WLRN's Rising Tide Shows Art Basel Through the Eyes of Local Artists

Finally, there's Venessa Monokian who works in stop motion animation and photography. She is an artist in residence at Art Center South Florida in Miami Beach, one of several important local venues featured in the documentary. Art Basel 2012 looms only three weeks away, and she is currently mixing video animation art with a sculpture of a metal bonsai tree. Tiny metal leaves flow off, pinned by their metal stems to a white wall flowing in an arc over the tree. They come to life, in an animated projected screen, before coming full circle back to the tree.

She says she still has work to do before Basel, an event, she agrees has been key in many ways to the vitality of the Miami art scene. She has seen Basel drive the students who take her photography courses at Florida International University and Barry University. She encourages them to see the work of many of the masters that appear at the nearby Miami Beach Convention Center, which hosts some of the most famous galleries from around the world. "The students' work has really become a lot more complex, and their drive to make it interesting is really being pushed because they see that's where the bar's set," she says, often pushing up her glasses as she speaks with an amiable eagerness. "I want the bar to be set really high, and Basel helps me do that ... Even if they don't get remotely close, they push themselves so much harder."

Rising Tide Selects Monokian from Andrew Hevia on Vimeo.

But, as Rising Tide illustrates, it's not all fun and games. In the documentary, longtime Miami gallery owner Brook Dorsch who also fosters Jonquil's work at his gallery, laments that the art scene lacks a proper, full-time art critic. Art historian Claire Breukel offers insightful commentary with sharp analysis. She bemoans the slapped-together satellite art fairs that pop up during Basel. Meanwhile, she praises fairs like Pulse and Nada who spend all year planning their fairs. She also notes Miami's quick growth has offered problems alongside a distinct "Wild West" freedom of honest-to-goodness creativity. "I needed someone to provide context," Hevia says of his inclusion of Breukel. "I've seen a lot of art documentaries and a lot of them don't give you the information of why this stuff is relevant. You have to come in with an MFA in art history to understand why this is interesting."

Art Basel 2011 appears in much of it, as it remains the primary catalyst for Miami's relevance as an up-and-coming international art scene with many artists who have ventured far across its borders to places like London, Italy, Berlin, as well as New York. With Art Basel invading Miami, Hevia says, it creates a unique situation to see how the crème de la crème of the international art world affects the Miami-based artist. "What I really wanted to do is make a film that captured how we on the ground level sort of experience it," Hevia says. "There's plenty of magical stuff that goes on at the main Basel fair, but the truth is, as a Miami native who's interested in art and knows a lot of artists and with the artists I know, very rarely do we penetrate that curtain."

Rising Tide: A Story of Miami Artists premieres November 14 at 8 p.m. on WLRN channel 17

Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.

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