This has been a most outstanding year so far for black art artists and collectors at Art Basel Miami, Miami Art Fair and dozens of satellite fairs around Miami and the wider South Florida and it’s not over.
The afterglow includes several additional openings, such as an exhibition by the Kuumba Artists Collective, shows that will remain open and additional gallery installations. Be sure to stop by the Little Haiti Cultural Center Gallery. This January’s “Second Saturday” art gallery walk in Wynwood will, no doubt, contain much of the flavor that just took place at Art Basel.
For the past two years, I have been urging all of you to learn more and to get involved and participate in this serious movement: the promotion of black art and artists and elevating the dialogue about their work and what impact it has on society and the marketplace of ideas and the politics of producing and collecting black art.
This year offered a feast, including a lively debate about the very definition of black art that took place at the University of Miami’s third annual discussion of “Contemporary African Diaspora Fine Art.” Frederick John Eversley, an established mainstream sculptor, showing at the first Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland, says of himself that, while he is black, he is the anti-black artist, suggesting that any label other than “artist” marginalizes him and, therefore, reduces him to second-class status in the otherwise lily white art world.
Responses came from panelists Tuliza Fleming, curator for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Laurence Choko, a Paris-based gallerist; Julie Walker, journalist and cultural critic for The Root; Juanita Hardy, president of Millennium Arts Salon, Washington, D.C.; and Ludlow Bailey, curator and art broker.
Black Art in America (blackartinamerica.com) established a strong foothold in town with its promotional campaign using the slogan, “Do You Basel?”
So, did you Basel?
Here are a few other highlights from my week at Art Basel.
First, I realized, once again, that art speaks no written language as I watched my 2-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter’s visceral response to what she saw as I strolled her around SCOPE Art Fair. She pointed to what interested her, from the flaming tower of television screens to the reflecting pieces of fractured glass, to the tower of cartoon-covered boxes. It was a valuable lesson for me to remember that all our senses are involved and words are inadequate to describe the feelings that art provokes and the little children do lead us.
During the Black Art in America-sponsored workshops at the Wolfsonian Museum, I learned from Patric McCoy, Chicago patron and advocate of black art, that we should all be art collectors, that we need to declare ourselves so and that too many of us don’t because of four myths: we think we need to be rich; we think we need to have encyclopedic knowledge before we collect; we think we need to keep our collections private; and we think we should magically know the market value of every piece in our collection. I am an art collector and, there, I said it.
An eye-opening discussion followed Patric’s presentation that continued into a panel presentation in which I participated. It included one of only a handful of black certified appraisers of black art, Diane Dinkins-Carr. She underscored the necessity of having our work appraised, especially for insurance purposes. Panelist Celeste Beatty of the Harlem Brewing Company inherited a major collection which she uses to support nonprofits by donating appraised pieces for their fundraising auctions.
So much to see, so little time, so I read the newsletter published by Robbie Bell, who collected daily updates on matters such as where to go and which artists to see, that were well researched and full of useful information. To subscribe to her newsletter, visit gotorobbiebell.info.
Art Africa, in its second year, was bigger and better and will grow into a significant presence next year. Kudos to Neil Hall for this effort.
The Ward Rooming House, under the auspices of the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, is now an art gallery and will rotate its collection of local artists, including Pervis Young, Oscar Thomas and Ferdie Pacheco, every month. Be sure to visit this restored gem of a building in the Historic Overtown Folk Life Village.
So, did you Basel?
Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org