Art Basel: The Collectors

Top Collectors Accentuate the Art Basel Experience

The eyes of the art world collectively turn on South Florida for this week’s incarnation of Art Basel Miami Beach, December 6- December 9, and for good reason. The wildly popular and globally acclaimed art extravaganza and the countless – literally countless – number of events taking place in or not in conjunction with the main program, are a cornucopia of fine arts exhibits, discussions, performances and more.

While the influence of Art Basel Miami Beach, America’s most prestigious art show, has certainly propelled South Florida’s credential and reputation in the art world, it is not the only influence. Well before Art Basel arrived on the shores of Miami Beach, prominent collectors, including those with footsteps in the national and international collecting and advocacy communities, made the area home. Furthermore these same prominent individuals and organizations in the community made fertile the soil in which Art Basel Miami Beach has sprouted and grown.

SunPost takes a look at the collectors and their collections, many of which are active in players in this year’s big show.

Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation

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Ella Fontanals-Cisneros is a passionate supporter of the arts and culture with a broad cultural view. Born in Cuba and raised in Venezuela, Fontanals-Cisneros has made a tremendous investment in the arts and culture landscape of South Florida. Fontanals-Cisneros began collecting art from Latin America in 1970, and her scope has expanded to include important and cutting-edge pieces by risk-taking artists from around the world, with strong representations of geometric abstract art from Latin America, international installation and video art, and photography.

Founded in 2002, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation fosters understanding and appreciation of contemporary artists from Latin America through grants, commissions, exhibitions, and bilingual publications. CIFO focuses on three primary initiatives: grants and commissions programs for emerging and midcareer visual artists from Latin America, an exhibitions program showcasing work by Latin American artists and art from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection in the state-of-the-art CIFO Art Space, and foundation-initiated support for other arts and culture projects.

Fontanals-Cisneros also founded the short-lived but vaunted Miami Art Central in 2003 before deciding to merge it with Miami Art Museum (MAM) three years later. She’s subsequently fostered and attracted influential support for MAM in helping it strive toward becoming one of the great art museums of the world. She is a trustee of MAM, Patrons of the Tate, the Cintas Foundation, the United States Artist, and the International Women’s Forum, and is an active humanitarian and environmentalist.

Dennis and Debra Scholl Collection

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Dennis and Debra Scholl have been renowned collectors for the past three decades-plus, and as Vice President/Arts at the Knight Foundation, Dennis oversees the foundation’s national arts program, including the Knight Arts Challenge and Random Acts of Culture. He has also founded a series of initiatives dedicated to building the contemporary art collections of museums, including the Guggenheim, the Tate Modern and the Miami Art Museum.

The Scholls substantial private collection in numerous media, is the impetus behind World Class Boxing (WCB). Named for its previous use as a boxing gym where a number of Olympic and professional boxing champions trained, the 4,000 square-foot Wynwood space has a main gallery, a project space and contains the Scholls’ art book library. WCB features exhibits of work commissioned by and drawn from the Scholls’ collection in all media including painting, drawing, sculpture, video and photography. One of the key goals of WCB was to make the Scholls’ collection more accessible to the arts community.

The Scholls’ passion extends to their own home, where their unique approach is to annually select a curator to install works from their collection in their home. As an extension of the curatorial approach, WCB is curated with consideration for large works being actualized in a non-institutional setting.

WCB has also seen a number of its exhibitions tour the U.S., including Imperfect Innocence, an exhibition of photography and video works which was displayed at the Baltimore Contemporary Art Museum and the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art and Breathing Time, an exhibition of works from the collection at the Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University, only months after the devastation from Hurricane Katrina made loans of art work unavailable to the community. In Repose, a show of portraits of women by women artists was exhibited at Moore College of Art and Design, the only remaining all women’s art college in the United States and Because I Say So…, an exhibition featuring contemporary sculpture, was presented at The Frost Art Museum at Florida International University.

Milagros Maldonado, Miami Biennale

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If all Milagros Maldonado were to the Miami art scene was director of the exciting Miami Biennale, then she would already be an important rising star. But this star, Maldonado, is risen. Over the course of her collecting life, which dates back to the 1980s she’s been an important figure in Latin American art and emerging artists, while at the same time fostering artists with challenging if universal themes.

