Installations by Derrick Adams and Tavares Strachan, left background.


MIAMI ART WEEK is well underway and there are an overwhelming number of opportunities to socialize and see, buy, and experience art beyond Art Basel Miami Beach. A plethora of activities focused on artists of African descent continue this weekend.

Many galleries participating in satellite fairs, such as NADA and Untitled, are showing work by African American artists. Other fairs, such as Prizm, are dedicated to black artists. Elsewhere, museums are presenting must-see exhibitions. Now in its fifth year, Art of Black Miami has a full slate of exhibitions, fairs, talks, and more.

Various art-related activities are happening throughout Miami. Many events are taking place in Overtown, the historic African American neighborhood, with support from the Southeast Overtown Parkwest (SEOPW) Community Redevelopment Agency. Here’s some of what’s been going on and what’s still to come:

Art of Black Miami

A year-round marketing platform, Art of Black Miami is sponsored by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. The initiative celebrates Miami’s black diaspora, diverse cultural landscape, and heritage neighborhoods. Art of Black Miami has been supporting a full slate of Miami Art Week activities.

A pair of Overtown events paying tribute to artists Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) and Ernie Barnes (1938-2009) is sponsored by Hampton Art Lovers, a group dedicated to African American fine art that is associated with Hampton University. “Elizabeth Catlett and the Hampton Art Tradition” is an exhibition celebrating the print maker and sculptor. Presented by Hampton Art Lovers in collaboration with Hampton University Museum and the International Review of African American Art, works on paper from Hampton University’s collection will be on view.

Ernie Barnes: Eyes Closed provides an opportunity to buy paintings and works on paper by Barnes. Marking the 80th anniversary of the birth of the pro-football player turned artist best known for illustrating a Marvin Gaye album cover and the appearance of his work on the television show “Good Times,” this art fair/selling exhibition is presented in conjunction with the Ernie Barnes Family Foundation.

Offering contemporary art from the African diaspora, the Art Africa Miami Arts Fair is celebrating its eight edition in historic Overtown. Architect D. Neil Hall founded the fair in 2011 to help anchor the neighborhood and contribute to its renaissance. The fair showcases work by artists of African descent alongside related programming. This year’s theme is Black Art Matters: It’s Not A Choice.

First organized by curator Ludlow Bailey in 2009, this year’s Art Basel Panel Discussion on Contemporary African Diaspora Art (Dec. 9) is at Florida International University’s Wolfe Center. The panel focuses on “curatorial activism and the redrafting of the narrative on global African Diaspora art” and features Nigerian performance artists Jelil Aitku, Jamaican artist Ya La’ Ford, architect Nathaniel Belcher, art critic Julie Walker, and Haitian artist Stephen Arboite. Register here


Installation view of “AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People,” Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (Nov. 27, 2018-April 7, 2019). | via MOCA North Miami


EBONY G. PATTERSON, “Dead Tree in a Forest…,” 2013 (mixed media on paper, 87 x 83 inches). | Collection of Monique Meloche and Evan Boris, Chicago. Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago via PAMM

Museums & Galleries

There are a bounty of exhibitions on view in Miami. At least three featuring Ebony G. Patterson, AfriCOBRA, and Purvis Young (1943-2010) are not to be missed. Patterson has a solo show at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). The museum calls “Ebony G. Patterson: …while the dew is still on the roses…” the “most significant presentation of the artist’s work to date.” Jamaican-born Patterson is showing 13 works dating from 2012 to the present in an immersive garden environment.

The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami has mounted “AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People.” The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of AfriCOBRA, the artist collective established in Chicago in 1968. The group defined its art with stylized text, graphic images, and cool-ade colors designed to uplift the black community and give a visual voice to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Curated by Jeffreen M. Hayes, the exhibition features works by 10 AfriCOBRA artists, including the five founding members of the collective.

The Rubbell Family Collection is presenting more than 100 paintings by Miami-born Young, who grew up in Overtown. The exhibition is the largest-ever solo show mounted by the private museum and all of the paintings are from the family’s permanent collection. The prolific self-taught artist, who often collaged found materials into his paintings and drawings, kept a studio about six blocks from the Rubell’s Wynwood location.

Over the past year, Young’s work has entered the collections of major U.S. museums through acquisitions from the Souls Grown Deep oundation. In a recent article, Bloomberg states the Rubells purchased more than 3,000 works from Young and have donated nearly 500 to arts institutions.

