Miami's Post-Basel Art Scene Promises the Same Great Exhibits Without the Crowds
From "New Shamans/Novos Xamãs: Brazilian Artists," at the Rubell Family Collection.
The tents have emptied. The crowds have flown home. The roads have cleared — by Miami standards, at least. Another Miami Art Week has come and gone, and if you're one of the thousands of frustrated South Florida commuters, you likely stayed far away from its epicenters in South Beach and Wynwood last week.
Lucky for you, culture in Miami doesn't begin and end with Basel. Many of the same shows that had out-of-towners clogging the causeways last week are still on view, giving you the chance to witness world-class works of art without the hassle.
In the case of the Rubell Family Collection, it could also be your last chance to wander the Wynwood warehouse where the family has shown its impressive, thoughtfully curated art for the past two decades. Plans for a new, 100,000-square-foot museum in nearby Allapattah were announced last week, with a completion date of Art Basel 2018. But the RFC plans to sell its current home, a former DEA warehouse used to store confiscated contraband, to prepare for the move, meaning the exhibits that debuted there during Miami Art Week might be the building's last.
Those exhibits include "High Anxiety: New Acquisitions," a collection of work by 32 American artists tackling the social and political issues that have polarized the nation in recent years. From Paul Kneale's Event Horizon — in which a neon halo hovers above a metal wastebasket from Miami Beach, simultaneously skewering religion, consumerism, and environmental policy — to Frank Benson's Juliana, a 3D printed nude sculpture of a seductively posed figure with a teal manicure and a penis, the pieces on view here could reignite the political spats you suffered around the dinner table this past Thanksgiving.
Rubell's other offering, "New Shamans/Novos Xamãs: Brazilian Artists," reflects the Rubell family's travels to Brazil. The work of 12 up-and-coming artists takes over the building's entire first floor with paintings, installations, photos, and sculptures that promise to address "universal environmental, social, and political concerns" from a Brazilian perspective.
Rubell is hardly the only art space with politically resonant work. Prizm Art Fair was just one of the dozens of Art Basel satellites that launched last week but one of the only events dedicated to artists from the African diaspora. It's also continuing its run through this Sunday, a full week longer than most of its counterparts. For 2016, Prizm moved to a new location in Little Haiti, coinciding with this year's theme: exploring "the global impact of Africa's cultural DNA." Works by more than 40 artists from around the world remain on view, dissecting blackness in unique and diverse ways. New York artist Nyugen Smith, who staged a musical performance art piece exploring Haitian history and culture last week, will continue exhibiting his arresting collage work, which delves into similar themes, for the duration of the fair.
Meanwhile, in Overtown, the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater is hosting an exhibit dissecting one of the most famous black men in the world: Barack Obama. When "Visions of Our 44th President Barack Obama" debuted last week, news of Fidel Castro's death, noisier Art Basel events, and the frightening follies of President-elect Donald Trump overshadowed the exhibit. But the show featuring 44 life-size busts of the first and only black U.S. president, each uniquely decorated by a different black artist, proves that even though Obama's term is coming to an end, the culture of the nation isn't finished examining its meaning — especially given the successor waiting in the wings.
"Through artistic expression, 'Visions' celebrates the accomplishments we have been able to achieve together, as a community, over the past eight years," Timothy A. Barber, executive director of the Black Archives, says in a statement. "Our goal is that this exhibit will extend beyond race, social status, or party affiliation to highlight the common threads among us and inspire a continued togetherness as this country moves into its next chapter."
The World Erotic Art Museum doesn't get much respect, relative to Miami's other cultural institutions. But this year's "Protected Beauty," a well-timed partnership with the Kinsey Institute, should help. It's a collection of photographs, prints, drawings, and paintings spanning nearly a century, all of which offer a different take on masculine beauty: a Michael Miksche print of two sailors in an embrace, for instance, or Pavel Tchelitchew's lovingly rendered ink drawing of a young man sleeping. The works are part of a collection started by pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, on loan from the Kinsey Institute, including renowned gay artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Paul Cadmus.
"Because of overarching societal mores, the art world shunning gay artists, and the very real possibility of being fined and/or imprisoned under strict obscenity laws, the depiction of men as beautiful and desirable was nearly impossible to present to the public for a very long time," says Rebecca Fasman, Kinsey Institute manager of traveling exhibitions. "Many of the works in this exhibition came to the Kinsey Institute's collection at a time when there were no other repositories that would accept work that presented male beauty outside of societally accepted contexts."
Times have changed, but in a year that saw the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando — the deadliest hate crime against the LGBT community in U.S. history — "Protected Beauty" still feels like a necessary salve.