Venezuelan Maldonado actually earned an art history degree from an impressive school in Rome before mounting shows in Italy featuring the work of Richard Serra, Sol Lewitt and Joseph Beuys. She moved to Paris in the early 1980s, where she began collecting. At first she focused on works of Latin American artists living in Paris. However, her interest expanded to the collection of works produced from the 1920s to the present by an increasingly diverse group of artists from all over the world.

Maldonado has said that her ample collection reflects exposition on identity and particularly both the feminine and the Latin American. Her travels have taken her around the world where experiential living and a lust for life have influenced the evolution of her collection.

With Miami Biennale, Maldonado brings together her passions, with the community benefitting in the process. Miami Biennale is “an independent, international, apolitical, interdisciplinary non-profit organization, whose main objective is to promote art, poetry, performing, visual and audiovisual arts, music, architecture, urban landscaping, design, Internet, radio and television.”

According to its vision statement, “Through the organization of diverse multicultural projects with all year round ongoing activities such as, but not limited to, national and international arts, music, film, video, television, radio, Internet, architecture and landscape, design, publications, plus related fairs, forums, festivals and conferences, with a main event every two years that focuses in education through art, Miami Biennale will be fulfilling its main objective of promoting a creative dialogue between Miami, its multi-layered cultural community and the world.”

Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, de la Cruz collection

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Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz met in Cuba as youths and have been together ever since. That alone would qualify them as exceptional, even if they hadn’t over the years become some of the most important art collectors in the South Florida and in the nation as a whole.

Carlos de la Cruz is the chairman of the board of CC1 companies, Inc., which includes subsidiaries of the Coca-Cola Company and has $1 billion in annual sales. Rose de la Cruz is known as one of Florida’s most prominent art collectors. Recognizing the significance of their incredible collection, the pair periodically opens their home to anyone who wishes to view their outstanding collection, including during Art Basel when the couple let 3,000 V.I.P.’s into their Key Biscayne home.

Since 2009, however, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz opened a new exhibition space in the Miami Design District. The 30,000 square-foot facility de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space acts as an extension of the Cruz’s 25-plus years of showing their collection from their home. The primary purpose of this museum is to provide education in the visual arts by showcasing their collection of contemporary art. Since its inception the de la Cruz Collection has organized multiple exhibitions, provided artist residencies and collaborated with other institutions. Their educational programs include lectures, artist-led workshops and daily docent-led tours. As an initiative to support the local art scene, Miami artists are invited to propose ideas for site-specific installations that are exhibited throughout the year. Artists are encouraged to create works based on art as a temporary experience and establish an open platform using non-traditional art practices.

Additionally, workshops and classes were created to support school children and teachers and scholarships and travel programs were instituted to assist area art students.

In the spirit of collaboration the de la Cruz Collection initiated a residency program in 2009 with the Sculpture Center in New York, organized the exhibition Fighting, Kissing, Dancing and Liquid Matter during the summer of 2011 at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia and hosted special screenings of Optic Nerve, 2011 and 2012 following its premiere at The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.

Irma and Norman Braman

For decades a powerful presence in South Florida’s business, civic and philanthropic communities, these days Norman Braman might be better known for his political adventurism than for the contributions he and wife Irma have made to the local arts community. That’s more a reflection on just how high profile Braman’s push for political reforms has been, not a reflection on their acclaimed philanthropic work or their world class collection.

The Bramans’ collection is largely contemporary and modern art and some estimates of its value have ranged to $900 million. The longtime attendees of the original Art Basel, the Bramans have over time acquired significant works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Picasso and others. They’ve accrued their collection in a relatively short period of time. They began after falling in love with sculptures in France, gradually began acquiring additional works and becoming influential enough in the global art world that they helped arrange for Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002.

The Bramans are generous with their support of museums and exhibitions. Just recently they loaned New York’s Museum of Modern Art Willem de Kooning’s Bolton Landing and Woman for a de Kooning retrospective, and they generously support numerous other efforts routinely.

While the Bramans’ leadership in numerous areas of philanthropy and community building have made them household names to many, as two of the leading art collectors in the world, they have made an indelible imprint on arts in South Florida.

Martin Z. Margulies, The Margulies Collection

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After amassing one of the most impressive collections of contemporary art in the world, Margulies began showcasing his pieces, which run the gamut from contemporary art and vintage photography, to video, sculpture, and instillations, to the public in 1999.

The collection continued to expand over the last decade-plus, leading to the need for a larger home. Today, the Margulies Collection is housed in a 45,000-square-foot renovated warehouse in the heart of Wynwood. The Martin Z. Margulies Foundation is a non-profit that is focused on presenting exhibitions and educational programs.

