Under the Big Tent

While the visual arts have become a powerful force in South Florida over the past decade, the last thing most people thought we’d need is another art fair.

Art Basel Miami Beach and the tons of satellite fairs that accompany it — all touching down in early December — seem to suck most of the oxygen out of the fair world. Some older fairs, such as Art Miami, have decided to join in rather than compete, while others, like Art Palm Beach (in January) and the Latin-oriented Arte Americas (in March) continue to cling to their traditional spot on the calendar.

But adding a contemporary fair in October? It seemed like a stretch — until the Wynwood Art Fair took the plunge this year.

The inaugural fair will take place over three days, from Friday, October 21, through Sunday, October 23. But it isn’t only its scheduling that makes Wynwood Art different.

First off, it’s actually a fundraiser for the Sundari Foundation, which operates the Lotus House Women’s Shelter. (The fair’s $10 entrance fee goes to help homeless women and children.) In the past, a one-day version of this art auction/fundraiser took place at the exhibition home of one of Miami’s biggest collectors, Martin Margulies, appropriately so, since it was the brainchild of his wife, Constance Collins Margulies. But the event outgrew the Margulies’ home, so now it has taken to the streets.

Unlike other fairs, this one will emphasize performance art and that street-fair feel. In fact, “the street” will play a prominent role. Taking place over six blocks of NW 6th Avenue, between 23rd and 29th streets, the fair is book-ended on the south side by the former RC Cola factory, a huge, abandoned structure completely covered with graffiti, and on the north side by the Margulies Warehouse, with its prominent and original outdoor murals.

In between there will be performance stages, ethnic food vendors, painters, strolling performers, and, straddling Sixth Avenue, tents stuffed with art. All the major local museums will be represented, joined by exhibition centers such as the Art and Cultural Center of Hollywood and ArtCenter/South Florida; art schools from the University of Miami, Miami-Dade College, and Florida International University; and at least 20 commercial art galleries, plus Books & Books and the Arsht Center. Also present will be a dozen artist studios, and more than 30 performers and performance groups.

These institutions, galleries, and individuals have been encouraged by the fair to break from the norm, experiment, and create an interactive experience. Many have taken the direction to heart.

Gallery Diet, an anchor gallery in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District, will give over its booth to “live painting,” according to gallery director Nina Johnson-Milewski. “I’ve decided to commission two students from New World to create an interactive installation that deals with the audience and the neighborhood,” she explains.

Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo and Chad Cunha have spent months collecting debris from the streets of Wynwood, then organizing the stuff by color. They are constructing a wall for their exhibition space, and fairgoers “will be able to stick the various materials onto the wall and create a ‘painting’ that will be created, re-created, and dictated by the audience.”

Carol Jazzar, who runs an eponymous gallery on the north side of Miami, also thinks this inaugural edition of the Wynwood Art Fair called for something out of the ordinary: “The way I see it, it is a creative way to help raise money for a great organization. The booths are not expensive, so it allows participants to be equally creative in their artist choice and display.” She chose to let one artist, who has not shown often in Miami, literally make a maze out of her booth. Alvaro Ilizarbe’s installation will be “playful and optical, bringing a visual and special experience to the viewers as they walk through.”

Lincoln Road’s ArtCenter/South Florida wanted to create a little fair within a fair, one literally exhibiting little art. For several years, artist and curator Alette Simmons-Jimenez has organized “Small Wonderz,” a nomadic art project. She presented the format as a way to showcase works from residents and alumni of the ArtCenter at the new fair, and it was accepted.

“We have 51 artists participating,” says Simmons-Jimenez. “Each exhibit ends up with a unique look, since it is designed according to the individual venue’s specifications. Our goal is to bring the best art from Miami in small format, very affordably priced, with an easy access for people who love art.” Some of the “Small Wonderz” at the ArtCenter booth will be crafted by Natasha Duwin, Alexander Heria, Venessa Monokian, and Kerry Phillips.

Then there will be the performances. Under the guidance of Antonia Wright, a co-curator of the fair known for her videos and performance art, the street and tents will fill up with graf masters, dancers, interactive performers, filmmakers, and things that might go boom in the night. It’s this aspect that will make the Wynwood Art Fair stand out from others, mixing an intentional circus atmosphere with serious contemporary art.

Ellen Fisher, for example, will create a “story-salon environment,” where fairgoers are invited to immerse themselves in the reading, dancing, and visualization of stories. Visiting artists Ben Fain and Frank Van Duerm will erect a pop-up tent of pop-up art — “smiley-face, original objects d’art,” as they describe it. Co-curator Wright and Ruben Millares will re-create a performance they previously filmed (and screened at the most recent Optic Nerve film festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art), called “Job Creation in a Bad Economy.”

Elsewhere, visitors will be encouraged to donate books to build a library for the Lotus House shelter, but first the donations will be stacked and made into a wall, through which performers will leap and crash.

Other art happenings at the fair: Buda and his “Bubbles,” Clifton Childree and his Backyard Band, Carlota Pradera and her Dance on Water, Agustina Woodgate and her “Hopscotch,” and FriendsWithYou and their “Magic, Luck and Friendship.”

Wynwood Art may be breaking with tradition in many ways, but never fear. This is still Miami. There will be a VIP champagne reception on opening night (to go with a Sotheby’s benefit auction), and VIP and patron passes for those who need a break from the street. Still, all the proceeds go to the Lotus House charity, so the indulgence can be justified.

Wynwood Art Fair, Friday, October 21, through Sunday, October 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Saturday, October 22, there will be a VIP reception at the Margulies Warehouse beginning at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10; children under 10 are free. NW 6th Avenue between 23rd and 29th streets. For more info, go to www.wynwoodartfair.org.

Source: Biscayne Times