Local Artists and Collectors on Phoenix Art Scene, Art Basel and National Attention

Written by Amy Young Category: Visual Arts Issue: January 2016
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Artists Joe Brklacich and Andrew Salgado with collector Steve Hanson at Beers London, PULSE Art Fair / Photo courtesy Steve HansonEach December, thousands of people flock to Miami Beach for Art Basel’s large-scale, self-titled exhibition presenting modern and contemporary art. The organization has been hosting art events since its inception in 1970, and the Miami Beach fair began in 2002. That inaugural event featured nearly 300 galleries from around the world and drew in a crowd of nearly 100,000 people, a big mix of whom were art collectors, gallerists, artists, and members of the media.

Art Basel Miami has continued to grow since then and the city has become the home of several peripheral art fairs and events that happen simultaneously, providing visitors a whirlwind of a week. Many of the hotels on Miami’s South Beach house art fairs like Aqua and Select. In the city’s Wynwood District, known as the place for lovers of design to congregate and peruse, a popular mural project called The Wynwood Walls has become a must-see attraction.

If you happen to be among the many that make it to this major art extravaganza, don’t be surprised to see some Phoenicians in the mix. For instance, the renowned Lisa Sette Gallery is at the prestigious Art Miami fair annually, and her exhibitions always include local artists like Rachel Bess and Angela Ellsworth. Last year, painter Fred Tieken had a solo exhibition at the Aqua Art Fair, and artist Thomas “Breeze” Marcus goes regularly to be involved with mural projects. At last month’s Art Basel event, Marcus went as an attendee, with no working commitments, and says that he enjoyed “seeing everything from a different perspective and having more time to take in what was going on in different areas.”

Local art collector Steve Hanson, who has been dedicated to following the work of many area artists for several years now, made his first trip in 2015. “It was my first time going to Art Basel Miami,” says Hanson. “It was much larger than I expected, with a number of art fairs all happening at the same time. Going there is an ideal way to see work from both blue chip and emerging artists, along with networking with the world's top art galleries. A wonderful place to see amazing art as well as be seen, with the fun night life and parties.”

Visiting or participating in this event, and others like it, definitely involve a financial commitment, but the real value lies in the opportunity for art patrons and art business folks to learn about the unique arts community that we have in metro Phoenix, one that has been consistent and evolving for decades. Building those new relationships can also help better artists’ careers and expand their opportunities. We’ve got a lot to highlight: A mammoth monthly art walk, outstanding public art works, the annual Art Detour event, the annual Paint PHX mural event, and a diverse range of galleries. We’ve also been consistent in utilizing non-traditional spots to show art.

One big example is the ARTELPHX event that has taken over central Phoenix’s Clarendon Hotel the last few years, using public space and private rooms for multimedia installations. Bars like Taste of Tops in Tempe, and downtown’s Lost Leaf have regular exhibitions, and curators like Robrt Pela are utilizing their skills to make the walls of eateries like Pita Jungle more intriguing. Waiting for your car to be serviced at Phoenix’s 180 Degrees Automotive? No problem, their lobby boasts a relaxing and elegant art gallery.

Point? More so than many cities, art in Phoenix is prevalent and ingrained in our culture and as we take opportunities to spotlight that, the art and our artists continue to become distinct reasons for people to select our region as a destination.