Tampa Bay at Art Basel: Locals make a splash

C. Emerson, Mindy Solomon, Selina Roman and more.

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Visitors to the De la Cruz Collection in Miami peruse a sculpture by Thomas Houseago in front of a mirrored installation by Ugo Rondinone.
  • Visitors to the De la Cruz Collection in Miami peruse a sculpture by Thomas Houseago and a mirrored installation by Ugo Rondinone.

My busy Saturday at Art Basel Miami Beach included checking in with two St. Pete galleries and a Tampa-based photographer...

De la Cruz Collection

I began the day at the newest of the private collections that have sprung up like mini contemporary art museums in Miami’s gallery and design district— the De la Cruz Collection. Its three-story, 30,000-sq. ft. space opened in 2009, though the collection itself has a considerably longer history. Two floors featured recent work by contemporary artists whose careers are hot, including several of Thomas Houseago’s distinctively primitive figural sculptures and an awesome paper collage painting by Mark Bradford. Most moving, however, was a third floor devoted to works by artists including Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Ana Mendieta. Visitors were invited to take from a sculpture first realized in 1990 by Gonzalez-Torres (who died in 1996) that consisted of two stacks of paper, one reading “Nowhere better than this place,” the other reading “Somewhere better than this place.” A room devoted exclusively to Mendieta’s work— her outdoor performance-sculptures, in which she engaged the landscape by leaving impressions of her body behind et cetera, her drawings and video— emerged for me as one of the weekend’s most soulful experiences.

SCOPE Miami

This year SCOPE turned out to be one of the brasher fairs, packed with art oglers and the kind of dumb art tricks that spur fair-goers to whip out their camera phones— e.g., a low relief styrofoam sculpture of the Mona Lisa exhibited by Gagliardi Art System, a gallery from Torino, Italy. Two St. Pete galleries— C. Emerson Fine Arts and Mindy Solomon Gallery— had booths at the fair, and both reported doing good business amid the hubbub.

C. Emerson Fine Arts assistant Kristen Bellomo, a graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, stands in front of a grid of drawings by Rocky Grimes at SCOPE Miami.
  • C. Emerson Fine Arts assistant Kristen Bellomo, a graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, stands in front of a grid of artworks by Rocky Grimes at SCOPE Miami.

C. Emersons booth at SCOPE Miami.
  • C. Emerson's booth at SCOPE Miami.

By Saturday, C. Emerson’s booth was studded with red dots. Owner Lori Johns explained her strategy for attracting collectors: offering affordable works like a grid of prints and drawings by Miami-based artist Rocky Grimes that people were buying several at a time for $25-75 a pop. Johns was also showing (and selling) work by a number of artists based in Tampa Bay and Sarasota, including Daniel Mrgan, Kim Anderson, Kim Radatz and Justin Nelson. Across the aisle, Mindy Solomon’s booth was stocked with sculpture by Sunkoo Yuh, Wookjae Mang and Tampa-based Gregory Green, along with glass works by Einar and Jamex de la Torre and paintings by Bart Johnson and James Kennedy. Kennedy’s abstract paintings were proving to be especially popular with collectors. (Click here to read a post on the gallery’s blog describing their SCOPE offerings.)

Gallery owner Mindy Solomon (center) talks with fair-goers at SCOPE Miami.
  • Gallery owner Mindy Solomon (center) talks with fair-goers at SCOPE Miami.

Con-Sealed Photo Shoot by Selina Roman

Over on Miami Beach, I caught up with Tampa-based photographer Selina Roman at The Executive, a tony condominium tower on Collins Avenue. Inside the building’s lobby, an anonymous woman wearing a blue burqa was directing guests on their way to an Art Basel-themed party into a room where Roman waited with a camera and a table of props. Working as her assistant, fellow artist Sarah Krupp invited guests to try on the props— a mix of hats, scarfs, wigs, a bird cage and other objects— before having their picture snapped by Roman. The catch? Guests had to conceal their faces in order to have their portrait made. Roman, whose work often explores identity and disguise, says the project was inspired by the push and pull between anonymity and surveillance in 21st century life. Party guest-participants played with the costume pieces to veil and otherwise playfully obscure their faces before striking a pose. Roman plans to post the portraits on her website, selinaroman.com.

Photographer Selina Roman works with participants during her Con-Sealed photo shoot.
  • Photographer Selina Roman works with participants during her Con-Sealed photo shoot.

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