Fountainhead Residency Front Page Miami Herald

(If you can’t access the story through the link, I copied and pasted it for you below).

If you live in Miami, I wish you would join The Fountainhead Residency I am a board member. My girlfriend, Ruth Greenberg, recently told me it was one of her best investments this year. Not only is she helping the arts, but she, and husband Howard, are now invited to several events a month where they are meeting and making the most interesting friends. 

There are all levels of financial support. An expensive meal for two will cost you more money than a membership. This is far more satisfying. Thank you


Come to Art Basel for $120K bananas taped to the wall. Stay for art rooted in Miami.



Until Kathryn Mikesell met and married her husband, Dan, she had never set foot in an art gallery or museum.

So how did she come to be, 21 years later, one of the most recognized, hugged, air-kissed and sought-after VVIPs when the doors swung open on Wednesday for the latest edition of America’s premier art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach?

The story comes in bits and pieces as the kinetic Mikesell makes her smiling, determined, embracing way through the floor of the Miami Beach Convention Center and its dozens of gallery booths during the exclusive preview, which draws some of the world’s top collectors and museum mavens.

And to follow Mikesell for a couple of hours provides a fresh inside look at the massive fair and its workings: What may to an outsider seem as little more than a cold market where fabulous or outlandish works of art trade for millions of dollars is, at the same time, a small world of warm personal and artistic connections where the young host city, Miami, has increasingly earned its way into the innermost circles.

For two decades, after discovering art and embracing art as life-affirming passion in their adopted hometown, Kathryn and Dan Mikesell have played a key behind-the-scenes role as patrons and supporters in fostering Miami’s emergent reputation as a global center for art — not just as a place to buy or sell or show off art, but as a place to make it.

And on Wednesday, it showed.

Kathryn Mikesell, co-founder and director of the Fountainhead Residency for artists in Miami, looks at a collage work by program alum and rising star Ebony G. Patterson during the Art Basel fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (MATIAS J. OCNER |

Kathryn was stopped every few steps by a happy greeting, a request for tips on art and artists or a quick “hi” as, floor map in hand, she sets out to meet up with members of her “family” — the artists and gallery owners from around the world that she and her husband have nurtured, encouraged and connected over the years through their Fountainhead Residency program and related endeavors.

At more booths than you can track, a delighted Mikesell points out a painting, sculpture or installation by one of the 400 artists from 45 countries she and her husband have hosted since 2008 in Miami’s Morningside neighborhood, or the local artists who have rented a low-cost studio from them at their Fountainhead Studios in nearby Little Haiti.

For a young emerging or a mid-career artist, making it to the hyper-competitive Basel fair is a significant achievement, and for the Mikesells it’s a point of special pride to have Fountainhead alums prominently represented on the Basel show floor and at several satellite fairs during art week.

“This is what we love,” Kathryn said. “I’m really here to support our artists. For me, it’s about people. People look forward to getting together to view art, to talk about the world today, and get inspired.”

A few required things, as it turns out, are comfortable shoes, a sturdy constitution, an uncanny memory for names, artworks and faces, and an ability to absorb massive amounts of visual stimulation.

At Berlin’s Peres Projects booth, multimedia artist and recent Fountainhead residency alum Austin Lee, out of Yale and New York, is showing a colorful foam and resin sculpture that sold quickly for $150,000. At Chicago gallerist Kavi Gupta’s booth, news that a mixed-media work by Devan Shimoyama, another alum, sold to a museum brought a “Yay!” and a fist pump from Mikesell.

The James Fuentes gallery booth out of New York is dedicated exclusively to elaborately worked paintings depicting colorful, shadowy figures by Fountainhead alum Didier William, a Haitian-born artist and graduate of Miami’s New World School of the Arts.

“He’s amazing, he just sits and draws all day,” Mikesell said.

Kathryn Mikesell, co-founder and director of the Fountainhead Residency for artists in Miami, greets progam alum Didier William, during the Art Basel fair VIP opening at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (MATIAS J. OCNER |

At the residency, artists get living and working space for a month to produce work and, just as significantly, introductions to gallery owners and collectors. Not incidentally, the artists are encouraged to get to know the real Miami.

