KAI Interior Specialist Asha Perez Reflects on Her Recent Visit to Art Basel Miami

A well-informed overview of Art Basel Miami Beach/Miami Art Week 2016 written by Interior Specialist, Asha Perez


Art Basel, an international art fair that began in Basel, Switzerland (pronounced “baal” based on the spelling of the city Bâle or Basle) was created in 1970 by art gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt. With the success of the introductory show, having more than 16,000 visitors to see 90 galleries, and 30 publishers from 10 countries, it was only a matter of time that the brand expanded to the multicultural mecca of the America’s, an intersection of the arts, music, film, architecture and design: Miami Beach.

The year 2002 was just the beginning of this emergent art fair in the America’s, attracting art aficionados, music fanatics, fashion connoisseurs, and enthusiasts alike. Art Basel Miami Beach, the fair cultivating Miami Art Week, with distinguished satellite art fairs occurring during and around the dates of the main attraction. Art fairs such as Scope Miami, Spectrum Miami, Red Dot Miami, Prizm, Design Miami and Pulse Miami Beach, are just a hint of the fascinations happening during this time.

As a Miami native, this would not be my first visit to Art Basel Miami Beach or the satellite fairs. However, each year the experience heightens and a new sense of knowledge, inspiration and appreciation which materializes and transpires into my work. As a designer, it is important to immerse yourself in the culture, as such events emphasize established and evolving artists. A close eye happens to be on contemporary artists, as they translate and depict current societal occurrences from all over the world. With this first-hand exposure, it cultivates a familiarity that improves the skillset of a designer. So how does art and interior design go hand in hand? Interior design is an annex of art expressed with three dimensional and fixed elements in a space. As I visited each art fair and the illustrious Art Basel Miami Beach show at the Miami Beach Convention Center, each visit fostered proficiency that I will convey in my work on projects with KAI Design & Build.

Confirmation of my own considerations about interior design and art were proven through panel discussions, examination and interpretation of art pieces that attracted me; interviewing gallery owners, curators and lastly, conversations with artists. This year, collaboration with other artists, using art to anchor an overall design, cultural influences and art education were all at the forefront through exploration.

The first course, a foretaste that left my palate craving more, was a lesson in collaboration as American Express teamed up with Shantell Martin, a British illustrator and visual performance artist along with musician, Kendrick Lamar for an event titled “Music Meets Art”. Martin’s artwork was projected on the interior of a dome while Kendrick Lamar gave a memorable,
intimate performance. “The biggest thing about collaborating is completely removing your ego. When you remove your ego, you allow yourself to open different chapters that you may not know about, that the person next to you may know about.” says Lamar. This collaboration between two artists substantiated that you can be in two different avenues of creative expression but when combined, it brings a new-found sense of innovation bursting with flavor. “We are able to do this as artists; we are able to meet other talented people who are as obsessed about what they do as we are and meet in the middle somewhere and create something new.” says Martin.

During the second course, I aimed to explore how art (fixed objects, sculptures, installations, paintings, etc.) can be the foundation of a design, while listening to panelists. The panel discussion at Red Dot Miami hosted “Art Talks: Designing a Home for Art Collectors” was a conversant discussion with tips from gallery owner Brian Westbrook of Westbrook Contemporary and Alene Workman of Alene Workman Interior Design. Tips about lighting, wall color, where and how to hang art, combining different styles, using statement pieces with art, and furniture were all topics of discussion. The most significant tip was about lighting: “Without proper lighting, Interior Design will fall flat.” says Workman. Westbrook confirmed: “Companies have been experimenting with lighting for decades. If a piece is not properly lit, it does not have the same effect that the artist intended.” Although I personally work with electrical engineers and lighting designers, it is critical as an Interior Designer to appreciate and be well-informed about how lighting can make or break an overall interior, including the fixed objects used to develop a space.

Throughout a complete serving of art and all its offerings, I also conversed with gallerist Myrtis Bedolla of Galerie Myrtis located in Baltimore, Maryland. Working with interior designers who visit her gallery, she assists in creating an environment that reflects their client’s aesthetic. Bedolla explains, “That could be culturally, and sometimes the environment is built off of what they love, the work they want to live with, the stories, the memories that they have (perhaps from their childhood).” She accredits the success of her business to understanding and engaging with her clientele and being a good listener to help guide the process of well-informed buying and selection of the pieces she displays in her gallery. She explains that for the most part people are buying art that reflects their culture.

I could not leave the table without a taste of the main course: Art Basel Miami Beach at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The 500,000-square foot exhibition space could be overwhelming for anyone. However, my curiosity lead me to distinctive areas as a navigated my way through the Galleries sector of the fair. I visited booths where individual galleries displayed a range of work from their artists. However, it was in the Position sector of the fair, in a booth (Positions 16) with work by a single artist Melike Kara, that immobilized me. Each piece, which Art Dealer Javier Peres of Peres projects exhibited (with proper lighting that illuminated every detail) captured my attention as I observingly lingered. They were bright but also warm with peculiar figures that expressed emotion, closeness, chatter, confusion and community. These pieces would easily inspire a design with color that accents the tonal quality used in her artwork. I would use such pieces in a gathering space of an interior, as that is what moved me; a space that would stimulate intellectual dialogue inspired by what is being displayed on its walls.

What about you? See her pieces here: Melike Kara

Overall, I became full as I explored and engaged in dialogue with those who are well-seasoned in this visual appetizing world of art. An essential delight which I indulged in while discovering each course, was education. Not only being educated as an interior designer and art enthusiast but also absorbing intelligence from those who effortlessly labor with us. We are all in a melting pot of inventiveness. It is important for us to work in partnership. As Andrew Bridges with Avant Fine Art stated while interviewing him at Scope Miami, “I think we all have our specialties in life and you need to play on your own strengths.” Bringing those unique ingredients together, serves an appetizing meal of virtuosity that others can discover, as each of their own palates are fulfilled.