Miami Heats Up
Powerhouse collectors, exceptional city support for public sculpture and a strong Latin American presence shape the character of the Miami art community.
The first part of this article explored Miami's transition from cultural backwater to active participant in the international contemporary-art scene, focusing on the city's numerous museums: the downtown Miami Art Museum (MAM), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in North Miami, the Bass Art Museum in Miami Beach, the Lowe Art Museum of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida International University's (FIU's) Art Museum, located on the school campus west of downtown Miami, and its newly acquired Wolfsonian (a museum devoted to international design of the period 1880-1940) in Miami Beach. Consonant with Greater Miami's dynamic growth over the last 15 years, most of these institutions are expanding, and because most of them focus on local and international contemporary art as well as Latin American art, there is considerable overlap and even competitiveness among them. Even the Wolfsonian has recently become involved with local artists (commissioning projects from Michelle Weinberg, Annie Wharton and Maria Gonzalez) to supplement museum exhibitions. The result of this mix of activities is a lively art scene.
This concluding section of the report will profile Mian~'s collectors, commercial galleries, nonprofit art spaces and public art. As in Part 1, individual artists will be discussed in cor~junction with the institutions, galleries or collections in which their work is displayed.
Private Collection/ Public Function
In the early '90s, New York collectors Donald and Mera Rubell began dividing their time between New York and Miami Beach, after their son, Jason, settled in the area and opened a gallery devoted to contemporary art in Palm Beach and another later on Lincoln Road (both were short-lived). They bought office buildings in Miami and a few run-down hotels in South Beach, which they refurbished into boutique hotels. In 1994 they purchased a 40,000-square-foot, two-story warehouse (formerly a federal drug confiscation facility) to house and show part of their personal collection and that of their son. The collection includes more than 1,000 works-about 10 percent on display at any given time, in yearlong installations-and is currently open to the public Friday through Sunday and by appointment.
While "Hanging #3," the current installation, includes a few earlier works (Beuys's 1970 Felt Suit and a 1975 Andre floor piece), 1980 seems to be the decisive point of inauguration, with major pieces by Fischl, Clemente, Basquiat, Sherman, Prince, Bleckner and Koons, among others, dating to around that year. The collection also features works by Trockel, Hirst, Mufioz, Fritsch, Boltanski, Morimura, the Chapmans, Ruff (whose monumental Polaroid portraits of Don and Mera Rubell bang with the collection) and many others, and includes painting, sculpture, photography, film, video and installation works. Part of the new presentation is a room with 20 Haring drawings from 1989; a gallery devoted to contemporary German photographers (Struth, Demand, Gursky, Mucha, Richter and others); a room filled with figurative paintings by women artists (Kim Dingle, Cecily Brown, Adriana Varajdo and Sue Williams); and a space in which to view six William Kentridge films, Among the installations in "Hanging #3" are Paul McCarthy's Painter (1995), which consists of a stage set, props including giant tubes of paint and brushes and a video satirizing the painting process; Kara Walker's Camptown Ladies (1998), a cut-paper panorama parodying antebefluni AfricanAmerican stereotypes; and Jos6 Bedia's Navftagios (1996), in which an actual boat used to transport refugees from Cuba is surrounded by objects and images (such as deity figures painted on the wall) symbolizing hopes for safe passage.
A relatively recent acquisition, The Pursust of Love (1990) by Miami-based Pablo Cano, is not shown in this hanging, but is worthy of mention. It is an installation piece in the form of a marionette theater. The Rubells saw it exhibited and performed at MoCA in 1997. Gasoline cans, washtubs and other discarded materials, including hundreds of sheets of cigarette-package foil, are transformed into graceful (and radiant) marionettes.
