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Miami Beach wants the public to decide which work of art to buy

An oil painting, 'Cobalt Blue Earrings,' by Amoako Boafo is one of several art pieces aquired for Miami Beach's Legacy Purchase Program.
Amoako Boafo
An oil painting, Cobalt Blue Earrings, by Amoako Boafo is one of several art pieces acquired for Miami Beach's Legacy Purchase Program.

Three years ago, the city of Miami Beach did something that many people who attend Art Basel do: It became a collector of art exhibited at the giant show.

This week, the city will ask the public to help it choose one piece of art that it will buy and put on permanent display. That art work will join four other pieces that the city bought at previous Art Basel shows and are displayed in the east lobby of the Convention Center.

Many cities have Art in Public Places programs – buying sculptures or paintings or other art and installing the pieces in public buildings and plazas. But few have access to the range of contemporary art that Art Basel and Art Week Miami Beach bring to Miami Beach each December.

In 2019, city officials were looking for a way to connect their community to Art Basel. “We wanted a program where everyone could feel that they were part of Art Week and be able to participate in the hype and celebration around Art Week,” said Brandi Reddick, the city’s cultural affairs manager.

“So we met with Art Basel and came up with this plan to create a legacy purchase program where every year a certain amount from the Art in Public Places budget would be allocated to the acquisition of an artwork from the NOVA or Positions sector of Art Basel.” Those two categories of the main Art Basel exhibition feature new works and work by emerging artists, respectively.

“Essentially what we do is we work with Art Basel to issue a call to galleries, and galleries respond with available works within our price range. At that point, the Art and Public Places Committee will review our submissions,” she said. Once the committee narrows down the selection – 15 submissions the first year, 33 pieces this year – the public is invited to vote.

The money comes from Art in Public Places, which is funded by a percentage of construction costs of city projects and joint private/public projects.

"Somethin' Close to Nothin'" paint on an antique quilt by Sanford Biggers
Sanford Biggers
Somethin' Close to Nothin', paint on an antique quilt by Sanford Biggers

In its first year, the city allocated $100,000 for the purchase. After the public voted, only three votes separated the two favorites, and the city decided to buy both for a total of $109,000.

The works are Cobalt Blue Earrings, an oil painting by Amoako Boafo, and a composition of torn or cut paper, acrylic gel and feathered monarch butterflies on a digital print by Ebony G.Patterson. Its title reads like a poem: ...As the garden secretes a swarm of monarchs feast...a john crow awaits a carcass’ fall while scavengers gather to feast below, as we dig between the cuts...below the leaves...beneath the soil.

Since then, the city has acquired two more works of art through what it calls the Legacy Purchase Program: Somethin' Close to Nothin', paint on an antique quilt by Sanford Biggers, in 2020; and Plant Market/Stray Flowers in Swimming Pool/Still Life with Sample Text and Piña Coladas, photography on a vinyl wall wrap by Farah Al Qasimi, in 2021.

For this year’s purchase, information about the finalists will go online Tuesday.

“Right after the works are selected, our communications team does brief interviews with the gallerists or the artists giving little clips about the artwork as well as video of the artwork. So in case people can't make it inside the fair, we give them a behind-the-scenes story about the artwork as well as images from the fair,” Reddick said.

The garden secretes.png
Ebony G. Patterson
...As the garden secretes a swarm of monarchs feast...a john crow awaits a carcass’ fall while scavengers gather to feast below, as we dig between the cuts...below the leaves...beneath the soil, by Ebony G.Patterson

Voting will be on the city’sarts and culture websitefor 24 hours, starting at 8 p.m. Nov. 29 through 8 p.m. the next day. On Dec. 1 the city will buy the winning artwork.

There are other ways the city participates in Art Week Miami Beach beyond hosting it. It also commissioned works that will be on display.

"No Vacancy, Miami Beach" is a city-produced and curated art competition in which 12 artists – most of them local – create site-specific works at 12 local hotels. Those installations are open for viewing now through Dec. 8. The public can vote for their favorite work in this competition as well. Ballots, a list of participating hotels and other information about “No Vacancy, Miami Beach” can be found here.

The city will also unveil several pieces of public art during Art Week Miami Beach, starting Monday with a new site, dedicated to art, that will feature a series of aerial installations suspended above Española Way. The first work is Trapeze Contortionists by a local artist, Edouard Duval-Carrié. It consists of the silhouettes of 15 dancers, cut from lightweight aluminum.

A second temporary installation commissioned by the city will be presented by Miami Beach OnStage!, the city's entertainment series. It is a 50-foot figurative sculpture for the 41st Street Corridor, entitledStarchild by artist duo FriendsWithYou. The work will be unveiled at 5 p.m. on Monday on the corner of Pinetree Drive and 41st Street.

On Wednesday, the city will dedicate a permanent installation, Minna by Jaume Plensa.The 17-foot foot sculpture was gifted to the city by philanthropist Norman Braman. The ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. in Pride Park.

“Starchild” by artist duo FriendsWithYou
Starchild  by artist duo FriendsWithYou

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