The outlet spoke to Mera Rubell about the family’s art, the exhibition, and plans to transition the collection to a new building. The Bloomberg report described Young’s work and noted his sourcing methods. He navigated the neighborhood “…collecting discarded doors, tabletops, books and cabinets, which he used instead of canvases.” The article continued: “Some works are dense, teeming with figures of men behind bars, funeral processions or galloping horses. Pregnant women are depicted as angels with halos. Syringes and cockroaches make appearances.”


Installation view of works by Purvis Young on view in a solo exhibition featuring more than 100 works at the Rubell Family Collection. | via Rubell Family Collection


JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE, “butt naked dressed in nothing but pearls,” 2018 (marker, acrylic, oil, and spray paint on canvas, styrofoam heads, 72 x 60 inches). | Courtesy Kohn Gallery


A New Acquisitions exhibition is also on view at the Rubbell Collection through June 26, 2019. It features 20 artists—Janiva Ellis, Simphiwe Ndzube, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Tschabalala Self, Vaughn Spann, and Diamond Stingily, in addition to Jonathan Lyndon Chase. A Philadelphia artist, who recently earned an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Chase is the Rubell Family Collection Contemporary Arts Foundation’s 2018 artist-in-residence.

Also in Wynwood, Locust Projects is presenting a site-specific installation by Bethany Collins “The Litany” is on view through Jan. 26. In the work, she “brings the coded messages of the language of flowers on the walls together to memorialize moments of repeated violence throughout American history.” Collins gave a daylong performance related to the exhibition on Dec. 6 that involved volunteer singers and small choirs. A multidisciplinary artist, she was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2013-14).

The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse is displaying new acquisitions alongside its permanent collection. Among the new installations is “Non-Orientable Nkansa” (2017), a monumental room-sized work by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama that touches the ceiling.

Mahama lives and works in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale, Ghana. He makes mixed-media textile works that hang on the wall and large-scale installations, transforming his source materials to examine familiar themes in his society—commodity, migration, globalization and economic exchange.

White Cube of London, the artist’s gallery brought the work to Art Basel in June. The gallery shares how the work was created on its website: “…Mahama produced hundreds of ‘shoemaker boxes’ with several collaborators… These small wooden objects are made from scrap materials found in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana, and used to contain tools for polishing and repairing shoes. Bearing the marks of the trade of ‘shoeshine boys,’ the boxes also function as an improvised drum, when pounded to solicit business.”


IBRAHIM MAHAMA, “Non-Orientable Nkansa,” 2017 (mixed media, dimensions variable). | via Margulies Collection


The description continues, explaining the significance of how the materials were obtained and site where the artwork was put together: “Mahama and his collaborators—migrant workers from rural Ghana—obtained these items through a process of negotiation and exchange. Such transactions form a critical feature of the artist’s practice, as does the particular site of the work’s production, in this case, a former state-run paint factory. The production location lends added resonance, since it is in the political exigencies of space and the evolution of materials from one context to another that the work’s intention resides.”

Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah, “Parallels and Peripheries” at ArtCenter South Florida in Miami Beach features Bethany Collins, Lizania Cruz, Genevieve Gaignard, Susan Lee-Chun, Joiri Minaya, Jamilah Sabur, Saya Woolfalk, and Kennedy Yanko. The exhibition “investigates how eight artists create work constructed from narratives, myths, and memories that shape personal, political and societal identities.”

A collaborative exhibition, The Writing on the Wall: Hank Willis Thomas and Dr. Baz Dreisinger” draws attention to the mass incarceration crisis. On view at the Frost Museum at Florida International University, Miami, and closing soon (Dec. 9), the presentation features writings that paper the gallery walls.

The documents include letters, essays, and poems by people in prisons around the world. A professor of English at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Baz Dreisinger founded the Prison-to-College Pipeline and is executive director of the Incarceration Nations Network. She collected the documents over the years in the course of teaching in U.S. and international prisons. The exhibition is part of Hank Willis Thomas‘s For Freedoms initiative.

Art Fairs

Beyond Art Basel Miami Beach, there are more satellite art fairs underway in the city than anyone person could visit in any meaningful way during Miami Art Week. The list includes Design Miami, NADA, Untitled, Pulse, Prizm, PINTA Miami, Spectrum, Red Dot, Art Africa Miami Arts Fair, INK, Superfine! Art Miami, Context, Aqua Art, and No Commission.

Prizm focuses on black artists. The goal of the art fair at the Alfred I. DuPont Building is “to expand the spectrum of exhibiting international artists from the African Diaspora and emerging markets.” Organized into three exhibitions curated by Jeffreen Hayes, Mikhaile Solomon and William Cordova, the fair presents “a global program examining the articulation of narratives in Africa and the African Diaspora through varying degrees of currency; the most overt being economic currency, but also, cultural, social, political, and even spiritual currencies.”