Until a few months ago, with the exception of Bedia, Cano and the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres (who for a time made Miami his home), the only other Miami artist represented in the collection was Mark Handforth, the assemblagist mentioned in Part I of this article, who had at one time served as manager of the collection. Then, in January 1999, the Rubells purchased the work of Naomi Fisher and Norberto (Bert) Rodriguez from an exhibition at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. In May they bought the contents of the studio of Purvis Young, a self-taught Miami-based artist who paints gritty, poetic images of life in Overtown, the black inner-city neighborhood where he lives. Young's studio held about 10 years of work and included hundreds of pieces, many of them paintings on scraps of wood, cardboard, books or old doors. While this was not the first time the Rubells have purchased the work of a single artist in depth-they had previously bought multiple works by Haring, Condo, Koons, Salle and others-their new focus on Miami artists has begun to reverberate in South Florida and elsewhere. (Fredric Snitzer' s first show devoted to the work of Young was held in August and September of this year.)
Amy Cappellazzo became director and chief curator of the collection in August 1998. The hiring of Cappellazzo was a happy one for the Miami art scene as a whole, given the pivotal role she had already played as both curator and educator (which will be discussed below); it seemed to be yet another indication of the Rubells' commitment to the Miami art community, which has grown in large part as a response to public interest in the collection. Miami students, artists, university faculty and museum staff members regularly use it as an educational resource; an international array of art dealers, artists and tourists visit with increasing frequency. As director of the collection, Cappellazzo oversaw the reinstallation and cocurated the collection show presented at the University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa last summer. Among the public programs offered by the collection in 1999 have been lectures by cultural critic Ralph Rugoff and by artist Janine Antoni. Cappellazzo left at the end of May to pursue independent writing and curatorial projects (among them the New York Public Library's current exhibition on the artistic collaborations of the poet Robert Creeley and an essay for Cantz Verlag's forth-coming monograph on Antoni).
The Nonprofit Sector
Miami-Dade Community College (MDCQ, located in the heart of downtown Miami, is a school of 126,000 students, 60 percent of whom are Hispanic. The college is a major force in the citys cultural life, annually hosting the Miami Book Fair, the Miami Film Festival and such visual and performing arts festivals as the "Cultura del Lobo" series, begun in 1990, whose mandate is "to present to Miami audiences the newest, most challenging contemporary and culturally specific work being created in the U.S. and abroad." The college's noncollecting galleries, which have recently been reduced from three to two, consistently manage to do just that, despite the fact that they operate on a shoestring and occupy wholly undistinguished quarters: small, cramped and low-ceilinged (one gallery is little more than a window-display space).
MDCC's reputation for showing cutting-edge art in Miami was established by the late Sheldon Lurie, who gave many Cuban artists their first solo shows. He was followed by Cappellazzo, who directed the galleries from 1994 to '97 and presented some of the most adventurous and intelligent exhibitions to be seen in Miami. Among the many traveling shows she curated were "Two Cents: Works on Paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Poetry by Kevin Young" (October 1995) and "Passing" (February 1996), a thought-provoking video piece commissioned from the New York-based artist team Leone and Macdonald in which hundreds of Miamians (African- American, Hispanic, Jewish, Asian and other) talk about their experiences of passing for another race or nationality.
Because of the space limitations, in 1996 Cappellazzo arranged to present two exhibitions at the Bass Art Museum."Real: Figurative Narratives in Contemporary African-American Art" (with works by Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker, Philemona Williamson and others) opened in December of that year, and "Desert Cliches" (discussed in Part I of this article) was shown in April 1997. Cappellazzo taught classes at MDCC structured around work in the Rubel] Family Collection. She also organized public lectures and symposia which were held in the collection galleries, such as one she moderated with Jos6 Bedia and writer, critic and performance artist Coco Fusco when Bedia's piece was installed. Cappellazzo left Miami to become curator of exhibitions at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. A little over a year later, she returned to Miami to assume directorship of the Rubell Family Collection.
Goran Tomcic, a Croatian poet and curator who came to Miami from New York, was named director of the MDCC galleries in June 1998. He expects to uphold the galleries' commitment to the international avant-garde. Tonicic will curate a retrospective of works on paper by Croatian poet-turned-artist Mangelos.
