i am art.
not to be consumed.
torn apart to bare bones.
this is me.
Last week, art met art. The international art fair known as Art Basel descended upon the great city of Miami. Held every year during the first or second week of December, it is creatives’ paradise. Galleries, exhibits, shows, designers, artists; all in Miami for a week that can only be described as heaven. This year my particular interest was in the works of artists of color and color on canvas, otherwise known as #BlackBasel. I settled on Little Haiti and Overtown because when I think of art, politics, inspiration, growth, development, and change, all come to mind, and these neighborhoods embody all of those things; in essence, they are the culture.
First stop was at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex Center to check out Now or Neverland: Ode to Hip Hop, followed by Magic City Innovation District’s Route 1804: Little Haiti, Heartbeat of the Caribbean, and Art Africa Miami’s Back to Black: No On/Off Ramps in Overtown.
I instantly fell in love with Magic City’s show with works by local Caribbean artists, curated by Marie Vickles and Bart Mervil. My favorite piece was the Nèg Mawon rendition created with bullets. The original bronze statue by sculptor and architect Albert Mangonès was designed to commemorate the abolishment of slavery in Haiti and continues to be viewed as a symbol of freedom to this day.
The many works of great artists from the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and United States were celebrated at Art Africa Miami’s displays including Doba Afolabi, a Nigerian artist who painted “Now the Weather of Zimbabwe,” and was in attendance. We chatted a bit as he explained his inspiration for the piece, “It’s all about the mood of people when Mugabe was forced out of his regime in Zimbabwe. I used the image of women dancing because women have the attributes to show emotion.” I also had the pleasure of conversing with Neil Hall, the Founding Director of Art Africa Miami. He and his team have made significant contributions to the community of Overtown by creating more interest and access to the arts; it was a treat hearing his plans and goals for the center.
At the Little Haiti Cultural Complex Center, Stuart McClean’s work stood out to me as I instantly made a connection between New Orleans and the Caribbean. Luckily, the artist was present to confirm my suspicions. He was born in Trinidad and lived and worked in New Orleans for many years, which inspired his incredible paintings.
Eventually, I made my way to Miami Beach to attend Pulse Contemporary Art Fair. “Ode to She,” a tribute to what it means to be a Xhosa woman by Tony Gum was my darling booth. I spent the majority of my time examining her work. As a Haitian woman, I can relate to the feeling of embracing my culture and its traditions while delicately trying to navigate the age of technology and life in the United States. To me, her work speaks to the balancing act of being an immigrant, especially as women who bear the culture. There were also many other great works by Bisa Butler, Lava Thomas, and Dawoud Bey. Pulse did not disappoint with the representation of artists of color or color on canvas.
In addition, I relished the works of Elizabeth Kleinveld and Epaul Julien’s “In Empathy We Trust;” a project that recreates iconic images from the history of art with subjects that vary in race, age, and sexual orientation. I was introduced to their work earlier this year, and it shines a light on the role art has played in stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. Imagine if all the great works in the art world were replaced with another face, another skin color, another sex; how much of our perception would change? There’s been a great deal of conversation surrounding the importance of representation and inclusivity, and this duo does a great job of forcing its viewers to examine that.
I also ended up in Wynwood to attend the Art of Daring presented by Revolt featuring BJ the Chicago Kid and Saya Woolfalk. It was a great show with a live crowd. I went back a couple of days later to attend the Bacardi No Commission event with Swizz Beatz and Lil’ Wayne, however, I was not able to enter as they were at capacity. My need for sustenance got the best of me, and I didn’t get there early enough. Wynwood is another popular area in Miami for Art Basel attendants; plenty of shows, performances, parties, graffiti art, galleries, bars, and restaurants. The vibe is eclectic, energetic, and fun.
The great thing about Art Basel Miami is that there is something for everyone. People from all over the world who love and appreciate art gather here during this fantastic week. Those who want to party, are also here. If you want to see celebrities, you will have plenty of opportunities, and every year there are many different performances. If you’re on a budget, you’ll find that you do not have to pay for many of the art shows or events. Weeks before, make sure to check Facebook, Eventbrite, the Art Basel site and your favorite museum or art gallery sites to RSVP. For those traveling to Miami, I highly recommend securing lodging in advance, as rooms go quickly and prices rise. If you’re looking for affordable options, Innclusive is the way to go. One last thing, do not rent a car; you will save money and time. Traffic is horrible in Miami and parking is scarce and expensive; Uber/Lyft are your friends.
Enjoy Miami and enjoy our art, food, culture, and people.
Until next time,