Things To Do

arteaméricas 2011

Photo by Charles Trainor Jr.
Photo by Charles Trainor Jr.

Despite more special exhibits, more art talks and 53.galleries showcasing some 300 artists, arteaméricas hasn’t quite bounced back to its pre-recession, 70-gallery size. Nonetheless, South Florida’s Latin American art fair is hoping that a bigger program — and a general upward swing in art-world sales — will attract casual art lovers and young collectors.

The main additions to the ninth-annual fair, which opens Friday and runs through Monday at Miami Beach Convention Center, are a New Art section, dominated by a show organized by the Miami Art Museum that features local Latino artists, an exhibition dealing with Central America’s history of violence and a dedicated space for Cuban art; and Salon arteaméricas, a space filled with ultra-modern, theater-style furniture where visitors can relax, listen to an expanded slate of lectures and watch a lineup of video works. As the event’s “invited country,” Mexico will also be featured heavily throughout, with one gallery bringing work by more Mexican masters than the fair has ever seen.

“We’ve always been a small boutique fair, much smaller than the December fairs,” says Dora Valdes-Fauli, arteaméricas director, who expects 4,000 guests at Thursday night’s private VIP preview. “But at the same time we have a lot of fun things that people are going to enjoy, so that you’ll come away not overwhelmed and with an experience that makes sense.”

Those “December fairs” — primarily Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Miami and Design Miami but also Scope, Pulse and the other satellites — experienced increases in sales, says arteaméricas vice president Emilio Callejo, making him optimistic that the Latin American fair, where prices start at a relatively modest $2,000, will also see an uptick.

“The economy is better, and we’re hopeful,” Callejo says. “I think a lot of people that have been holding back are starting to collect again.”

With that assumption in mind, fair organizers carried out an intense campaign to lure young-collector groups at local museums with free tickets, catalogs and events, Callejo says. At the fair, they and other potential buyers can choose works from art-making hotspots Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, as well as paintings, drawings, sculpture, videos and installations from Venezuela, Spain, Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Represented artists range from such Cuban masters as Wifredo Lam and René Portocarrero to emerging artists such as hyper-realist landscape painter Giosvany Echevarria, who will have his first stateside show at Cernuda Arte’s booth.

A four-lecture series organized by New York curator Julia Herzberg explores, among other topics, the contemporary art scene and biennials and is designed to educate potential collectors. Featured speakers include Carol Damian, director of the Philip & Patricia Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, and Miami art critic Ricardo Pau-Llosa.

The fair is also going digital. Taking a cue from Art Basel Miami Beach, arteaméricas will feature an iPhone app, with image-recognition technology. Visitors can snap a picture of an artwork and instantly get information on the piece, the artist and the gallery.

A star attraction is sure to be the big concentration of Mexican masters. Arteaméricas invited Mexico City’s Galeria Arvil to celebrate its 40{+t}{+h} anniversary with a show featuring work by Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Maria Izquierdo, Carlos Merida, Gunther Gerzso and others. The exhibition is part of an effort by the fair and the Mexican consulate to present a more balanced image of a country in which drugs and violence often dominate the headlines.

“We wanted to be able to concentrate on Mexicans’ incredible cultural offerings to the world,” Valdes-Fauli says. “It’s an opportunity for it to shine and ameliorate the impression that the only thing that happens there is the violence that we read about.”

Other special exhibitions have been chosen to showcase Latin America’s cultural richness and diversity, as well as its challenges. In West Encounters East, curator Nina Torres explores how Japanese immigration to Argentina influenced that country’s art. Centroamerica: Civismo y Violencia, organized by Miami curator Janet Batet, looks at how the region’s artists have processed its strife through their art. Museum of Art Fort. Lauderdale curator Jorge Santi organized Tracing Roots: The Three Marias, a look at the work of Cuban-born artists Maria Brito, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and Maria Martinez-Cañas.

“Latin America is incredibly rich and diverse, and that was important for us to portray,” says Leslie Pantin, fair president. He says the fair’s smaller size — its ceiling of 60 galleries is “very manageable for us” — has helped it focus on attracting high-quality galleries and curated shows such as this year’s.