From titans of Modernism like Miro and Noguchi to trailblazers of the moment such as Ernesto Neto and Olafur Eliasson to young innovators just emerging onto the international art scene, many of the most important and intriguing artists of the 20th and 21st centuries are represented in The Margulies Collection. Recognized as one of the major collections of contemporary art in the world, it spans significant movements in art from Abstract Expressionism through Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art, to monumental sculpture and recent installation and video works—not to mention vintage and contemporary photography. Margulies preferences have been said the nexus of beauty and reflections on the human conditions, whether that’s reflected in older, more traditional works or those at the very cutting edge.

The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse is curated by longtime Margulies curator Katherine Hinds, and features an educational program of significant guest speakers.

Gary Nader, Gary Nader Fine Art

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Avid art enthusiast and gallery owner Gary Nader has played an integral role in the formation of Miami’s growing presence in the art world. His gallery, situated in the heart of Wynwood, presents a number of solo and group exhibitions and provides extensive professional services to assist private clientele, corporations and museums with the acquisition or sale of Latin American, Modern and Contemporary art. Services include consultations and certifications, appraisals for art works or entire collections and an art advisory service program.

Recognized as an expert on the works of Wifredo Lam, Mr. Nader is the exclusive distributor in the United States and Latin America of his catalogue raisonne.

As the largest fine art gallery in South Florida and the biggest gallery in the world with 55,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space, Gary Nader Fine Art showcases an expertly curated selection of impressive works by leading artists from across the globe. Nader displays extraordinary pieces from Lam, Kahlo, Rivera, Picasso, Matisse and Chagall as well as the world’s largest collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures by Fernando Botero.

This year for Art Basel Miami Beach, Nader has invited artist Bia Doria to exhibit two works from her Labyrinth collection. Known for her art works created from native trees salvaged from forest fires, deforestation and river bottoms, Bia Doria is taking part in an international exhibit for the first time.

Craig Robins, Dacra Art Collection

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From South Beach to Lincoln Road, Espanola Way to the Design District, Craig Robins can be credited as the visionary behind some of the city’s biggest transformations. His Dacra Development Group combines art and architecture to create avant-garde projects, revitalizing neighborhoods. In the Design District, Dacra brings in big name retailers like Christian Louboutin, Maison Martin Margiela, and Marni to a neighborhood that was all but forgotten. Another of his projects, Design Miami has had similar success, drawing attention to the city as a cultural hub, and rivaling Art Basel as one of the most popular art fairs in the city.

Robins’ Collection is a private contemporary art and design collection that includes works from John Baldessari, Richard Tuttle, Marlene Dumas, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Kai Althoff, Cosima von Bonin, Huang Yong Ping, and Paulina Olowska. Pieces in the collection represent a wide spectrum of artistic perspectives and encompass the disciplines of design, architecture, film, music and dance.

Believing that art should be shared, pieces from the collection are constantly rotated and put on display in Dacra properties around South Florida. Pieces are also loaned out to museums and cultural institutions for exhibition. Design objects by leading designers such as Gio Ponti, Jean Prouve, Zaha Hadid, the Campana Brothers, Ron Arad and Maarten Baas are also part of the collection and on display in Dacra offices.

In addition to showcasing the Craig Robins Collection, site specific permanent public art and design works are a hallmark of Dacra developments. Works have been created by Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson, Richard Tuttle and Guillermo Kuitca.

Jason and Jennifer Rubell, Rubell Family Collection

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In 1964 in New York Don Rubell and his wife Mera began amassing their personal art collection. The idea to share that collection with the world led these pioneers of the art scene to Miami in the early 90’s, and they opened the Rubell Family Collection in its current 45,000-square-foot warehouse in Wynwood.

Don and Mera’s children, Jennifer and Jason, have honored the family’s legacy while leading Miami’s art scene and operating the non-profit Contemporary Arts Foundation. The Rubell Family Collection features 27 galleries, a research library, a film and lecture theater, a new media room, a bookstore, a gift shop, and sculpture garden. The family was also involved in a collaborative effort with famed French fashion brand, Lanvin, which included an installation in their space.

The collection is constantly expanding and features such well-known artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol. In addition to displaying internationally established artists, the RFC actively acquires, exhibits and champions emerging artists working at the forefront of contemporary art.

About Michael W Sasser

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