By NOAH SONNENBURG November, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend normal routines in the United States, traditions hang in the balance. Events which would normally bring people together are now postponed or cancelled. The normalcy of “togetherness” appears altogether transformed if not alien.
In Miami, however, Miami Art Week is moving forward and offering art patrons the chance to experience the familiar verve of Miami Art, albeit in a safe, socially distanced setting. One of the institutions entering this brave new landscape with a bevy of exciting events and exhibitions is an established icon of Miami Beach: The Sagamore Hotel.
The Sagamore Hotel has been known as a Miami Art Hotel for the past two decades. Having hosted key events for Art Basel in Miami Beach, the resort is not only an arts venue in its own right but a mainstay of the larger visual arts culture of South Florida.
Designed and built in 1948 by Albert Anis, whose recognizable Art Deco architecture is peppered throughout the Miami metropolitan area, the hotel was established with the intention of being an art-focused institution.
Ronit Neuman, whose father, Edeed Ben-Josef, had purchased the hotel from the Taplin family nearly four years ago, now owns the hotel alongside her siblings. Since the acquisition, Neuman and the Ben-Josef family have worked tirelessly to build upon the Taplin’s and hotel’s reputation.
“I love walking into [the hotel] because I discover another piece of art I may like or something that I haven't seen before,” Neuman notes. “Every time you walk in it's a different experience and you get to meet a lot of wonderful individuals—a lot of creative individuals—whether it's artists or musicians.”
The intermingling of creatives is an integral facet of The Sagamore Hotel’s ethos, as Neuman notes. Now, for this year’s Miami Art Week, the hotel is once again directing all its attention to highlighting local creatives. The hotel is bringing together over 30 local artists for two public exhibitions, art galleries to exhibit their own rosters of artists in the hotel’s iconic bungalows, and two onsite events featuring a local fashion designer, live musicians, and celebrity chefs. The diversity and breadth of their programming is part of the hotel’s underlying philosophy.
“We are able to work with artists, galleries, museums, collectors, and each of them have their own trust in The Sagamore. We are like Switzerland,” says Neuman, explaining the hotel is able to house multiple galleries and artistic visions to offer visitors experiences unlike any other all under one roof.
This year, Neuman employed the help of curator Grela Orihuela. Orihuela, a seasoned art fair director and founder of 1meter50 as well as PLACE Project Group and Wet Heat Project, has prioritized Miami-based artists in both public exhibitions that will open during the week and on run for three months.
“We’re in a pandemic,” Orihuela explains. “We were put in a position where we were unsure and confused, but we still felt that we had to do something to stay connected. We still have to support our community. How do we do that, right? When The Sagamore approached me, my first reaction was, ‘This is THE moment to create a safe and thoughtful way to reconvene in real life. This is for Miami, to Miami, by Miami.’”
One of the public exhibitions, Everyone Has A Story To Tell!, will give viewers the opportunity to speak one-on-one with artists who can discuss their work and larger themes at play. Accompanying each work will be the artist’s story behind its creation, and viewers will be able to submit their own stories, their own reactions to the work, and these reactions will build over the months-long run of the exhibition. Orihuela was inspired to do this by the social separation everyone has experienced during the pandemic, turning it into a tool rather than a hindrance.
“It is just a perfect time to provide Miami artists the focus so that everyone gets to engage with them,” Orihuela says. “Again, we haven't seen each other, we haven't talked to each other. That's why I named the show Everyone Has A Story To Tell!” because this this year, more than ever, everyone does.
The second public exhibition, The Gaze, will be on display in the hotel’s salon. The Gaze, as its name would suggest, focuses on viewership of the other—how figure is formed in the eye of the artist. “It's not the male gaze and it's not the female gaze,” Orihuela notes. “It's about how one human sees another and how that moment is captured. It's about human nature and about connection. I think that adds to what we're trying to do now, which is to connect with each other again after all these months of disconnect and isolation.”
Rebuilding connection is a major underpinning of The Sagamore Hotel’s work for the foreseeable future. That’s why a portion of the proceeds of sales for the artwork will go to benefit Miami artists through future endeavors. With its presence at Miami Art Week, the hotel is answering this fundamental question: how does art connect us right now? As Neuman sees it, the hotel is a resilient institution amidst our current global crisis.
“With all of the restrictions,” Neuman says, “you feel that there is no freedom, and art is all about freedom.”
While some fairs have been forced to go entirely virtual if not canceled outright, the exhibitions at The Sagamore Hotel promise a little bit of this freedom, the freedom to experience art even during these challenging times. That is what makes The Sagamore Hotel not only a travel destination but a cultural landmark for Miami and the art world at-large. WM
For more information and the full details of these events and exhibitions happening at The Sagamore Hotel, please visit the following links:
Noah Sonnenburg is a freelance writer based in Pasadena, CA. His work covers automobiles, film, fine art and entertainment.view all articles from this author