The selection of galleries includes N’Namdi Contemporary of Detroit. Prizm programming also includes several talks, among them a conversation held between artist, curator, and art historian David C. Driskell and Curlee R. Holton, executive director of the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park (Dec. 5).

Two galleries owned by black women—Jenkins Johnson Gallery of San Francisco and Brooklyn and Seattle-based Mariane Ibrahim Gallery—are participating in Untitled. The art fair seeks to provide visitors with a curatorial balance, presenting work across all mediums from carefully selected galleries, artist-run spaces and nonprofit institutions. Works by 10 artists including Aida Muluneh, Blessing Ngobeni, Devin N. Morris, David Shrobe, Lavar Munroe, and Enrico Riley are on view at Jenkins Johnson. Mariane Ibrahim is showing a trio of artists—Sergio Lucena, Lina Iris Viktor, and Zohra Opoku.

Also at Untitled, New York gallery Burning in Water is featuring Oliver Lee Jackson and Rachel Eulena Williams. Several other exhibitors at the fair are presenting works by artists of African descent, CONNERSMITH., Gallery1957, Fort Gansevoort, and Kravets Wehby Gallery, among them.

Several fairs are taking place at Mana Wynwood, an event venue in the Wynwood Art District, including Red Dot, Spectrum, and PINTA Miami, the Ibero-American art fair.

The New Art Dealers Association (NADA) fair is taking place at Ice Palace Studios. More than 100 galleries are participating this year. Among them, James Fuentes Gallery of New York is presenting works by Miami artist Purvis Young (1943-2010). Also based in New York, Martos Gallery is showing works by Detroit artist Tyree Guyton at NADA.

Over a period of three decades, Guyton developed the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art installation and community empowerment effort that consumed an entire residential block and has become a major tourist attraction. Guyton currently has two exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) that are on view until January. “2+2=8: Thirty Years of Heidelberg” celebrates is long-term project and “Process: Tyree Guyton” focuses on his studio practice and features paintings, drawings, and studies.

Founded by Swizz Beatz in 2015, No Commission aims to revolutionize art sales by providing artists the opportunity to collect 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of their art. The art fair has been presented in the South Bronx and internationally. Organized by The Dean Collection & Bacardi, this year’s Miami edition was staged at the Faena Forum. Titled “Take a Shot,” the fair focused solely on photography (Dec. 6-7). Works in a range of prices were available by 30 artists including texas isaiah, Deana Lawson, Dana Scruggs, Jamel Shabazz, Ming Smith, and Kahdeem Jefferson, a Gordon Parks Foundation scholar.


Lot 6: HANK WILLIS THOMAS, “Jet People,” 2013 (acrylic and gouache on canvas, in artist’s chosen frame, 37 1/4 x 97 inches / 94.6 by 246.4 cm). | Estimate $15,000-$20,000. Sold for $75,000 (including fees). RECORD


Lot 12: THEASTER GATES, “A Flag for the Least of Them,” 2018 (decommissioned fire hose). | Estimate $450,000-$500,000. Sold for $807,000 (including fees). RECORD

Other Stuff

Theaster Gates and David Adjaye teamed up with Bono to raise funds to combat AIDS and fund community programs. The artist and architect co-curated the latest (RED) Auction, which was sponsored by Gagosian and conducted by Sotheby’s on Dec. 5 at the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District. More than 30 artists chipped in and donated their works to the sale. More than $5 million was raised from bidders and Bill and Melinda Gates matched the sales, bringing the total to $10.5 million.

“A Flag for the Least of Them” (2018), a work by Gates composed of decommissioned fire hoses was the top lot. It brought $807,000 (including fees), an artist record. A number of other artists achieved records as well, including Hank Willis Thomas. A work, which appears to be Ebony G. Patterson‘s first to come to auction (“…Bearing Witness…,” 2018), sold for $72,500 (including fees). Gates (the artist) was the buyer. The proceeds are going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS and the Rebuild Foundation in Chicago, which was founded by the artist.

Celebrating the resurgence of historic Overtown, Urban Philanthropies is hosting “Welcome to the Afrofuture,” at its newly developed space, The Urban. Envisioned as a community hub for art, food, and culture, the space is being “activated” with four days of events (Dec. 6-9). This weekend includes an Afrofuture exhibition, performances by artists Kristina Kay Robinson and Sultana Isham, a mural reveal, and a Sunday brunch.

On Dec. 4, Aperture hosted a book launch party for “Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal” at The Edition hotel in Miami Beach. The volume documents a traveling survey of Thomas’s work opening in fall 2019 at the Portland Art Museum and features an interview with the artist conducted by Kellie Jones and contributions by Sarah Lewis and the exhibition curators.

