Black And Basel 2018 - #DoYOUBasel? December 11 2018

Written by Julie Walker


More than any other year, 2018 was the year that Art Basel Miami Beach and it’s constellation of satellite art fairs celebrated black and brown artists like never before.


For the 17th edition of ABMB, Deborah Roberts collage of a young black girl was on the cover of the Art Basel magazine, Theaster Gates collaborated with Prada to launch a pop-up club, Fab 5 Freddy showed off his latest paintings and Swizz Beatz brought his No Commission Art Fair to the Faena Forum. These were just some of the many ways black and brown artists left their mark on Miami.


There was no lack of choices when it came to what to see and do if you wanted to make Art Basel Miami a solely black experience. There were several fairs and shows solely devoted to art created by black and brown artists. In addition, the Perez Art Museum (PAMM) was celebrating Ebony G. Patterson with the opening of her most significant presentation of work to date, while the Rubell Family Collection is shining a spotlight of Overtown’s own Purvis Young, with a show curated from some of the more than 3,000 works they own of the artist.


The following artworks, in no particular order, are some of the many paintings, drawings, sculptures and various works by black and brown artists that speak to the lives we live, that represent the people we are and that tell the story of our history the way we want it told.

Amy Sherald, known for her breathtaking portrait of Michelle Obama, has a brand new painting that sold for $175,000 at ABMB. It was purchased by a collector as a possible promised gift to an American museum. Sherald’s surreal portraiture explores issues of racial identity. The Spelman College graduate credits her art with getting her through some very tough times, including a heart transplant in 2012. Sherald will have her own retrospective at the Baltimore Museum in 2020.


Deborah Roberts was literally all over Art Basel Miami. The artist’s work was on the cover of the official Art Basel magazine and Stephen Friedman Gallery dedicated a section of their stand at Art Basel Miami to her new works. The African-American artist, who is in her 50’s, lives and works in Austin, Texas. She usually does collages, but these works are on canvas. They depict young black children, but when you look closely you see some very powerful black icons interspersed in the work, like Michelle Obama and Rihanna.


Eddie Santana White, who goes by Edo, is a self-taught artist who has been painting for a year. The  28-year-old and lives in Chicago and started in graphic design, he still owns a screen print company. Edo’s work is a mixture of abstract and pop. Edo says some people call it organized chaos, but he says there is a story to it. For Elsewhere it’s an intergalactic trip with lots of stops at is favorite places along the way. This year Pigment took over The Penthouse at Riverside Wharf for their show.


Jason E. Jones is a self taught artist who lives and works in Chicago and is part of the Pigment collective. Coral Floor was created in part by happenstance. Jones  had been on a waitlist for six years for a kidney transplant and finally got it in 2015. After that he craved pistachios, so he would eat them as he worked and throw the shells into a metal pan that he used to mix his acrylic paints. The artist says he noticed the shells were becoming their own artwork. The more paint that got into his pan, the more layered the pistachio shells became. Jones cut the metal pans with the shells attached into squares and added the gold leaf after.


Alfred Conteh showed with two galleries Kavi Gupta at Art Basel Miami  and the black-owned Gallery Myrtis at Scope Art Fair. Conteh, whose mother is an African American and father is from Sierra Leone, lives and works in Atlanta. NFL Quarterback Cam Newton collects the work of this artist who paints, sculpts and works with mixed media. Many of his works examine personal identity as they depict the black male as the strong proud figure he is.


Artist Bisa Butler’s The Safety Patrol  was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago. It was showing at the Pulse Art Fair and was one of the artworks there that was specially picked out by the Perez Museum as a standout. Butler graduated from the MFA program at Howard University. Her large-scale figurative works on fabric remind the viewer of the quilts African American have handed down from generation to generation. Butler uses worn clothing from her father’s native Ghana and other African nations, and incorporates the fabric into her layered quilted portraits. Harlem’s Claire Oliver Gallery sold all four of Butler’s available works for $18,000–36,000 each.


Niyi Olagunju is a Nigerian artist. This sculpture is a play off of the traditional African carvings. The gold half shows the commercial value of the work while the wood half shows the historic value. For the artists, ether way you look at it, Africans are cut out of the deal when it comes to what is traditionally theirs.


All of Tschabalala Self’s artwork sold out at ABMB with Thank You going to the Art Institute of Chicago after a collector bought it as a promised gift to the museum. The works sell for $50-$60,000. Just a year ago Self’s works were selling for less, that was until Craig Robins and The Rubell Family collection started buying the Harlem-born artists work. The pieces are from Self’s ongoing Bodega Run series, which is based on her interactions with bodega owners, according to her gallery.


Devan Shimoyama had a solo presentation at the DeBuck Gallery at the UNTITLED Miami Beach Art Fair. The 29-year-old also showed with Kavi Gupta Gallery at Art Basel Miami. Shimoyama’s work is the subject of a show right now at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, his first museum solo exhibition. Shimoyama works with a lot of self-portraiture. His narratives are inspired by classical mythology. Ready For a Revolution is part of his reading list series. It shows the juxtaposition of Shimoyama relaxing at home while reading The Loss of El Dorado, a history book about Venezuela and Trinidad. All his work at DeBuck sold out at the start of the art fair.  


Arboite used ground coffee to create these artworks. Some of the circles you see are coffee filters with acrylic paint, he also uses paper towels to give the acrylics of the effect seen in the works. The artist, who is of Haitian descent, was born in New York City. Arboite puts an emphasis on what his galerist says is the “ethereal consciousness of the body.” In these works, part of those bodies, mainly the heads are  eviscerated through the sluid patterns and splatter of his use of coffee grains. The artist’s smaller works sell for $5,000 and prices go up from there..


Elia Alba is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in New York. She completed the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, has exhibited at Studio Museum in Harlem where she also completed the Artist-in Residence Program. Alba’s sculptures integrate her sewing techniques with her photography by utilizing photo transfers onto fabric. The work is both fantasy and surreal as it plays with ideas of identity and gender.


Greg Breda, who is in his sixties, lives and works in Los Angeles. The self-taught artists work sold on the first day of the NADA fair. According to his dealer, Breda creates about five or six works a year and there is a waitlist. His use of light and shadows gives a surreal glow to the black skin depicted in his paintings of bodies at leisure. Breda has shown at the African American Museum in LA and will be one of the featured artists at a pop u the gallery is doing in New York in 2019.


Abiola Akintola showed 15 of his works, including sculpture, mixed media and paintings, at the Art Africa Miami Fair. The theme of this year’s fair was “Black Art Matters” and the Nigerian-born artist said he really wanted to support them in a big way. Akintola lives and works in Chicago. His artwork was also being exhibited by Gallery Guichard at The Scope Art Fair.


Lauren Halsey’s larger than life 112 feet bright white sculpture incorporating black cultural scenes   had people immediately stopping at Art Basel Miami to look. It sold the first day of the fair for $40,000. Halsey recently had a presentation at the Hammer Museum in L.A. and won its $100,000 Mohn Award. She also had a solo show this year at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles. The young artist graduated from the MFA program at Yale in  2014 and did the Artist-In-Residency Program at The Studio Museum in Harlem.


Tolu Aliki is a self-taught Nigerian artist who lives and works in Lagos. His work address ideas surrounding love, passion and music. Aliki incorporates the vibrant colors of Africa with his stylized figures to show everyday social interactions. Art Africa Miami showcases visual works from emerging and established artists from Africa and its diaspora. Established in 2011, this year Art Africa Miami took over two buildings in Overtown not far from the Lyric Theatre.