Canvas of diversity: Exploring the Black art experience at Art Basel Miami

A DJ entertains guests at the "Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance" Art Basel VIP event at the Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami Beach on Dec. 8. Photo credit: Nicole Daitschman

Art Basel is an international art fair held in Basel, Switzerland and has expanded to Hong Kong, Paris and Miami Beach. From visual arts to concerts and panels, there are numerous events to attend during Art Basel weekend that’s sure to strike everyone’s interest.

I decided to investigate and display the Black art. It isn’t just a trend — it displays Black culture, history and celebrates the Black experience.

Hosted by the Wolfsonian-FIU Advisory Board, Tamara L. Harris and the Frankel family, the “Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance” exhibit marked the beginning of my Art Basel journey.

Transported to the Harlem Renaissance, an era in the 1920’s when African-American art flourished, “Silhouettes” captured the essence of collaborations between artists and writers at the time. Art was a safe space for them to express themselves.

This experience weighed heavily on my heart as the effects that slavery had on Black people spoke through every piece in the exhibit.

“The Negro Mother and Other Dramatic Recitations” by Langston Hughes and “Banjo” by Claude McKay stood out to me the most as they are two heartfelt books holding a mic to Black perspectives that were silenced at the time.

I gained a new level of respect for them — not because of their struggle, but because of their resilience and determination despite an overwhelming amount of constant hardship.

Gorgeous sculptures and portraits of Black people decorated the gallery.

Art and music come together for Miami Art Week’s jazziest affair! The 1920s get a 2020s spin as Art Basel celebrates their newest exhibition, Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance, a century after the movement’s start and at the climax of Miami’s biggest cultural moment of the year, on a Friday night in Miami Beach.
The 1920s get a 2020s spin at the Wolfsonian-FIU exhibit, "Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance." Photo credit: Nicole Daitschman

Religious Christian books illustrated all figures with dark skin and dressed in common clothes instead of pale skin and wealthy garments. This enhanced the connection of religion in the Black community by making it more relatable.

I advise anyone interested in the “Silhouettes” exhibit to go in with an open heart and prepare to receive a newfound admiration for Black Art.

My evening ended with the “Basel Black Art Experience (B.A.E)” presented by Paramount and SocialXChange at The Urban, an event space located in Overtown. The event combined the display of contemporary Black art with interactive experiences like Karaoke with Jack Daniel’s and fun Insta-worthy photo-ops.

Paintings by Haitian artist Dorviller Olivier and Adonte Clark stood out to me. Both artists’ displays offered lenses of admiration for Black culture by emphasizing beauty and strategically leaving room for thought provoking conversations.

The comforting fusion of soul, R&B, Afrobeats, gospel, hip-hop, soca, reggae and dancehall music filled the dance floor in celebration of Black art.

The following day, I took on Wynwood — the artsy, hipster area known for its alluring nightlife. Between the celebrity appearances, big brand events and funky outfits pedestrians sported, it became abundantly clear to me why people travel from far and wide for this event.

Taking me right back to my hometown of Queens, New York, the Hip-Hop Museum Tour gave me all the nostalgic feels. The exhibit paid a huge homage to Hip-Hop pioneers like Run DMC, Roxanne Shante, and DJ Kool Herc. Fun keepsakes like Tupac’s original handwritten apology letter to his highschool sweetheart, Cosima Knez and Slick Rick’s Nitro Tour Throne decorated the halls of the museum.

Connecting us back to Miami, the 2 Live Crew display included a vintage Miami Hurricanes green satin bomber jacket accompanied with a thick gold chain, original records, concert tickets and newspaper clippings of court days. Before leaving, I got an airbrushed tattoo from Jazzy Faba, a special effects makeup artist who also did nail art for those interested.

Visitors gather in the backyard basketball court at Unknwn, LeBron James’ clothing brand store, for the Courtyard Classic basketball tournament sponsored by D'usse.
Visitors gather in the backyard basketball court at Unknwn, LeBron James’ clothing brand store, for the Courtyard Classic basketball tournament sponsored by D'usse. Photo credit: Laralyn Jackson

In between stops, I caught a glance of a Courtyard Classic, a basketball tournament sponsored by D’usse in the backyard court at Unknwn, LeBron James’ clothing brand store. Players engaged in street ball while prospects gathered to celebrate.

I also spotted the Museum of Graffiti and the Hip-Hop Museum — not to be confused with the Hip-Hop Museum Tour pop-up — which both had amazing Art Basel events like breakdancing presentations and appearances from Rick Ross, Will Smith and DJ Khaled.

My final stop was Everyday People, an internationally-known live music event experience that celebrates diversity. Hosted at Oasis, a cultural hub down the street from the museum, people from different backgrounds gathered, danced and sang until the sun came up.

Chance the Rapper and influencers Denzel Dion and Ricky Thompson were all spotted at the venue soaking up the thrilling atmosphere. I’ll never forget the fashionable trio of Joe aka “ThatTrendGuy,” Cordell Allen and Jahar Armani serving stylish, fashion forward looks with pride embodying the essence of Art Basel — celebrating artistic expression.

As a first-timer, I did not know what to expect from Art Basel Miami. Nothing could’ve prepared me for this sensational experience that I’ll remember forever. Black art should be celebrated every day, and I hope to see more representation in the years to come.