Alex Gartenfeld: ICA in Miami is fostering and promoting local artists

For Art Basel Miami's 20th birthday and Miami Art Week 2022, we have interviewed some of the Magic City's most prominent cultural players. We asked Alex Gartenfeld to tell us about how Miami is evolving and what not to miss out on in town.
by Mara Sartore
November 24, 2022
Mara Sartore
Alex Gartenfeld

Can you tell us about your work as artistic director of the Insritute of Contemporary Art, Miami? How do you scout out new artists to bring to ICA?

I work with ICA Miami’s Board of Trustees and executive staff to guide the long-term vision for the museum and its ongoing sustainability, in addition to overseeing the museum’s curatorial programs and collection. The curatorial team and I look to highlight artists whose work reflects the most pressing issues of our time, ranging from up-and-coming artists to established ones, and to create a dialogue between global and local perspectives.

Contemporary art is shaped by many voices, and we seek to ensure that this inclusive approach is reflected in our programming. We specialize in looking at holes in art history and bringing new perspectives to the conversation around contemporary art. For example, ICA Miami has mounted influential U.S. solo exhibitions for artists including Thomas Bayrle, Chakaia Booker, Judy Chicago, Jadé Fadojutimi, Hugh Hayden, Michel Majerus, Sterling Ruby, among others. 

Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Exterior 1. Photo credits: Iwan Baan

Miami and Miami Beach, since the creation of Art Basel, has become more and more an important center for contemporary art, a destination for established artists, and a breeding ground for cultural innovation. How would you describe your relationship with the city? What does working in this environment mean to you?

There is incredible work being made in Miami at this very moment. One of our roles is to work with artists to nurture that talent and create a dialogue with global audiences. We look to prioritize when possible acquiring work by Miami-based artists into the collection or presenting them in exhibitions so that our programs are truly representative of our community. We also look to support local galleries and art professionals in a variety of ways.

Nina Chanel Abney "Mama Gotta Have A Life Too" 2022. ©Nina Chanel Abney. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Prints.

Let’s imagine an itinerary of the city seen through your eyes: what would you choose and what would you suggest to visit among museums, art galleries, and cultural spaces? Is there a particular place among the less known that should receive special attention?

To the above point, Miami has a great group of galleries, many of them focused on showcasing emerging artists. We are currently showing a work by Natalia Arbalaez, a fantastic ceramicist who shows with Mindy Solomon. We just finished a show by the incredible artist Carlos Alfonzo, and worked closely with LnS Gallery; for a presentation of Tomas Esson, we collaborated with Fred Snitzer. Just last week we acquired work by Esai Alfredo from Spinello Projects, and went to the studio of Loriel Beltran, represented by Central Fine. We engage in deep dialogue with Nina Johnson, David Castillo Gallery, we also love the programs of Tomas Redrado, Bill Brady, Grant Bonnier, Juan Carlos Maldonado Art CollectionPiero Atchugarry GalleryJupiter Contemporary and Tomas Redrado, among many others.

Natalia Arbelaez, Ague del Fuego (big head), 2019. Courtesy the gallery and the artist.

Finally, we’d like to know what places in Miami and Miami Beach you would recommend to our readers: what are your go-to places to meet friends, favorite restaurants, and bars?

Talking about leisure, I was so excited when my friend Josh Hackler got a Michelin recommendation for the amazing food and presentation at Los Felix in Coconut Grove. On another note, ICA Miami is partnering with Oscar Glottman, who runs the incredible concept store Glottman in Wynwood, to relaunch our store this week.

Check it out for your holiday gifts!

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