Switzerland's Art Basel using Miami Beach show to broaden its Latin appeal
By Mindy Hagen
Latin American artists - often edged out of the most prestigious shows in favor of their European and New York competitors - should grab a larger share of the spotlight when their works are showcased in greater proportion by Art Basel's local exhibit.
The Miami Beach stop will preview Art Basel's plans to incorporate more artists of different backgrounds in all its shows, said Samuel Keller, executive director of Switzerland's well-known festival.
"We believe that there is tremendous potential in better connecting the art scenes in Latin America with art centers in the US and Europe," he said. "We recognize this and want to contribute to it."
Ann Albritton, an expert in modern art, said Latin American galleries have remained on the outskirts of exhibitions while other artists have flourished.
"Not only in Europe, but major venues in the US have overlooked Latin American artists for years," said Ms. Albritton, who teaches courses in Latin American art history at the Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota. "Certain museums and galleries carry Latin American art but one cannot find it in many major collections."
Twelve Latin American galleries out of a total of 150 are planned for the Dec. 13-16 show, organizers said. This year, the Swiss show included five galleries from Latin America.
In the Miami Beach show, artists and galleries from Mexico City, Buenos Aires, San Jose, PR, and Sao Paulo will contribute to the flavor of the exhibition, organizers said.
An internationally known show, Art Basel has been held annually for 32 years in June in its Swiss hometown. It is coming to South Florida for the first time and is expected to return through 2003.
Featuring galleries from 34 countries, Art Basel Miami Beach will be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Bob Goodman, the show's Florida representative, said he projects between up to 20,000 attendees.
Although only 8% of galleries in this exhibit are from Central or South America,
Mr. Keller said more than 100 Latino artists could be displaying work, with some associated with US galleries.
"The Latin American-based galleries are joined by an important number of American and European galleries representing artists from Latin America. These artists were not chosen for being Latin but for being amongst the very best in the world."
But while Art Basel makes an effort to include artists from all cultures, proponents of artistic diversity are concerned that exhibits might start sacrificing some galleries in an effort to be politically correct. Owner of a Miami gallery showing 40% of art by persons of color and 50% by women, Bernice Steinbaum said she hopes Art Basel selected artists based on talent, not to satisfy a quota.
"I'd like to think that Basel, being the Olympics of art shows in the world, would care about the best there is in art and not about the ethnicity of the artist," Ms. Steinbaum said.
Mr. Keller said participating artists were selected from more than 400 applicants, with 34 Latin American galleries applying. With 12 of those selected, Mr. Keller said Latin American artists had as rigorous of a time being chosen for the exhibit as any.
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