami” meet in a sentence, the time has come for a subconscious refresher. True, those notions about the city remain accurate; Miami continues to host the country’s largest, annual concentration of art fairs. Fortunately the city’s less frequently discussed cultural offerings and contributors posses the ability to eclipse those automatic and boringly obvious associations.  —Lydia Ruby, Miami contributor

Hernan Bas, The Coming Solitude, 2010 | Acrylic on linen over panel, 60 x 70 inches. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York.

That said, it is also fortunate for the city that Art Basel Miami and the fairs exist. The city’s growth would surely not be as notable without its presence, inviting much needed revenue and vital attention to Miami’s art scene.

Presently, three of Miami’s art museums are moving forward with plans for expansion or general improvement, and with each a curatorial and acquisitions focus leaning heavily toward contemporary art. Miami Art Museum (MAM), which will unveil its new Biscayne Bay Museum Park facility in 2013, has acquired work from several younger emerging artists like Nathan Carter, Teresita Fernández, and Kehinde Wiley. In 2010, MOCA North Miami presented conceptually intensive solo exhibitions by the French collective Claire Fontaine and digital artist Cory Arcangel, and the museum also has plans to feature an exhibition of Ryan Trecartin’s provocative work in June 2011 (with all three exhibitions organized by MOCA Associate Curator, Ruba Katrib).

Installation view of Claire Fontaine: Economies at MOCA North Miami (via)

However, the question remains as to whether Miami’s year-round residents take full advantage of their institutions’ risky efforts. On a recent trip to the Bass Museum’s current exhibition, Isaac Julien/Creative Caribbean Network, the attendance was sadly thin for a weekend. Beyond institutions, Miami has delivered several successful artists to the contemporary art arena in recent years, such as Hernan Bas, Luis Gispert, and Mark Handforth to name a few.

As is the case in other cities dwarfed by America’s more obvious art meccas, many of Miami’s artists eventually move on to New York. However, several stay to reap the benefits of inexpensive studio spaces, access to serious collectors, and the convenience of less competition. Although still mourning the departure of Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami’s commercial galleries, alternative spaces, and art districts continue to thrive, with opening receptions filled beyond comfortable capacity. Yet strangely enough, for several dealers, most art sales seem to come from collectors living outside Miami.

Mark Handforth, Courtesy Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York

Even so, art enthusiasts with considerable collections are prolific in the city, and several offer the opportunity to experience their holdings. The Rubell Family Collection, de la Cruz Collection, World-Class Boxing, and The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse all house portions of their collections publicly, with rotating exhibitions. These collections present a canon of significant contemporary artists’ work, and include in their rosters a long list of Miami’s own resident artists including Daniel Arsham, Jim Drain, Naomi Fisher, Bert Rodriguez, and Cristina Lei Rodriguez among them.

The examples above are, of course, a fraction of what the city possesses and what it ultimately presents. Miami has a certain mise en place, so to speak; all the correct ingredients are prepared to create a contemporary art scene worthy of wider recognition. In the months to come, we will specifically explore what Miami has to offer, mostly in regards to the genre of painting, but also relative to the American art world at large. The aim is to underline that the visual arts in Miami are in fact perennial, not just annual – alive and well beyond Art Basel and the occasional schmaltzy palm tree.

Based in Miami, Lydia Ruby is in charge of operations for OHWOW.

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