Prelude to Art Week

2022 marks the twentieth year since Art Basel opened an what quickly became a flourishing outpost in Miami Beach. What has followed is not only a week of art fairs, art in unexpected places, short-term public art, and new exhibitions in our local museums. In addition, the venues for viewing all of this multi-course visual feast have grown exponentially in number and taken over new and sometime unexpected locations around the community.

Constant Companion and I started our Prelude to Art Week by partaking in two activities. First on our list was No Vacancy, a city sponsored competition, presented in Miami Beach hotels, still young in its third year. Second was athe monthly Progressive Brunch hosted by a growing number of local galleries.

The Friday after Thanksgiving seemed the best time for a leisurely walking day in art, although the distance between the spread out venues called for driving. Because of this distance between each installation and CC’s sensitivity to the noonday sun, we did not get to all of the installations.

Our starting point was South Beach and the Avalon Hotel. Here, Jessy Nite’s “In Your Eyes, I come Alive” perches on the façade the hotel creating shadows of the phrase along the top of the building. Look at the shadows.

Our next stop allowed us to take in a number of artworks and gave us that much-needed post-Thanksgiving walk. The Betsy Hotel, a great supporter of the arts, hosted the work of Sri Prabha, “Cosmic Occupancy,” video projections on and around The Orb. We did not actually see the work in daylight. Hopefully we’ll see it when we return to the Betsy on evening. Here’s the Orb and an image taken from the artist’s website.

Guarding the Betsy’s alley to prevent cars from entering is what I’ve come to call our traffic alligators!

Local artist Michelle Weinberg (who instructed Daughter for many years) installed a series of drawings and shadow box works in and around the lobby of Royal Palm Hotel. “Treading Water” is her way of addressing issues of how we can “just keep … afloat amidst news of fires, floods, gun violence, pandemics, homelessness, pollical crisis and recession/inflation,”

Actually, at the Royal Palm I enjoyed seeing the sculptural installation by Gerry Stecca (if you can look closely it’s constructed completely of clothes pins) and the multicolored historic terrazzo compass rose guiding guests through the hotel lobby.

A large, double-sided mural by Magnus Sodamin at Loews Miami Beach Hotel was inspired by the Everglades, the wetlands that surround us. Many of the images in “Reflections of Florida Wild” represent wildlife found in the Everglades. He has quietly placed at the base of the frame copies of the Key Marco cat, one of our state’s most enigmatic ancient (some 1500 years ago) artworks (https://themihs.info/keymarcoartifacts/). CC missed it entirely until I pointed it out. Look at the bottom of the canvas, just right of center, and the cat appears again.

Walking back to the car we stopped for No Vacancy at the Esmé Hotel. This hotel and the neighboring properties, formerly known as the Clay Hotel, were recently beautifully and thoughtfully restored and renovated. Legend has it that this was one of the locations frequented by Al Capone during his Miami residency. Shown in an alcove of the refurbished hotel lobby is Beatriz Chachamovits’ “Carcass,” a hand-built ceramic installation highlighting ocean degradation, coral bleaching, coral harvesting and plastic pollution. The celestial background is not part of the artwork.

Next stop was the Riviera Hotel to see Maritza Caneca’s “Submersion in Blue.” For some unclear reason, this piece was either not installed yet, or not going to be installed. Instead, we admired the wall art in the hotel. I wondered why none of it was signed; as I am learning more about our local mural artists, I would have liked to know who created these.

I also enjoyed the details of some of the art deco hotels in the neighborhood. One is a bit weary and worn. The other in the throes of restoration and returning to its beauty.

As we drove toward home to get CC out of the sun, we found a parking place and made one for stop at Hotel Croydon. Here we saw “Sea Show,” a light sculpture by Claudio Marcotulli.

The second act of our Prelude included visits to various and sundry galleries during their monthly Progressive Sunday Brunch timed to catch visitors in town for the Big Show. The most remarkable and resounding work CC and I saw during this part of the Prelude was the stop at the Ward Rooming House, a restored rooming house, now gallery, in historic Overtown (https://www.hamptonartlovers.com/gallery). We joined a presentation of a new mural by Reginald O’Neal recognizing the role of the Longshoremen in the community. This impressive work was sponsored by MOCAAD, the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora, a new museum effort in our community.

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