Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Art lovers brave cold on eve of Basel show

By Katie Deits

NORTH MIAMI -- Outside on one of the coldest nights of the year, art lovers warmed up for Art Basel in a gathering Tuesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.

Shoulder-to-shoulder visual arts fans edged along to MOCA's central courtyard for a little fortification in the form of martinis and Cosmopolitans, handed out near a flashing "Paradise" sign by frozen-handed maidens working for Grey Goose Vodka. Then it was on to the food buffet line (stocked with Asian edibles) in the company of bejeweled and tight-skinned fashionistas.

More Palm Beachers may have been there, but we spotted only artist Ron Jaffe and his sunny, designer wife Mars (seen at left), in the crowd. Washington-based, Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer Lucian Perkins (whom I heard speak at FOTOfusion last year) was there, too, with his wife, Sarah, an art critic for Sculpture magazine, seen leaving MOCA for Art Miami and Pulse.

Inside MOCA, the first major museum exhibition was an opening for Albanian artist Anri Sala, featuring his films, photographs and sculpture. We decided to wait for a calmer, less crowded day to visit his show, which will be on display through March 3. MOCA is in North Miami at 770 N.E. 125 St., and very accessible for a day trip from Palm Beach.

After a delicious stop at Sushi Republic in Surfside, we also checked out the Nobe 67 Art exhibition at The Deauville Beach Resort Hotel, sponsored by the hotel and its president, Belinda Meruelo. Curated by Dr. Milagros Bello, the show -- billed as "the show for artists, curators and galleries" -- presents more than 60 artists, and focuses on new voices from the Miami art scene.

Palm Beach County artist Diane Arrieta, a 2008 recipient of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship for Palm Beach County, is featured in the exhibit. Her sociopolitical art attracted a crowd of viewers who peered closely at text and drawings in the mixed-media images depicting an array of subjects such as obese, McDonald's-chomping children and adults.

“My work is socially driven and emphasizes issues concerning families and children,” Arrieta said. “They all have a universal theme of celebrating the underdog, the mistreated or the struggle of an individual to be themselves.”

The bright-orange Neighbors is a site-specific 21-panel piece highlighting actual sex offenders living in one neighborhood. Ancestor is a tribute to Arrieta’s Susquehannock Indian grandmother. The 24-inch-by-31-inch panel, created in 2008, is inscribed with these words: “My ancestors killed your ancestors for survival…yours killed mine for greed.”

The outspoken Arrieta entices the viewer with colorful, artistically skilled pieces and then drives home her point with provocative text. Hers is art that reveals what pretty people don’t want to talk about.

Nobe 67 Art is open from noon to 9 p.m. through Tuesday, Dec. 9. The Deauville Beach Resort Hotel is located 6701 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach.

Tonight, Art Basel’s grand opening will sparkle with more jewel-draped mavens, outrageously styled-attention grabbers, art collectors looking for the next “big” artist and just plain art lovers like us.

Art Basel opens to the public at noon tomorrow at the Miami Beach Convention Center. For more information on Art Basel and the myriad of events surrounding one of the most prestigious art shows in America, visit the official Website.

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