On a recent Saturday morning, Donnamarie Baptiste — fresh out of a meeting about her client, Overtown-based art fair Art Africa — needed an empanada and a bottle of French sparkling water before charging into her next project for the day.
Previously with Art Basel Miami Beach, Baptiste had moved to New York several years ago to work on The Armory Show. Now she’s back in Miami to produce a documentary film called Purvis Young, Young Purvis, about the dynamic life, revelatory work and untimely death of the Miami-born, self-taught artist.
Baptiste’s longtime friend, the director and producer Kevin Sharpley, approached her with his vision to create a short film on Purvis. She agreed to sign on to the project on one condition: It had to be full-length feature, not a short film, because she felt that Purvis’ story was too important to be abbreviated.
“I did this to shine a light on his legacy and hopefully get some justice for his estate,” Baptiste said, “and to encourage artists to protect their work.”
From the Islands to Art Basel
Born in Trinidad, Baptiste fell in love with art in her late teens. She landed a job in St. Thomas at Gallery Camille Pissarro, then moved from the Caribbean to Miami in the mid 1990s.
Between 2009 and 2013, under the direction of Marc Spiegler, the former co-director of Art Basel, Baptiste became the events and productions manager of the Miami Beach fair. “I dealt with all of the VIP events, all of the outdoor concerts and activations,” she said. “Basically, the things that didn’t happen inside the Convention Center, I organized them with the team in Basel.”
She then accepted a position in New York as director of programming and special projects for The Armory.
A Comprehensive Look at Purvis Young
The Young film lured her back to Miami. Expected to be completed by 2020, Baptiste said the documentary has support from Purvis’ friends, family and collectors, including Mera and Don Rubell, Margarita Cano, Ruth Shack and Barbara Young.
“The film certainly will give viewers a comprehensive understanding of his work and life in Overtown and the story that people don’t know about him,” she said. “There were the people who uplifted and supported him, but also those who tried to put an end to his legacy.”
An expert in navigating Miami Art Week, Baptiste has a few words of advice for how to make the most of it:
“Plan ahead and don’t overextend yourself. Make good decisions, because, with the traffic, you may be stuck where you are for a while. Also, try something new. Go to a new neighborhood — and go where the locals go.”
Art Week Quick Hits by Donnamarie Baptiste
SATELLITE FAIRS: “NADA, Pulse and Untitled.”
MIAMI GALLERIES: “Primary Projects and David Castillo.”
PRIVATE COLLECTIONS: “Rubell Family Collection and The Margulies Collection.”
RESTAURANTS: “Michael’s Genuine, Ghee Indian Kitchen and Mandolin Aegean Bistro.”