Arte Americas 2004

 Partial View of "Wrapping Ying-Yang". Installation. Mixed media on canvas wrapping ticket booth and columns. 

Partial View of "Wrapping Ying-Yang". Installation. Mixed media on canvas wrapping ticket booth and columns. 

Arteaméricas, the Latin American Art Fair, whose main sponsor was Merrill Lynch, took place at the Coconut Grove Convention Center in Miami between March 26 and March 29, 2004. In its 2nd edition, Arteaméricas included the participation of 51 galleries that sought to present their best artists to a dedicated and loyal clientele and public in a Latin American context.

Both a local and an international fair, Arteaméricas provided a well-organized, yet casual setting in which the general public, museum curators and art critics could view and purchase the works on display, or simply gain a privileged insight into the current market conditions for contemporary Latin American art reflected in this exceptional showcase.

Arteaméricas has indeed demonstrated that the Latin American art market was eagerly looking forward to the creation of a vast space of freedom which would expertly combine the traditional and the modern, young art and the art of time-honored masters such as Torres García, Soto, Figari and Gurvich, among others.

Strengthened by this new experience, and because of the existence in Miami of a true multicultural tradition, Arteaméricas has undoubtedly become an interesting art fair, on the rise within the American market, concentrating in its ambit the different types of sensitivity and forms of expression that will contribute to a more accurate perspective of the different nuances within the context of the Continent.

Arteaméricas also presented a parallel exhibition, "Ephemeral/Trends II", curated by Milagros Bello. This show invaded in a creative way alternative areas of the Convention Center such as outdoor spaces, ceilings, entrance halls and corridors.

Specially noteworthy in this exhibition were Sylvia Riquezes's welcoming floral installation on the left of the entrance door, the palm-tree interventions in the front garden area by Guerra de la Paz, and Pablo Contrisciani's paintings in the box-office and entrance door areas.

Conspicuous as the best galleries in the show were the Brazilian participants, Tomas Cohn and Brito Cimino galleries, with an outstanding representation of both contemporary and classic Brazilian and international artists, including Lygia Clark, Cildo Meireles, Helio Oiticica, Nelson Leirner, Guillermo Kuitca, and Sang, among others.

Ramis Barquet Gallery (New York-Monterrey) presented an interesting show that included small format paintings by Ruben Mendez, Betsabé Romeros's intervened tires, and Ernesto Pujol's large-scale photographs.

The selection of Venezuelan galleries included Durban Segnini, Ascaso, Ninoska Huerta, Juan Ruiz and Spatium.

The three named in the first place presented a rather classic selection of masters that comprised Jesús Soto, Cruz Diez, Osvaldo Vigas, Victor Valera, Alirio Palacios, Carmelo Niño, and Fernando De Szyszlo, while Spatium showed a more contemporary selection that included younger artists such as Aimée García and Williams Carmona.

Isabel Aninat Art Gallery, from Chile, presented paintings and drawings by the young artist Matías Movillo that were great successes at the fair. His paintings were extremely evocative, and in the series featuring sleeping people, it was hard to distinguish the boundaries between realistic drawing and surreal painting. A huge deconstructed and subsequently mended canvas painted in shades of gray by the young artist Fran was also among the works that stood out.

This gallery also featured an important selection of works by the constructivist painter José Gurvich, one of Joaquín Torres-García's closest disciples.

The Miami-based Cuban artist Rubén Torres Llorca presented a solo show at Bryon C. Cohen Gallery of Kansas City. His installations, small, medium, and large-format paintings, a couple of sculptures made with natural materials and the use of emblematic works speak of personal thoughts related to humankind and the social world.

Mary Ann Martin Fine Art, from New York, one of the participating American galleries, presented an important selection of artists, as diverse as Gunther Gerzso, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo and Alfredo Castañeda.

Elena Climent, from Mexico, and the young Panamanian-American artist Isabel de Obaldía, represented the new generation of artists. Isabel de Obaldía presented an impressive selection of her most recent work, glass sculptures featuring torsos that reflect her discourse on the body and the senses. Mackey Gallery, from Houston, offered a wise selection of photographs by Francisco Larios, paintings by Arturo Riviera, and small-format Duratrans by the Argentine artist Luciana Abait.

Needless to say, the fair was successful from a commercial point of view, Botero, Torres García, Gerzso and Gurvich being among the big selling hits.

On the other hand, artists such as K-cho, José Bedia and Ernesto Pujol were exhibited widely in different galleries, probably as an attempt to define the paradigm of "Latin American contemporary art".

Karpio-Facchini Gallery, Alejandra Von Hartz and Diana Lowenstein presented great contemporary artworks. Karpio Facchini showcased Darío Escobar's deflated giant soccer ball, Adriana Carvallo's metal penises, and Federico Uribe's torsos in different materials ?spoons, coins and typewriter keys. Von Hartz offered José Luis Anzizar's marvelous shoes and an important recent production of the Guatemalan photographer Luis González-Palma.

This gallery also presented one of the most subtle and powerful pieces in the fair, the giant gong by the Argentine sculptress Susana Lescano. Galería Sur, from Uruguay, offered an amazing selection of works by Torres-García and Gurvich, and several installations by Miguel Herrera, made with bread loaves and shoes.

Also worthy of mention were the works of the Argentine artists Raúl Díaz and Ernesto Berra, represented by Jerald Melberg Gallery, of North Carolina.

Among the most interesting cutting-edge artists was the Korean-born, São- Paulo based Sang Won Sung, who showed several samples of his cute plastic little pop dolls, the typical consumer product, at Tomas Cohn Gallery.

The way in which each gallery defends its concept of "the Latin American", adapting it to what the market acknowledges as such, is quite remarkable. For instance, two renowned contemporary artists such as the Mexican Gabriel Orozco and the Venezuelan José Antonio Hernández-Diez were absent from this event. Could it be that their works do not meet the concept or the definition of "the Latin American" that collectors seek?

Arteaméricas, The Latin American Art Fair, will continue to be an exceptional showcase for the art of America, of the American Continent, with the hope that future editions will include a stronger presence of galleries from the United States and Canada, as well as theoretical seminars that may provide conceptual support to the Latin frame.

Becoming an art collector, art dealer, curator or simply a spectator, does not only imply following one's own personal obsessions, but also taking part in the production of symbolic goods, definitions and registers in the world of art.

The recent boom of art fairs allows art to be shown in different contexts and increases the possibilities for a more immediate and direct dialogue between artists, the general public, and the specialized one.