Arteaméricas 2010. Renowned and Renewed

By Fran Robbins

From Mar 26th through 29th, 2010.

altWhen the recession started, it took down virtually every part of the economy: housing, jobs, credit – you name it. And it hit “luxuries” such as the arts especially hard. Fundraising became a nightmare and artists scrambled to find patrons.

But as the economy continues its slow climb upward, the arts reflect that reality, too. Exhibitions and fairs that were struggling last year are having an easier go of it this time around. Take for example Arteaméricas 2010, the annual South Florida fair featuring Latin American Art, which is being presented from March 26th to 29th at the Miami Beach Convention Center. After tangling with challenges on several fronts, it has regrouped and restrengthened and is in a much better position to champion intriguing and exceptional art from both new and established artists. Dora Valdés-Fauli is the new director of the event and the person responsible for bringing in a fresh, new perspective.

“Arteaméricas covers different art forms. It’s a fair, a boutique fair, dedicated basically to Latin American Art,” she says. “We would include Spanish Art in that category and, this year, art from the Caribbean, especially from Haiti, obviously because of the disaster there. We have some initiatives to try to help with funds for Haitian artists. That’s the scope of the fair this year.”

Valdés-Fauli comes with a unique history: she’s been with the event, in one position or another, since its earliest days. It’s now a well-established and respected organization going on its ninth year. While some concerns for its previous administrators were transient, others remained and presented themselves to her when she took office. Valdés-Fauli determined to have the fair be as encompassing as possible despite the challenges it faces – financial and otherwise.

“Actually, it’s a little more difficult than it was for a few years, but we’ve really been very, very lucky. The sales are going very, very well. The sponsorships are there; they might be a little bit less than other years, but the fair is well-funded and we’re really very pleased. Surprised, to a certain extent… I don’t want to leave the impression that the art market has not been affected by the economic downturn. Of course it has. Can we say since the very worst of this, we’re beginning to see a way out? That’s what I think.”

Arteaméricas, as with any ambitious arts enterprise, has the usual daunting tasks in front of it: champion artists of all stripes, bring attention to new talent and art forms, help build sales, educate the public, improve artistic standards, etc. All of this has to be attempted during a time of economic instability, when artists, patrons and administrators understandably remain skittish. But Valdés-Fauli is persuasive and the list of participants continues to grow.
“We are still finding galleries for this year, so we have about forty, maybe up to forty-five. That’s commercial galleries that have rented space. We also have educational institutions which are taking part and will have booths. And we also have some museum spaces. And then the curated project by Edouard Duval-Carrié.

“We have galleries from Mexico, from Argentina, from Colombia, from Panama – they’re sending several artists. We have a lot from the United States, different areas of the United States. There’s one German gallery. We’re in conversations with a gallery in Canada… and a couple of Haitian galleries that we’re hoping to have as well.”

Some of the concerns Arteaméricas dealt with in the past were unique to this fair and not the result of the economy or the artists. Decisions were made by a previous administrator that didn’t sit well and a shakeup was initiated recently. Drawing on her decades of experience as a Coral Gables-based consultant, appraiser and owner of two galleries, Valdés-Fauli set about, first of all, increasing the quality of the exhibits.

“The previous director is someone I admire very much and would never say, you know, he hadn’t done a good job. I think he did do a very good job. The testament to that is the fact that I was there as a gallery director for many years and an art appraiser. For me, it’s always been a very successful fair. But as the new director this year, I have implemented some changes that I think are improving the fair. I have put together a very, very strong selection committee, which is the intellectual heart of the process. The galleries have to submit the works that they want to bring to the fair. They have to submit to a selection committee.”

Also of concern, and touched on in previous statements, were costs. In light of the economic turndown, the package presented to galleries and associates was designed “to make our fair more affordable.”

Still other changes have been green-lighted. There will be question-and-answer roundtable discussions that the public can watch and comment on. In addition, Curator Dr. Julia Herzberg was entrusted with organizing this year’s program and, according to Valdés-Fauli, has chosen “wonderful, wonderful participants” for what promises to be “a very strong program.” One of the discussions will be on the architecture of museums. With the new Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (designed by architect Yann Weymouth, a fair participant this year) and the Herzog & de Meuron museum being built at Bicentennial Park for the Miami Art Museum, this area – the city itself – becomes a classroom specifically suited for this topic.

A second subject to be discussed will be the effects art fairs have on the market itself. Valdés-Fauli reeled off a number of questions that she’d like addressed: Do fairs help or hinder galleries? What are the effects on sales? What are the effects on the quality of the works? Are fairs the best way to present Latin American Art to the public or are there better avenues?

In addition to the roundtables, a book presentation will be made by the author Dr. Juan Martinez on the Cuban modernist from the 1940s and 1950s Carlos Enríquez (1900-1957). Dr. Martinez is the chair of the Art and Art History Department at FIU and the author of Cuban Art & National Identity: The Vanguardia Painters 1927-1950.

In addition, space has been donated to the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, which is helmed by Haitian-born Miami artist Duval-Carrié, in an effort to aid Haitian artists. While many artworks were destroyed in the earthquake and others remain on the island, unable to be transported to safety, a number of pieces already were in storage in the United States and are headed for the fair.

Says Valdés-Fauli, “The art from Haiti that we’ve going to present is not all the little market scenes that we all know. There are fascinating things being produced… We’re paying attention to the Haitian initiative because of their plight. We need to know about these things.”

The fair will open with an invitation-only party hosted by Merrill Lynch for upwards of 3,000 of its high-end clients. However, the public is encouraged to attend all the other events, which are free. In fact, Valdés-Fauli is keen to see families bring children. Anyone, she says, who is interested in art, and coming from any background.

“I think about this fair as a hometown fair. On any street corner in Miami, you can buy an Argentine “empanada” or a Cuban “cafecito”. We are this wonderful mixture of things. This fair represents our community in a very beautiful and, of course, visual way.”

Having established itself as the finest local fair for Latin American Art and having tackled its challenges, one would think that Arteaméricas could coast a bit. As could Valdés-Fauli. She’s been with this organization since the very beginning. But rather than slow down, she wants to up the ante, especially when it comes to art education.

She says, “I find it fascinating to be in touch with so many people who are working so hard, in Latin America and everywhere else to promote Latin American Art. Wonderful personalities, great artists, it is very challenging!… I think that the platform of international art fairs is a fascinating opportunity for learning new things… We need to know what’s happening in all these different countries, so this is a wonderful opportunity to look, to see, to learn and to compare. Hopefully, new ideas are brought. This is an opportunity that comes once a year, and it’s something we can take advantage of.”

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