Art Miami VIP Sneak Preview Shines

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Art Miami, just a stone’s throw away from Haute Living’s front door, proves itself yet again. Not that it needs to. As a 20-year veteran, the city’s original and longest-running contemporary art fair and anchor fair for the City of Miami has only ripened and become more prolific with age. 

Granted, the fair’s new ownership team may have a thing or two to do with it. Art Miami LLC, a partnership comprised of Mike Tansey, Brian Tyler and Art Fair Show Director Nick Korniloff, acquired the contemporary fair from Summit Business Media in July, renewing its commitment to the city and its charitable partners, most notably the Lotus House Woman’s Shelter, which kicked off the evening with a benefit for their endowment fund. The fair presented the parent Sundari Foundation with a $10,000 check and served as the sponsor of the foundation’s 5th annual fall fundraiser in October. Yet another commitment? The brand spanking new 80,000 square feet of fresh concrete on which the fair sits, and will continue to do so for the next three years. 

“We’re very much interested in continuing to build our infrastructure and our foundation, literally and within the community in Miami and make sure that the fair is on for another 20 editions,” said Korniloff, who began his involvement with the fair in the early 90s, working on the technical side at the Miami Beach Convention Center before moving into his role as Fair Director in 2008. “We have great VIP services, transportation and accommodations, as well as great sponsors supporting us, creating value and benefits for everyone who attends. These are our commitments and our initiatives, besides the fact that we have wonderful, high-quality art here representing every diameter of the contemporary market, so it’s very diverse. There’s a lot of depth to the fair, definitely something for everyone.” 

Wisely hosting its VIP event just a day earlier than Art Basel’s much-anticipated Vernissage, the smaller, less ostentatious, yet equally as gratifying fair presented works from over 80 international and local contemporary galleries to an expectant crowd of bargain-hunting collectors and wine-wielding aficionados. Emerging and established artists were selected for their range of quality and affordability with everything from Latin to modern to classical art— strategic, careful and respectful decisions made by Korniloff and his partners. And smart, because let’s face it, not everyone can afford high-dollar art in today’s economy. 

While classic modern pieces from known greats Picasso, Chagall, and Matta were showcased by London-based Olyvia Fine Art, most notable to me were some of the more raw, emerging artists. The C. Grimaldis Gallery’s Chul-Hyun Ahn, for example, the Korean-born artist whose light and mirror constructions of optical illusions, quite literally, had me mesmerized by their tunnel vision-inducing beauty. Case in point: his 2008 piece simply titled “Branch”. Constructed using mirrors, lights, plywood and tree branches, it was one of the most eye-catching pieces of the evening. 

Other notable installations included “Structure of Thought #13” by Doug and Mike Starn in the Hackelbury Fine Art Gallery, delicately intricate inkjet prints of trees and their roots on Thai mulberry, gampi and tissue papers with wax, encaustic and varnish, and the Barry Friedman Ltd. Gallery’s “The All Most” by Ian Ingram, a stoic portrait using charcoal, ink, beeswax, string and silver leaf. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a wacky Miami art fair without a few token ridiculously quirky, head-scratching installations. The 80s-inspired white umbrella lamp with bananas held by shot glasses and enough monkey stuffed animals at the base and crown to induce an asthma attack was oddly in place, as was a single yellow ribbon hanging on a nail. Artistic manifestation or the snagged remains of some young hipster’s outfit? One can’t be sure.

Quirky, classical, or cutting-edge, one thing is for certain—the eclectic display at Art Miami was worth the trip. The fair will run through this Sunday, December 6.

“I think it’s really important that both the city of Miami and the people who come out to support this fair know that we are grateful for their support and the city means a lot to us,” said Korniloff. “We think we’re in a symbiotic relationship with the city, with the initiatives of many of the charitable organizations, and we only want that to grow. We’re very committed to maintaining our Miami roots, and we’re also committed, now that we’re on the international platform, to grow as the years come, to continue to highlight Miami and elevate it to an even greater level now and in the future. We are grateful for the opportunity.”