Visual arts

Goldman’s death, Art Basel’s vigor among the year’s big stories

The inaugural Art Wynwood fair in February, international recognition for Miami artists including Hernan Bas and Augustina Woodgate, a prestigious national medal for the Museum of Contemporary Art and public art projects in Opa-locka, Bal Harbour and Miami Beach added fuel this year to South Florida’s visual arts bonfire. Add million dollar-plus gifts to Miami Art Museum’s new bayfront campus, and the outlook for 2013 is even hotter.

Here’s a look back at 2012 benchmark events:

• September brought the death of Tony Goldman, whose irresistible optimism fueled the redevelopment of Wynwood, South Beach and New York’s SoHo. Visionary, developer and cheerleader, Goldman put his money on the line and crafted partnerships with business and arts leaders to reshape dying neighborhoods into vibrant communities. His legacy is memorialized at Wynwood Walls, where Shepard Fairey repainted his signature mural to include Goldman’s image.

• Miami Art Museum scored a coup with September’s Message to Our Folks by Rashid Johnson, an emerging international star whose resume includes the 2011 Venice Biennale and a solo New York gallery show. The Chicagoan’s art is always handsome but never easy, suggesting splintered families in splintered-glass sculptures, the all-too-violent reality of urban life in gun cross-hair imagery and the lingering stigmatization of an owned person in branded wood. With its various materials and references, from hip-hop to African-American history, it was one of the best-looking and most challenging shows of the year.

• Hong-Kong born Mark Handforth lives and works in Miami, but his sculpture is more often shown in New York. MOCA changed that equation in January with Mark Handforth: Rolling Stop, a mid-career survey featuring his monumental sculptures made from street lamps, traffic cones, fluorescent lights and aluminum. Handforth was the subject of the museum’s first solo show in 1996, and Rolling Stop was a beautiful and timely reintroduction.

• Just in time for Art Basel, Theaster Gates, another rising star from Chicago, literally set up shop at Locust Projects in the Design District with his Soul Manufacturing Corporation. He and assistants made “things,” as he calls them, such as pottery, and tried to expand visitors’ horizons about what is relevant to creation today. A DJ and yoga instructor helped to keep the corporation active, and Miamians got a chance to be shareholders in Gates’ latest experiment.

•  Speaking of Art Basel, December’s 11th edition looked like a party from 2006, before the Great Recession sucked the mojo out of the economy. Some two dozen art fairs jammed hotels and tents from Midtown to Miami Beach, while nearly every luxury brand on the planet held a packed party for would-be VIPs. The real power players were busy buying some of the highest quality art in memory at Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami and Art Miami.

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