In January 1999, the MDCC galleries presented"Glexis Novoa: Te quiero. Tb quiero. Te quiero.," in which a letter from Novoa's 80-year-old grandmother in Cuba was transcribed on the gallery wall in such a way as to suggest a distant landscape (the rows of script grew from small to large as they moved down the wall). Three facing display cases held the original letter as well as little altarlike assemblages. Another recent solo was "Eugenia Vargas: The Abject Body," organized by independent curator Tami Katz-Freiman, which presented an extreme contrast to Novoa's sentimental and engaging work. The grisly and disturbing installa tion by the Chilean-born, Mexico-based Vargas involved video monitors set into transparent hospital bassinets that displayed images of deformed babies reproduced from a late- 19th-century Argentine medical book. Through digital video animation, Vargas "breathed life" into dead babies (e.g., a swollen belly rose and fell, a hole in a small head throbbed), forcing viewers to confront these tragedies.
While the galleries at MDCC maintain an international perspective, ArtCenter/South Florida largely focuses on Miami. A nonprofit organization founded in 1984 to aid area artists, the ArtCenter leased 21 storefronts on what was then the derelict Lincoln Road to provide low-cost studio space for artists. Three large buildings were purchased to house shared equipment and workspaces (darkrooms, lithographic presses, etc.), as well as studios, classrooms and exhibition galleries. The gentrification of Lincoln Road followed. In 1998, the ArtCenter sold one of its buildings for more than $4 million. The money win be used to renovate and expand its remaining properties and to fund programs.
The quality of the work produced at the ArtCenter is uneven, perhaps because many artists have been there from the beginning, when a quasi-open admissions policy held sway. Jane Gilbert, director from 1995 to '98, worked to raise standards for both artist members and exhibitions. Today some of Miami's more interesting artists, amJFg_them Robert Flynn, Annie Wharton, Nina Fe , William Cordova, Karina Chechik and Jorge Pantoja, have studios at the ArtCenter, which serves as a gathering place for talented and ambitious young Miami artists. Gilbert's successor, Gary Knight, arrived in late September 1998 (after a long career in health-care management). He envisions the establishment of ArtCenter/ Americas, which will attract artists from around the globe, each being selected by jury and coming for tip to two years. This international center will function primarily as an educational institution providing lowcost studio space while helping young artists learn to promote their work, build their careers and support themselves by teaching (the ArtCenter offers various art classes).
Related to the ArtCenter's focus on education was the January '99 exhibition "The Art of Work, The Work of Art," which paired 15 ArtCenter artists with 15 nonartists (political analyst, plastic surgeon, accountant, social worker, etc.) to produce portraits of one another after becoming acquainted.
"Degartures/Arrivals," which opened in April, marked the new, more international focus. Five Argentine artists who have studios there-Luciana Abait, Karina Chechik, Pablo Contrisciani, Daniel Fiorda and Carolina Sardi-expiored the experiences of departing their country and arriving in South Florida. An evocative diptych by Chechik depicted railroad tracks receding into the distance while a ceiling with wires and beams grew larger in the foreground; inscribed on the panels were words of Jorge Luis Borges which translate as "he who moves away from h is house has already returned." The exhibition "Currently: ArtFocus 1, Summer 1999" featured the work of five young Miami artists who received the ArtCenter's first visual-arts fellowships ($1,000 and free studio space for two months). Selected by Tomcic and Katz-Freiman, the artists were Frank Benson, Luis Campos, Ximena Carrion, Leslie Merry and Wendy Wischer. Benson's inscrutable narrative photographs and Wischer's rubber suit in the shape of the artist's body set beside a "breathing" tub of water (achieved via video projection) were of particular interest.
The Latin Gallery Scene
As explained in Part 1, Miami has two distinct art scenes which rarely overlap, a conservative one devoted to Latin American art and another showing edgier international contemporary art. While this concept may seem confusing to outsiders, especially since the majority of artists rising to prominence in Miami as part of the international contemporary-art scene are Latin, in Miami the divisions are clear. Photography, video, installations and conceptual works are not seen at the Latin American galleries, which show work based in painting and sculpture and modernist or folk traditions. The Latin galleries tend to sell pricey works by established masters like Botero, Lam and Matta, while also representing a vast stable of artists from throughout the Americas (some of whom eventually relocate to Miami). The most prominent galleries occupy storefronts on upscale Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables. Their clients, both corporate and private, come from across Latin America; they are drawn to Miami particularly in January, the time of both the Miami Art -Fair, with its high concentration of Latin work, and the Latin American Art Auction, organized by Coral Gablesbased art dealer Gary Nader (the sixth annual event, last January, grossed about $4 million).