At the Barro gallery of Buenos Aires booth, artist and current Fountainhead resident Gabriel Chaile, who is from Argentina, is showing four pastel drawings and a sculpture — all made in Miami, like several other sculptures he has on view at the Faena District in mid-Miami Beach during art week.

“It has been an incredible reception and experience,” Chaile said after a warm hug from Mikesell. “Kathryn had us meet important people, and the chance to live and share with other artists has also been a great opportunity.”

In Miami, Chaile said, he’s enjoyed not just making art, but riding the residency’s bicycle around and taking the jitneys used by many residents of Little Haiti to get around, getting to know the city’s black working class.

In conversations with artists and curators, he noted, he’s learned how the country’s history of racial segregation is reflected in the art world, where until recently black artists failed often to receive the same recognition as white peers.

The Mikesells’ supporting role goes far beyond the one month of the residency to helping them forge critical, career-defining connections . They keep track of alums, introduce their work to collectors, institutions and galleries. And it works the other way round, too: gallery owners and collectors will recommend artists for the residency. On Wednesday, Kathryn met the Argentinian owner of Barro, Federico Curutchet, thanks to the Chaile connection. 

Kathryn Mikesell, at right, co-founder and director of the Fountainhead Residency for artists in Miami, talks with current program resident Gabriel Chaile, center, about his sculpture on exhibit at the Barro gallery booth during the Art Basel fair VIP opening at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Chaile, from Argentina, made the piece in Miami during his residency. At left is gallerist Federico Curutchet. (MATIAS J. OCNER |

At the Art Basel fair, the couple are also making new acquaintances, learning of new work by artists they may want to support — or make a part of their growing collection.

Kathryn and her husband both worked in high-tech when they met. Dan, whose family had art and whose father, a retired lawyer, now paints full time, brought two pieces of art into the marriage.

For Kathryn, discovering art was a life-changing experience. While Dan kept his day job, she now works full time running their non-profit. Their own collection, meanwhile, has grown to just over 500 pieces, many of which fill their home.

On Wednesday at the fair, Kathryn kept a lookout for work they might like to buy, and put a few pieces on reserve. She also texted friends phone pics and videos of work she thought they might be interested in. Some buttonhole her during the fair, asking for recommendations on artists and booths they should seek out.

One installation that caught her eye — and that drew a crowd of fairgoers snapping iPhone photos — featured beaded sculptures by Fountainhead alum Raúl de Nieves at the Company gallery booth. His pieces shared the booth, lined with a pin shag carpet, with life-size resin figures decked out in vintage outfits by his friend and colleague Cajsa von Zeipel.

The booth prompted a recollection of de Nieves working at the Fountainhead house, filled with his paper cutouts, sequins and candy he was using for an installation.

“It was like an explosion,” she recalled happily. “Fantastic.”

Kathryn Mikesell, co-founder and director of the Fountainhead Residency for artists in Miami, looks at sculptures in an installation by program alum Raul de Nieves and Cajsa von Zeipel during the Art Basel fair VIP opening at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (MATIAS J. OCNER |

Mikesell videoed the scene to send to a collecting friend, while another friend who happened by snapped a picture of Kathryn as she took in the booth.

The interconnections and coincidences often multiply in unpredictable ways.

Another Fountainhead alum, Deborah Roberts, has a large collage depicting three children on view at the Vielmetter gallery booth. During her residency, Mikesell recalled, Roberts became close friends with photographer Genevieve Gaignard. The gallery picked up both artists to represent shortly after.

Collector and developer Jorge Perez, meanwhile, sad Gaignard’s politically charged photos and purchased one, now exhibited at his new El Espacio 23 space in Allapattah. Perez also purchased four pieces made in Miami during a Fountainhead residency by L.A. artist Umar Rashid. 

“What you’re seeing is, it’s all interwoven,” Mikesell said. “It goes all ways, and that’s what’s great.”

