Art Basel Day 3: Zoom Art Fair-Wonderful Art with powerful messages by Betty Alvarez

ZOOM Contemporary Art Fair is a platform for exhibitions, curatorial focus, intellectual critique and dialogue. ZOOM has one goal in mind, to bring a fresh voice and perspective into the mainstream art circuit. That fresh voice is what inspired our inaugural exhibit; a comprehensive sample of the multifarious styles, media, and genres permeating the creative artistic practices of the Middle East and its diaspora. ZOOM brings their voice and spirit into the heart of the American contemporary art scene during the 2010 Art Basel Miami Beach.

It is not your average art fair. For starters, ZOOM’s selection committee is comprised of curators rather than gallerist’s. The fair presents a cohesive platform of exhibitions, performance art, and academic debate. ZOOM’s intimate scale of 20 exhibitions showcases artists represented by non-profits and galleries from eleven countries. Rather than separating the two according to their organizational structure, ZOOM creates a world where the non-profits and galleries can coexist and interact; effectively blurring the lines between the two practices and presenting a multifaceted visual dialogue which puts the spotlight on the artist. The result is a model that explores both the art market and conventional institutional critique, allowing a potential in further contribution to presentation and representation within the art fair forum.

ZOOM’s academic program which brings together notable international cultural and artistic representatives will address current issues through the lenses of institutions, historians, critics, art presenters and practitioners. Held at the neighboring Bass Museum of Art, Debates participants include William Wells, Founding director of Cairo’s Townhouse; Jessica Morgan, The Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art, Tate Modern; Francois Pouillon, Department Head of the History of Mediterranean Islamic Program at Ecole des Hautes Etudes Sociales; Livia Alexander, Executive Director of ArteEast; León Krempel, Curator, Haus der Kunst, Munich and internationally renowned artists Sara Rahbar and Ahmed Mater.

Also significant is that in its inaugural year, ZOOM would focus on contemporary Middle Eastern art. With the growing visibility of the Middle Eastern artists throughout the international art community and the art market alike, ZOOM aims to take a closer look at the diverse art trends currently pervading the region. Selecting artists and respective works for ZOOM, curators worked hard to highlight work which avoids re- creating an experience of “otherness” where artists from non-Western origins are usually coerced into being a mouthpiece for ethnographic illustrations. On the contrary, ZOOM’s playful theme of “the Clash of the icons?” seeks to deconstruct this notion encouraging the viewers to appreciate the art works on their artistic merit rather than through a neo-Orientalist umbrella of geo-cultural identity.

The representatives of ZOOM were so excited to bring a perspective to a city like Miami with its robust art collectors and county support that allows the necessary flexibility not easily found in places like New York City or London. Miami embraces the entrepreneurial spirit, which permeates art. It is this openness and enthusiasm of the local community that has cultivated the success of Art Basel in Miami Beach.

Photographs by Betty Alvarez