Local Artists at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019: Woody De Othello, Sanford Biggers and Pepe Mar

Art Basel Miami Beach has been a cultural phenomenon for more than a decade. Every year, it endeavors to shine a light on contemporary artists who are striving to make a name for themselves. With hundreds of thousands of people attending both the main event at the Miami Beach Convention Center and fairs throughout the region, it’s an optimal time for artists to generate something that resonates with an audience.

The main art fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center is divided into different sectors: Galleries, Nova, Positions, Edition, Kabinett, Survey, Meridians and Magazines. Below are three artists who are presenting their work in the Meridian sector, where galleries have a unique opportunity to showcase ambitious work such as paintings, sculptures and installations.

Woody De Othello is a first generation American and one of the main artists showcasing his work. He is contemporarily focused on social realism, a movement that depicts everyday life. He believes it is important to portray themes that are close to him.

“I try to depict emotion by anthropomorphizing everyday objects hoping the people who interact with my work can have a moment of reflection and emphasize with the sculptures presented to them,” he said.

Deconstruction: A Reordering of Life, Politics and Art by Pepe Mar. (Courtesy of Pepe Mar Art)

One of the essential things to Othello is being genuine and creating work that speaks his truth. Born and raised in Miami, his art draws a lot of inspiration from the city and the way he thinks about his work. “Ranging from the color palette to questions stemming around identity, Miami has really shaped me,” said the artist. At Basel 2019, he hopes to enjoy the company of loved ones and most of all, share his art with his community. “That’s something I’ll always be thankful for, Art Basel being in my backyard growing up. It has always been a dream to showcase work.”

Although Sanford Biggers‘ work is better known on the streets of New York, it is definitely turning heads in Miami this year due to his complex and deep style. He loves to experiment and let his ideas gestate. When asked about his personal views on art, he states that he identifies with all its forms.

Biggers gains inspiration from others’ creativity and ability to communicate in various techniques and mediums. As for themes, he is dedicated to experimentation, specifically the craft of conceptual content. “I introduce loaded content onto traditional materials like bronze, stone, sand as well as found and repurposed objects,” he said. His pieces can range from art and cultural history to spirituality, pop culture and music. Although none of his art draws inspiration from Miami directly, Biggers is eager to learn and meet new artists at Art Basel 2019, as well as catch up with some old friends.

Blossom by Sanford Biggers. (Courtesy of Hrag Vartanian Flickr)

Another amazing creator starring in the Meridians section (monumental projects) is Miami-based artist Pepe Mar. He works on a very personal level with themes that use painting, sculpture and LGBTQ+ history. His current focus is collecting and installation art, including the history of Miami and characters who have lived in the city.

Mar described himself as a “scavenger hunt” artist, collecting pieces of his works from bazaars, boutiques and retail outlets. “I’m always looking for different things, physical objects, stories, influences,” said the artist. His Art Basel project this year, which includes two paintings found in thrift stores, perfectly manifests this style.

One intimate work is called “Deconstruction: A Reordering of Life, Politics and Art.” It’s an homage to Craig Coleman, a painter who lived in Miami during the 1990s. First exhibited at FIU’s Frost Art Museum and now being displayed at Art Basel 2019, this emotional installation is dedicated to South Beach and its history as a supportive environment to the LGBTQ+ community.

Sanford Biggers’ Solo Exhibition at David Castillo Gallery. (Courtesy of Matthew Moehr Wikimedia)

Mar said this is a very special year due to the magnitude of his presentation. With a solo exhibition in one of the most prestigious art fairs in the world, he hopes to “get an amazing perception from the visitors.”

“I know the world will be seeing it, so the expectation is to get people to experience my work and establish a connection to my art,” he said.

Art Basel in Miami Beach presents artworks from more than 250 leading art galleries all around the globe. There is definitely something for everyone to enjoy this year.

Luisa Peixoto is a junior Digital Media student at Florida International University's School of Communication + Journalism. She was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil and moved to Miami to start her undergraduate education. She's an avid music lover and spends most of her time keeping up with news on what is happening around the world. Luisa is also passionate about photography, filmmaking, content creation and social media strategy. In the future, she hopes to use her skills and knowledge to write articles and produce digital media content on politics and economics.

Ivo Caminata is a bilingual sports journalist at Florida International University. He hopes to be a sports play-by-play announcer to bring excitement to viewers during each game. He wants to present sports in a way that gets people from all cultures to develop the same passion he feels for sports. Caminata will graduate from the Lee Caplin School of Journalism & Media with a bachelor’s degree in digital and interactive media in 2024.