Nader, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, moved to Miami in 1986 and opened a gallery devoted to Caribbean and Latin American art in Coconut Grove. In 1992, he relocated to Ponce de Leon Boulevard, where he now occupies two nearly adjacent storefronts. In 1903, he founded Gary Nader Editions, which publishes high-quality full-color catalogues of his gallery exhibitions (with introductions by leading critics) as well as his auction catalogues and the Latin American Art 1'rice Guide, an annual fisting of the year's auction records for paintings, sculptures and works on paper by Latin artists.
Solo shows at his gallery in recent years have been devoted to Botero, Lam, Matta, Armando Morales, Mufioz Vera, Augustin FernAndez, Tony Capellan and Nicolds Leiva. In an April 1999 show, the inventive Cuban artist Manuel Mendive demonstrated the range of his production: paintings, collage paintings and canvases stitched to variously shaped iron frames, as well as bronze and iron sculptures and furniture (two large wooden chairs). Inspired by folk-art traditions and by the artist's Yoruba (Afro-Cuban) religion, the work is imbued with a gentle spirit and sense of wonder.
Nader bills itself as the "Foremost Latin American Art Gallery," and, indeed, the range of its activities assures that it occupies a central place in Greater Miami's Latin art scene. Further, the quality of work shown tends to be extremely high. While the same cannot be said for all of the art spaces on Ponce, many galleries can be depended upon to show strong, interesting work. The Coral Gables branch of BogotA's Quintana Gallery has been in operation for more than four years. In April 1999 it presented a Botero exhibition together with a smaller show of masterful, tightly rendered still-life paintings of fruit and leaves by Colombian artist Hermann Camargo. Quintana has also exhibited work by Claudio Bravo, Alfiredo Castafieda, Miguel Angel Rios and Julio Galdn.
Elite Fine Art recently featured dreamlike paintings in jewel colors by Guatemalan painter Elmar Rojas, followed by an exhibition of edgy, realistically detailed visionary paintings by Panamanian artist Brooke Alfaro (whose works stood out in the Bass Art Museum's "Crosscurrents: Paintings from Panama" last winter). The lushly beautiful small-scale swimming-pool paintings of Colombian artist Pedro Ruiz were included in the "Little Jewels" exhibition held at The Americas Collection, another Ponce gallery, in April of this year. Liliana Golubinsky's February exhibition consisted of extremely impressive romantic works in glowing colors, which seem to chronicle the futility of war. The Buenos Aires
based artist overlaps loosely painted maps with soldiers and annies on horseback derived from medieval and other paintings; handwritten texts and arrows indicating paths of movement are superimposed. This fall the gallery offers a group show of Nicaraguan artists and solos for Armando Lara (Honduras) and Sebastian Spreng (Argentina).
The Freites-Revilla Gallery in Coral Gables has been in existence for three years; it is a branch of a Caracas gallery that has also had a branch in Boca Raton since 1989. Last April the Coral Gables space presented a strong show of large oil-and. charcoal drawings on canvas by Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios, a Cuban artist who has lived in Mexico City since 1991. The works in this first U.S. solo were suggestively physical, even muscular, versions of the artist's sculptures, which combine architectural elements with soft pillow forms. The contrast between the bold graphic patterns and strong colors of the pillows' fabrics and the blankness of the architectural elements is engaging, as is the interaction within each work between hard and soft, geometric and (seemingly) organic. In one of the rare overlappings in Miami's two gallery scenes, Freites-Revilla this fall presented solo shows devoted to the work of Cuban-born Miami artists Ana Albertina Delgado (who formerly exhibited with the cutting-edge Ambrosino Gallery) and Rub6n Torres Llorca (formerly with Snitzer), These exceptions are to be followed in winter and