What she and her husband’s own experience has shown, Mikesell said, and what they try to impart to artists is that Miami is a young city that’s still “full of opportunity.”

“If you want to create something here, you can,” she said. All around her, meanwhile, the business of Basel — the selling of art — was brisk, even if it lacked some of the breathless, frenzied first-day buying of years past.

Among the most attention drawing pieces on offer: Three bananas, affixed to the wall of the Emmanuel Perrotin gallery with silver electrical tape, by controversial conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, who had not shown at an art fair in 15 years.

Yes, these are actual edible bananas — priced at $120,000 each. Entitled “Comedian,” the works come with a certificate; it’s up to the owner to replace the banana as needed. Two had sold by afternoon, Perrotin said in an email.

“Cattelan is back!” Perrotin said. Most galleries send out a list of works they’ll be showing to their regular clients, and many buyers arrive with works already reserved so they can confirm their interest after seeing the art in person.

For gallerist Luhring Austine,though, the practice paid off with the sale of “Cupboard IX” by Simone Lee, which sold to a museum. The same was true of Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, whose clients came in Wednesday to confirm they were buying “Sing Sang Zero,” a multi-ton 2011 sculpture by Georg Baselitz priced at $3.9 million.

The story repeated itself throughout the fair. Within an hour of the fair’s opening, the five paintings by Miami artist Tomm El-Saieh at Central Fine, a Miami Beach gallery — priced $60,000 each — were gone; two had been presold and the other three were on reserve. “We’ve sold a lot of important works,” said gallerist Bennett Roberts of Roberts Projects — including a $285,000 painting by Barack Obama-portraitist Kehinde Wiley. 

The art world’s current fascination with black artists was also evident.

The Miriane Ibrahim booth, devoted entirely to the work of Amoaka Boafo, was priced at $25,000 to $40,000. And an 18-foot-wide tryptich — a drawing by Kara Walker — was offered for $575,000 at Sikkema Jenkins of New York. At the Monique Meloche gallery, two works by another Fountainhead alum, Ebony Patterson, priced $65,000, were reserved at midday.

Kathryn Mikesell, co-founder and director of the Fountainhead Residency for artists in Miami, hugs program alum Ebony G. Patterson during the Art Basel fair VIP opening at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (MATIAS J. OCNER |

It was the gallery’s first time in Art Basel, having previously shown at Untitled. And while gallerist Monique Meloche said she sold well at Untitled, being in ‘‘the big fair offers a level of validation. When you’re invited to this party there’s a level of gravitas. We are meeting many more people.”

Fredric Snitzer’s booth resembles a gallery opening for another of Miami’s favorite artistic sons, Hernan Bas. Snitzer even gave the display at his booth a name, the way he would typically title an exhibition: “Distinctly Floridian.”

“All of his work is about Florida and growing up in Florida and the wacky iconography of Florida,” Snitzer said of Bas. The prices range from $70,500 for a 24 x 20-inch acrylic on canvas painting to $82,000 for a 72 x 51.25-inch acrylic on paper. The showstopper is a six-panel folding screen that measures 6 x 9 feet and lists for $300,000.

Reminiscent of a 19th century still life but with a Florida twist, Bas featured two dead flamingos in the center of the screen. An alligator skull, a basket of stone crabs, bowls of oranges, starfish and birds of paradise delight the viewer with riot of color splashed across the screen.

Blue chips were abundant, including multi-million dollar works by Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Sam Francis, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, drawings by Frank Stella, and a spectacular photo collage by James Rosenquist.

The 209 fair brought the new Meridians sector of large-scale installations (with an audio guide) and 20 first-time participants, in part thanks to a new Art Basel sliding-scale pricing arrangement that makes the fair more affordable to newer galleries.

And unlike the last few years, construction was nonexistent, resulting in a flow that felt breezy and comfortable.

“It’s a very good atmosphere,” said Marc Spiegler, Art Basel global director. “What’s important is that galleries of every type are doing well.”


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