There have been a ton of other fetes, DJ sets, and invitation-only events this week. And artist Derrick Adams hosted a paint and sip!


Since 2014, Isabel Lewis has presented version of her Faena Festival work, “a celebratory gathering of things, people, plants, dances and scent”. This video captures a similar performance in London. | Video by Tate

Faena Festival

The inaugural “Faena Festival: This is Not America” (Dec. 3-9) is presenting commissions, installations, performances and a video and film series by more than a dozen atists, including Derrick Adams, Joseph Beuys, Isabel Lewis, Tavares Strachan, and Wu Tsang and boychild, among others. Works are on view at the Faena Hotel, on the beach, and on the sidewalks and streets of the Faena District.

Zoe Lukov is the chief curator of the festival, which “proposes a new curatorial format for presentation that occupies and engages the entire Faena District and extends beyond into public spaces of the city of Miami Beach as an experiential platform.”

“This is Not America” is organized around the unique culture, geography, and population of Miami, a melting pot destination for migrants, refugees, and tourist from across the nation and the world. The festival is “an exploration of America as a concept, a myth and a narrative that–at times—has divided us, but ultimately has the power to unify across physical, political and conceptual borders.”

The concept for the festival is inspired by Alfredo Jaar’s “A Logo for America” (1987). The work, in the form of an LED jumbotron, is installed on a boat floating along the Miami Beach shoreline. The theme is played out in other works. Strachan has created another neon work that illuminates the phrase “We Belong Here.” (He made a work with the same wording for Prospect New Orleans in 2015.)

Based in Berlin, artist and choreographer Isabel Lewis was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up on a man-made island off the coast of southwest Florida. For the festival, she hosted an experimental participatory dance performance at the Faena Forum amphitheater. A celebratory gathering involving people, plants, dance, conversation and scent.

She sought dancers (especially those aged 40+) for her performance on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, a paid opportunity through an open call. With the help of the local dancers she recruited, Lewis “created an aesthetic situation that moves beyond the merely visual where the entire human sensorium is addressed. Lewis poses the question of how to live a good and flourishing life in tempestuous times and proposes the figures of the lover, the dancer, and the gardener as guides on this quest.”


DERRICK ADAMS, Alternative installation view “America’s Playground,” 2018 (mixed media installation, painted metal, plastic, wood, rubber, grass and nylon). In background, at Left: TAVARES STRACHAN, “We Belong Here,” 2018 (neon). | Photo by Kris Tamburello, Courtesy of Faena Art


For his commission, Derrick Adams installed a playground on the beach. The idea for “America’s Playground” (2018) grew out of the artist’s research about The Negro Motorist Green Book (which inspired his exhibition “Sanctuary,” on view at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York earlier this year) and an image he discovered of a playground unveiled in 1967 for children in Overtown beneath a freeway overpass. The ceremony was presided over by the mayor. Adams who has explored African American leisure time, often invoking pool images in his work, considered the history of race, real estate, laws, and development when he re-thought the playground.

“Now more than ever, this is the time for the citizens of the creative community to seize every opportunity to define what America was, is, and can be, moving forward. May these efforts cascade towards a more equitable America.” — Derrick Adams

Brooklyn-based Adams says the play equipment he created is what should have been. The structure is a big beautiful design, full of color with ocean views. The description for the work further delineates what Adams had in mind.

“It forces a redrawing of the edges that close our communities and our neighborhoods along lines of race. It asks us to question our built environments and the way we move through them. It reminds us not to presume the innocence of urban planning and architecture, nor of our communal narratives.”

The description continues: “But then he goes one further: he returns to the radical insistence on and celebration of black leisure time and joy, he insists on fun and brings play back into the picture. Just as Martin and Malcolm also went, Adams takes these kids to the beach.” CT


TOP OF PAGE: DERRICK ADAMS, Installation view “America’s Playground,” 2018 (mixed media installation, painted metal, plastic, wood, rubber, grass and nylon). In background, at Left: TAVARES STRACHAN, “We Belong Here,” 2018 (neon). | Photo by Kris Tamburello, Courtesy of Faena Art


The Rubell Family Collection published a catalog the accompany the Purvis Young exhibition. The 364-page volume includes contributions by PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans and artist Rashid Johnson, among others. “Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal” documents a traveling survey of his work opening in fall 2019 at the Portland Art Museum. “Ebony G. Patterson: While the Dew is Still on the Roses,” this volume explores the artist’s “poetic depictions of gardens as environments of beautiful sorrow.”


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