Artists are Drawn to Miami, a Rising Art Hub – The New York Times

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The respect for art in South Florida has made it a “cozy” place for people to come — and stay for work and to build a following.

Mia Rodriguez was 7 when she first went to Art Basel Miami Beach. And she has gone almost every year since. Her parents walked her through the exhibits at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Teachers took her there on field trips.


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“It was so influential,” she said over the phone from Tufts University just outside Boston. She is a junior studying fine arts. “I could see the art market. I could see the artists. I could see this is what I wanted to do — share my art and my emotion with people, connect with people through my art.”

Ms. Rodriguez was born in Miami in 2003, a year after Art Basel Miami Beach opened. She studied at art schools in Miami and won a full scholarship to Tufts. She is one of perhaps thousands of artists who call Miami home. Many were born in Miami. But many others have come here, excited by Art Basel and the chance to grow in a city where art thrives.

For some artists, though, Miami has become perhaps too much. They see rising costs and the hyped culture of celebrities and the ultrarich as threats.

Still, they keep coming.

No one knows exactly how many artists live in Miami and the great arc that runs from a little south of Miami to Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, about 75 miles to the north. But it is a lot more than when Art Basel Miami Beach opened.

“There’s a thriving community of hundreds if not thousands of artists living locally and very actively exhibiting and showing their work,” said Noah Horowitz, the chief executive of Art Basel, which now mounts fairs in Basel, Switzerland, where Art Basel started, Miami, Hong Kong and Paris.

Since moving to Miami in 2021, José Delgado Zúñiga had a show at the Central Fine gallery and has been getting ready for a show at the opening of Miami Art Week at Marquez Art Projects. His “Alter-Altar” was completed this year. The artist

Artists have been living and working in Miami for decades. But by 2001 Norman Braman, who made a fortune as a car dealer, art collector and owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, his wife, Irma, and a handful of other collectors had persuaded Art Basel to come to Miami. The attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 canceled Art Basel that year. But it came on strong in 2002 and it is still building.

“Art Basel has been the elevator, that catalyst,” said Mr. Horowitz. It has been the magnet, he said, that has enormously helped Miami become a cultural city.

Miami Beach has spent $600 million modernizing the Miami Beach Convention Center, where 277 galleries will be showing work this week at Art Basel Miami Beach. A handful of nonprofit organizations provide studios for artists and the Knight Foundation has poured tens of millions into Miami’s art institutions. Miami and the larger Miami-Dade County have been generous, too.

For many artists, Miami has a cozy feeling. “There’s much more connectivity here,” said Bonnie Clearwater, the director and chief curator at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale.

“Even in New York,” she said, “I don’t think emerging artists can sit down with the directors of the top museums just by popping in. That’s been my focus all along — seeking out artists that are either emerging or are already established in South Florida but haven’t been getting the attention their work warrants.”

Antonia Wright, 43, who lived in Montana, New York, Latin America and Europe before coming home to Miami, has just finished building a sculpture for a show called “Making Miami” in the Miami Design District. The exhibit covers the years of art in Miami from 1996 to 2012, showing a little of Miami before Art Basel and up to the 10th anniversary of the fair.

Miami used to be a haven from the high cost of living in New York. But during the pandemic, high rollers from finance and high tech began moving in and prices have soared. Some artists have decided they can’t stay. But others are still coming, and some come in and out.

“Miami has always had this transient feeling,” said Anthony Spinello, the owner of the gallery Spinello Projects. “And people are from everywhere. It often feels like you’re in another country.”

“From a Hum to a Scream, Loud Enough to be The Only Sound” (2022), by Jared McGriff, will be on view at the Historic Hampton House. Since he moved to Miami six years ago, Mr. McGriff’s career has taken off.Spinello Projects

Zoe Lukov is a curator. She lives in Los Angeles now. But she comes to Miami to work on projects. This year she and others have brought together 25 artists — from Miami and elsewhere — to show their work in the Historic Hampton House, a place where Black entertainers and athletes like Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and Muhammad Ali stayed when they had business in Miami Beach. (In those days, Black people could not stay overnight at the Beach.) Much of the art at the Hampton House is from Beth Rudin DeWoody and her Bunker Artspace, a privately owned museum in West Palm Beach.

One of Ms. Lukov’s artists at Hampton House is Jared McGriff. He moved to Miami from the San Francisco Bay Area six years ago and his career took off.

He had his first solo show at Ms. Clearwater’s NSU museum. Through Mr. Spinello’s gallery, he sold all six of his paintings at the Armory Show in New York, and he is showing his work this year at Art Basel in Spinello’s booth and the Vielmetter Los Angeles booth.

New York wasn’t working for José Delgado Zúñiga. He had received a degree at Columbia University in fine arts. He had been hanging out with artists. But he wasn’t getting any shows. He moved to Miami at the end of 2021. He had a show at Central Fine, a gallery in the north end of Miami Beach, and for the last several months he has been making paintings for a show at the opening of Miami Art Week at Marquez Art Projects, a new private museum by John Marquez, a Miami real estate developer and restaurant owner.

The new museum, opened in late September, is in the Allapattah section, near the Rubell Museum Miami, the El Espacio 23 museum and several new art galleries. It’s Miami’s new art frontier.

Works by the artist Loriel Beltrán will be presented at Art Basel Miami Beach this week, including his “Anachronistic Landscape (or ‘the promenade’)” (2023). the artist and CENTRAL FINE, Miami Beach; photo Zachary Balber

Loriel Beltrán is one of the artists also showing in the new Marquez Art Projects. Mr. Beltrán grew up in Miami and graduated with an arts degree from Miami’s New World School of the Arts. A year later, one of his professors, Fredric Snitzer, a Miami art dealer, showed one of his works at Art Basel. That was nearly 20 years ago.

But he’s on a roll now. He showed some of his works at the Lehmann Maupin gallery in Seoul just before Art Basel Miami Beach. He’ll be in the Lehmann Maupin space at Art Basel Miami Beach and is also showing at Central Fine. Next year he’ll be exhibiting at the Lehmann Maupin gallery in London.

Mr. Beltrán has been disappointed by the glitz of Art Basel Miami Beach, the global celebrities and the global wealth. The success, he said, “has taken away something.” Art Basel Miami Beach has been good for him. But he liked the quieter Miami.

Ms. Rodriguez, the Tufts student, has been working with textiles lately. She’s not sure what she’ll do when she graduates in 2025. But she knows she’s an artist and she knows she will be working in art. She was drawing before she could talk, she says. Art Basel did not make her an artist. But it helped her see the world as an artist. It was an inspiration.

“Seeing the art at the fair was very reaffirming,” she said. “It helped me see what I wanted to do. I think it has helped lots of artists.”

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