The British (Art) Invasion: Art Britannia Brings a Piece of Britain to Miami

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Bum 12 by Charlie Billingham.
Miami will get a taste of the British Isles when Art Britannia presents Britain's contemporary art scene. The show, curated by Ben Austin and produced by Karelle Levy, will be one of the many art events occurring during Art Basel. The show will feature some of Britain's exciting artists, including Charlie Billingham, James Capper, Freya Douglas-Morris, Gordon Cheung, Brad Grievson, Mary Ramsden, Hanna Knox, Sam Jury, Guy Rusha, John Robertson, Eleanor Moreton, Dolly Thompsett, Rebecca Ackroyd, Grant Foster and Henny Acloque.

Ben Austin, the curator of Art Britannia, spoke about the origins of this cross-cultural art show.

"The idea first came to me five years ago when I first visited Miami [sic]...I thought then it would be wonderful to have a British show, taking the best of the new generation of British artists," said Austin. "Years passed, and it was always on the backburner, and then I met my wonderful and very talented fiancée [Levy], who's an artist and knitware designer and a Miami resident...We were able to make this five year dream a reality. It's very exciting on many levels, on a personal level and on a cultural level as well. We want to...take England to Miami and vice versa--take Miami artists to show in the UK as well."

For those not initiated into the world of British art, expect to see a myriad of ideas encased in the artwork, ideas that reflect the storied history of the nation itself. The type of artwork to be shown in Art Britannia will highlight many different aesthetics, such as vibrant landscapes, romanticism, nude figure paintings, highly intriguing video work, and mechanical construction. The artists are also widely diverse, ranging from recent graduates to veterans of the art world.

"Britain has a mix of different countries... it's got a rich history and a colonial history. It's a melting pot of ideas, it's a central place between America and Europe," said Austin. "The British have always had a very progressive [style]--punk originated in the UK. It's always pushing boundaries...Britain has always been at the forefront of a very strong visual culture. The ambitions of this show is to show the next generation--where British art is now--and also...to [begin] a cross-cultural reference with Miami coming to London as well...That's what I think Britain is all about."

Austin also discussed the bold and innovative elements in Miami's art scene. "The art that comes out of Miami, because it's such a new and vibrant and exciting city, has a different aesthetic," he said. "Obviously there's a very Hispanic influence to the work, and [the art is]...brave. I think that's very exciting, [that] the new museums and the foundations and Art Basel [are] really generating a new wave of young Miami talent that's being taken seriously in the national art scene."

Austin believes Miami's art lovers will appreciate Art Britannia. "I hope they'll be very receptive...This exhibition is being assisted by the British-American Business Council and the British Consult and other British artists who are world famous, such as Tracey Emin, who is having her big show coinciding during Basel at [the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami], so there will be a real interest in British art...I think that will set up an interest," he said.

Austin's thrilled to not only have the chance to bring British art to Miami, but to also change the minds of UK art lovers about Miami's art scene. "...People in the UK get to see Miami artists differently, because often in the States, New York--and to a lesser degree, LA--is always where it's considered great art is being made," he said. "So, we have to change that perspective. Miami is young, but it's exciting and it's vibrant. There's some great work coming out of this town."

Art Britannia, at the Madonna Building (3940 N. Miami Ave., Miami), runs through Dec. 21. Open daily during Art Basel (through Dec. 8) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit artbritannia.com.

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