IIn an industry where a banana taped to the wall can sell for $120,000, insiders are used to the ever-changing nuances of the art world. Add the COVID outbreak to an already unpredictable industry and it’s no surprise that the art scene has undergone significant changes lately, prompting new trends and approaches to creating and collecting art.
The pandemic has sparked a return to timelessness and comfort, characteristics that art dealer Mary Ann Cohen, owner of MAC Art Galleries, has always sought in her collections. “I look for pieces that are distinctively different and timeless,” says Cohen. After going through unpredictable times, she says, people want art that they can connect with and that endures. “In South Florida, there is attention to nesting. People want to escape to a place that reflects who they really are. We encourage people to find the things they truly love and reinvent the world.
Teresa Klein, owner of Rare Earth Gallery in Stuart, notes several other big trends. “Public art, or street art, has been around for a long time, but it has taken on new meaning and new messages,” she says. “The environment has more and more become a subject in the art world, with artists exploring from recycling to large-scale installations. There is also a renewed interest in the natural world with land art.
Buying trends also reflect a renewed desire for past heritage. “The biggest trend is that if it’s a large, excellent piece of art with great provenance, there’s a buyer immediately,” says Nick Korniloff, director of Art Miami. It highlights recent auction results in London, Paris and New York for works by well-known artists such as Van Gogh, Warhol and Lalanne. “If the artist’s work exudes sophistication and uniqueness as well as rarity and prestige, it will be collected at the highest prices.”
As South Florida continues to attract more and more full-time residents from the United States and abroad, the area is quickly becoming a collection hub. Korniloff compiles a list of collectors who have lived in Miami for decades and regularly attend the city’s International Art Week to share their private collections.
Not only do collectors gravitate to South Florida, but so do artists. Nancy Turrell, Executive Director of Martin-Arts, has seen the local art market grow and become a premier art destination. “The trends here were different, but today I think south florida artists are internationally recognized as trendsetters and leaders,” she says. Turrell sees more and more grants going to South Florida artists. “MartinArts is part of the South Florida Cultural Consortium and offers some of the nation’s largest grants to working artists.”
In addition to these long-time collectors and recognized artists, a number of emerging artists are also in the news. Korniloff notes three such artists who piqued his interest during Art Week last month. “Tim Bengel, Punk Me Tender and Santiago Montoya are all so unique and diverse with their artwork,” he says.
Tim Bengel is a German artist widely known for his hyper-detailed gold-leaf sand paintings. The 29-year-old has over half a million followers on Facebook and Instagram, making him one of the most famous entertainers of his generation.
Colombian artist Santiago Montoyait is The website is adorned with the words “It’s not about the money”, a reference to the medium in which he works.
Montoya uses the money to create his art.
The work of Punk me tender can be seen at Onessimo Fine Art in Palm Beach Gardens. The mysterious artist is originally from Los Angeles, but this is about the only biography you’ll find about him – he likes to keep his identity unknown. But his work, which explores freedom through layered photography of bright colors and mixed media, is highly recognizable.
For the opening of the new MAC Art Galleries space in Delray Beach, Cohen chose an artist of Californian origin Frank Arnold for the first installation. “There are very few abstract figurative artists,” says Cohen. Arnold’s pieces are labyrinths of symbology, and each piece incorporates the number eight, a number that has personal significance in the artist’s life. (In a nutshell, he learned at age 8 that he was adopted, which sparked in him the desire to be independent. “The story of 8 is still partly a mystery to me,” he says. “Eight is me. “)
As in almost every other industry, digital technology has had an impact on art, attracting new collectors. “There’s a theory that millennials are much more interested in experiences than possessions, and these types of art certainly satisfy that notion,” Klein says. Yet even insiders are trying to figure out where certain forms of digital art fit into the industry. NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens,” are a new art trend that has many people scratching their heads. Similar to original works of art in physical form, NFTs are one-of-a-kind works of art in digital form, and collectors are already paying a high price for them. Last March, Christie’s sold a collage by Beeple (also known as Mike Winkelman), a South Carolina graphic designer who creates a variety of digital artworks, for $69 million.
At MartinArts, Turrell welcomes the shift to digital art. “It’s fascinating to see the rise of digital,” she says. “That one word barely describes the many aspects of the art form.” Like most art, digital art can best be understood by visiting installations. Turrell says, “Seeing an installation by Jennifer Steinkamp at the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts really opened my eyes to the beauty of digital art. Steinkamp is known for using video and new media to explore ideas about space, movement and perception.
In the vast world of art, maybe a banana stuck to a wall isn’t so strange after all. “It’s the antics of the art world, there’s a certain joke in it sometimes,” says Cohen. “But all of this draws attention to the art world, which is a good thing.”
Korniloff attributes this to the somewhat confusing industry he loves so much: “I’ve been in the art world for over 25 years, and there’s a lot of things I don’t understand. But that’s really what it’s all about. I don’t judge, but I know what is for me and what is not. I prefer my bananas in my cereal!