As big as Art Basel Miami Beach 2013 (Dec. 5-8) is for black artists, even bigger news out of Miami is the opening of the new Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) on Dec. 3. The museum went on a spending spree, buying up works by African-American artists after receiving a $1 million grant from Jorge M. Pérez and the Knight Foundation specifically for that purpose.
Works by Faith Ringgold, Al Loving and Xaviera Simmons were the first to be purchased for the museum’s permanent collection. PAMM has committed to exhibiting and collecting work by African-American artists, and they will have a plethora to choose from at Art Basel, where the biggest names in the art world will be on display.
Now in its 12th year, the international fair includes nearly 300 galleries and dozens of artists of African descent. The fair is also a must for black collectors. In past years Jay Z, Beyoncé, Pharrell and Diddy have all shopped at the show. This year, Kanye West is collaborating on a performance-art piece with artist Vanessa Beecroft, and Kendrick Lamar is even performing at the after-party.
Here are 15 black artists whose works are worth a look at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach.
Gates spearheaded one of the biggest events in the black art world in August, when he gathered 100 of his peers in Chicago for his inaugural Black Artists Retreat. It was partially a re-creation of a 1968 symposium among leading black artists. Gates even used the original transcript to show just how much has and has not changed for black artists. Gates is considered one of the most powerful figures in contemporary art. His work plays off the issue of slavery. He is also redeveloping some of the South Side of Chicago for art projects including his studio, housing for artists and a cultural center.
Ofili is a Nigerian-British painter who may be best remembered for the 1997 controversy surrounding his painting The Holy Virgin Mary, which appeared at the “Sensation” exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Catholic Church leaders objected to the portrait, which featured a black Virgin Mary with a breast shaped from elephant dung and cutouts of genitalia from porn magazines. Next fall, the New Museum in New York will present his first solo exhibition at a U.S. museum since his 2005 show at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The show will take up three main galleries and include some of his most influential work including The Holy Virgin Mary.
Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist. He grew up in London and Lagos, and his work explores cultural identity as well as colonialism and post-colonialism. Some of the issues Shonibare’s work touches on are race and class. He is a painter, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker and performance artist. Shonibare was a Turner Prize nominee in 2004 and awarded the decoration of member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Thomas keeps adding new dimensions to her art. She is known as a painter, creating elaborate portraits of strong black female figures. Her painting of Michelle Obama was the first individual portrait done of the first lady. It was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery's “Americans Now” show. She is also a filmmaker whose first documentary, Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman, will screen at the Art Basel. The film, a portrait of Thomas’ mother and muse, lends unique insight to the artist’s process, as mother and daughter share memories, desires and history.
Bradford lives and works in Los Angeles. The artist transforms materials scavenged from the streets into wall-size collages. His work 2008 sold for $2,629,000 at a Sotheby’s auction last month. This year he was elected into the National Academy of Design. In 2009, Bradford was the recipient of the MacArthur fellowship, aka the genius grant.
Andrews was a painter, printmaker and creator of collages. He was born to sharecroppers in Georgia in 1930 and died in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2006. In 1969, Andrews co-founded the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, which protested the fact that there were no African Americans involved in organizing the “Harlem on My Mind” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Andrews was the director of visual arts for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1982 to 1984.
Saar began collecting images of stereotypical African-American figures such as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom and Little Black Sambo in the 1960s. She incorporated them into collages as a form of political and social protest. In the 1970s Saar turned her focus to tribal objects from Africa, as well as items from African-American folk traditions. She was given a MacArthur genius grant in 1997.
Boakye is a London-born artist of Ghanaian descent. Her work has appeared at the Studio Museum in Harlem. This year, Boakye was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize. Her paintings are mainly figurative and use muted colors. Referring to the all-black figures in her work, she told Kaleidoscope magazine, “They’re all black because, in my view, if I was painting white people that would be very strange, because I’m not white.”
Tayou was born in Cameroon and works in Ghent, Belgium, and in Cameroon. His art blends experiences from his birthplace with his adopted residences, raising issues regarding cultural and national identity. His work, which has been shown at the Venice Biennial, consists of drawings, sculptures, installations, videos and performances.
Weems is a photographer and video artist. The year, she received a MacArthur award for her work, which highlights the harsh realities of race, class and gender in America. Weems told The Root she plans to use the award money for a film project.
Gaba is a conceptual artist who was born in Benin and works in Europe. His work explores issues related to cultural exchange, including African culture and Western perception. Gaba’s major work, Museum of Contemporary African Art (1997-2002), was recently acquired by the Tate in London. For the project, the artist installed 12 “rooms” of a nomadic museum in various institutions over a period of five years.
Los Angeles native and New York City-based artist Wiley is an award-winning artist known for portraits of individuals in the diaspora. It was Wiley’s desire to right the absence of black males in historical paintings that drew him to his subject matter. He often takes everyday people off of the streets of New York City and poses them in an Old Master style, making the paintings uniquely his own. In 2015 he will have a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
El Anatsui is a sculptor from Ghana who works in Nigeria. He was the first black artist to participate in the High Line Commissions program in New York City. His work titled Broken Bridge II, a large-scale wall of pressed tin with mirrored accents, formally sat along the park’s walk (the work was taken down on Sept. 30).
Youngblood lives and works in Los Angeles. She was trained as a photographer and started using her own photographs for large-scale layered collages. Now she incorporates all kinds of found materials into her work. Youngblood's work is in the collection of the Studio Museum in New York City. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently acquired her work for its permanent collection.
Drew is known for his dynamic large-scale sculptural installations often composed of found objects, wood and fabrics. His work also includes cast paper sculptures and three-dimensional works on paper. The Tallahassee, Fla.-born artist lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. Pérez Art Museum Miami has acquired his work as part of its permanent collection.