Published November 30, 2003 in South Florida Sun-Sentinel
A few hours after the Miami Beach Convention Center closes its doors on Thursday, the first day of the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, the lights come on in the Miami Design District, which is hosting the official opening night party.
From 9 p.m. to midnight, two city blocks will be closed to traffic; music, food and drink will be offered; and a myriad of performances and art exhibitions will be presented in galleries and design showrooms throughout the area. Thousands of people attended last year’s party, which was unquestionably the place to be and to be seen, as well as to view vast quantities of high-quality, intellectually and visually stimulating, cutting-edge contemporary art.
This year, in addition to the Design District events, a host of exciting art exhibitions and presentations are being offered in the adjoining Wynwood area directly to the south. A trolley will run through the evening, connecting the Design District with a variety of major destinations within the larger, sprawling Wynwood neighborhood.
By way of background, in the early 1990s, Craig Robins and his real estate development company, Dacra, began acquiring property in the 18-square-block neighborhood now known as the Miami Design District. The area became a major center of the home furnishings and interior design industries in South Florida and then, largely through Robins’ efforts and personal preoccupation with contemporary art, a primary center for Miami’s art community. Today, the area is replete with commercial galleries, alternative exhibition spaces, artist’s studios and public art projects.
The upcoming Art Loves Design festival will consist of about 50 exhibitions and events presented in area showrooms and galleries, with an additional 20 in Dacra-owned spaces. The area’s leading commercial galleries — among them the Kevin Bruk Gallery, Casas Riegner and the newly inaugurated Placemaker — are mounting major presentations.
Other highlights will be a performance by Rirkrit Tiravanija, a leading New York-based contemporary artist, who will cook and serve Thai food; exhibitions organized by world-renowned curators, gallery owners and art publishers; shows consisting of works from the Craig and Ivelin Robins Collection; and exhibitions devoted to Argentine furniture, ceramics and toys.
The development of Wynwood as a major art district also owes a lot to Miami’s art collectors. In 1994, the Rubell Family Collection, a vast, internationally acclaimed collection of advanced contemporary art, was opened to the public in a converted warehouse. It was followed in 1999 by the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, where photographs, videos and installations from Martin Z. Margulies’ extensive private holdings are shown. Just this month, World Class Boxing, a former boxing gym, opened with displays of large-scale sculpture owned by Dennis and Debra Scholl.
Galleries, artist-run spaces and artist’s studios have also moved into the area, most notably the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Rocket Projects, Locust Projects and the Dorsch Gallery. Others, including the prestigious Fredric Snitzer Gallery, are on the way.
All will be open for viewing on Thursday evening as will “Midnight Midtown Midway,” an art carnival by Miami artist George Sanchez, located in the Buena Vista railroad yard in Wynwood. In addition to a 50-foot Ferris wheel and platforms for performance artists and musicians, the carnival will feature a midway framed by 20 sideshow banners, each devoted to a South Florida collection that has helped ignite the sizzling Miami art scene, which is further inflamed but by no means dependent on Art Basel Miami Beach.