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Miami Art + Design: Classy art in a circular space

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If you missed the inaugural edition of Miami Art + Design (MA+D for short), vow not to make that mistake again next year.

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MA+D was an exceptional aggregation of museum-quality art displayed February 13 through 18, 2014, in a circular pavilion in Bayfront Park. To the already quickening Presidents’ Day art scene in Miami, it brought an otherwise unfilled niche – an opportunity for galleries to show works beyond the contemporary and recent modern realms favored by the other major Presidents’ Day art fairs.

Indeed, MA+D exceeds in scope, although thankfully not in scale, the vast annual post-Thanksgiving Art Week extravagance surrounding Art Basel Miami Beach. Of the 40 galleries exhibiting at MA+D, a few were local or nearly so (i.e., Dania Beach and Palm Beach), while the vast majority came from New York, London, Paris, and other distant locales.

MA+D demonstrates the flourishing of the secondary art market, consisting of collectors reselling what they own and museums that want to refresh and refocus their holdings. It includes works by deceased artists and older works by contemporary artists who may still be producing. For collectors and curators on the prowl, with shopping list and/or budget in hand, a show like MA+D is a deep reservoir of opportunities and delights.

A breadth of offerings

MA+D had something for practically everyone. Relatively few of the works on display were by living artists. Among them, a standout was the art of Jared Fitzgerald, who makes porcelains in a traditional Chinese style and shares his New York gallery, Fitzgerald Fine Arts, with three artists of Chinese ethnicity.

Post-Impressionism, Post War, and Pop Art also were present, and the most prestigious Impressionists and Modernists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were especially well-represented. Highlights included works by Marc Chagall, Edgar Degas, Joan Miró, Claude Monet, and of course Pablo Picasso.

Other genres of note included pre-Impresssionist French, 17th century Dutch masters (contemporaries of Rembrandt), and Italian Renaissance. The London gallery Peter Finer brought a collection of armor, all in good condition, presumably having been worn by the winners of long-ago jousts and battles.

The show also attracted a seller of fine antique books, a Persian rug dealer, and a couple of antique-furniture purveyors.

Other cultures

Art from outside the Euro-American mainstream was well represented at MA+D:

Tambaran Gallery in New York displayed some “early” Australian aboriginal art from the 1970s, when the aborigines first learned painting as a means of self-expression, and before they commercialized it.

Miami Beach-based AANW, Inc., showed sculptures from the Mayans and the Colima culture of Mexico’s west coast.

Phoenix Ancient Art, with galleries in Geneva and New York, brought an assortment of statuary and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and other early Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations.

Also on display were relics of the oldest cultures known to man – cultures that weren’t human. Fifty million years ago, near the dawn of the Eocene Epoch, fish swam in a subtropical lake on the eastern slope of the newly formed Rocky Mountains. They died and their remains were preserved in limestone rock. Today slabs of this rock are quarried and displayed as works of art. Eostone in Dania Beach, FL, brought examples to MA+D.

Eostone also displayed ammonite fossils 71 million years old from a quarry in Alberta, Canada. Ammonites, extinct mollusks that resemble the modern chambered nautilus, are more closely related to the octopus and squid. Heat, pressure, and mineralization gave their fossils an irridescent sheen that makes them popular with collectors.

A happy collaboration

MA+D was a collaboration between Miami-based International Fine Art Exhibitions (IFAE) and the French SNA (organizers of the Paris Biennale).

IFAE’s principals, David and Lee Ann Lester, are the proprietors of the Miami International Art Fair, which for the past three years has brought that show to Bayfront Park during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend aboard SeaFair, a floating art museum.

Although SeaFair is a great venue, it has space limitations and can get crowded. By contrast, the 50,000-square-foot MA+D pavilion – erected around the Bayfront Park fountain – provided ample room for the participating galleries to display and showcase their larger works, and broad aisles capable of accommodating large numbers of people. The circular floor plan included a large dining area with a panoramic view across Biscayne Bay to PortMiami on Dodge Island.

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