December 13, 2010|By Laura Allsop for CNN
One of the few Cuban commodities you can buy in the United States is art
-- and the place to get it is Miami.
For years a hub for Hispanic communities in the United States, Miami is
now an important gateway for the new art of Cuba -- and Latin America
Now in its ninth year, Art Basel Miami Beach, is the city's premier art
fair and each year it invites galleries from all over the world to
exhibit and sell modern and contemporary art.
A short plane ride away from, say, Brazil, with its rising economy, the
fair is increasingly drawing Latin American galleries showcasing
exciting new work, as well as international galleries wooing the
continent's wealthy elite in the hope of a sale.
"At a time when the economies of Western Europe and North America are
pretty shaky, and Brazil is just booming, galleries need new collectors
to keep things moving," said Marc Spiegler, co-director of Art Basel.
He added that Art Basel Miami Beach, the North American sister fair of
the esteemed Swiss art fair, was chosen for its proximity to Latin America.
It has taken a while for the art market there to grow, he said, but the
current economic situation in Latin America is helping to speed things up.
Indeed, sales at the fair, which ran over four days at the beginning of
December, indicate that global interest in both modern and contemporary
Cuban art is growing.
Cernuda Arte, a Coral Gables, Florida gallery specializing in art from
Cuba exhibiting at the fair for the first time this year, made a record
sale of a 1944 painting by Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam for $3 million --
to a Cuban-American collector.
Unlike other commodities, art is exempt from the U.S. trade embargo on
Cuba, and can move comparatively freely between the two nations.
Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, who presented a floor-based ceramic
work for the booth of the Swiss Beyeler Foundation, was also a talking
point at the fair.
Milhazes, whose paintings are bright explorations of the flora and fauna
of her home country, set a record in 2008 for a Brazilian artist with a
painting that sold at Sotheby's auction house in New York for over $1
She said that when she first started painting in the early 1990s there
was little in the way of an art scene in Brazil. Now, with its
flourishing economy, all that is changing.
As for her auction success, she said: "It's a big achievement for
everybody in my country."