Daniel Arsham & Vivek Jayaram

 

The following conversation between Daniel Arsham and Vivek Jayaram is an excerpt from Making Miami, a book documenting the exhibition and digital archive produced by Jayaram and the Knight Foundation and opening this December in Miami.

 

 

 

“Before Basel, there weren’t the kind of parties and other things going on that we see every year nowadays. So before the fair arrived, people rarely visited art studios or engaged with contemporary art in that way in Miami. It’s all so different now.”


—Daniel Arsham

 

 

VJ
So Daniel, you were born in Cleveland and raised in Miami. When did you first leave Miami?

DA
I left Miami in 1999.

VJ
Cool.

DA
To go to school in New York in fall of 1999.

VJ
So you left fall of 1999 to go to Cooper Union?

DA
Yes.

VJ
When you left for Cooper in 1999, do you remember anything about what was happening in the local art scene around here, in Miami?

DA
There was not much at that point going on. I don’t even know if Locust Projects was open at that point. It may have been. I had done a couple of exhibitions with a place in Fort Lauderdale that was run by our professor. So when I left for NY a lot of that stuff hadn’t been formed yet, like the House and all those other things that came later.

VJ
Right. Then you came back to Miami from Cooper in like 2003?

DA
So I was back and forth, and there was a period where I considered actually taking a year off school. It’s great that I didn’t, but I was back and forth. I was certainly in Miami in the summers, and it was around that time, I think it was maybe 2000, around 2000 that the House was started. So when I was in town, I was involved in that, in the formation of it and in the founding of it. And obviously, I was away at school during the first two years of that. But yeah, returned to Miami in 2003.

VJ
Cool. Tell me a little bit about the house. What do you remember your first impressions of it being? Like who was involved in it and like what was happening there and where was it?

DA
The house was on between 24th and 25th, one block east of Biscayne. In Edgewater. When we got it was a bit rundown. It was a white typical Miami bungalow-style house, that had a porch on the front of it that was enclosed, and we basically demolished all the walls on the ground floor and repainted the floors, making it look like what we thought a gallery looked like, and we started having exhibitions there and it became a place in once a month that we would have a big party in the backyard. We had real food and have beer and all that. And it was a gathering place for a lot of different people over that time.

VJ
And it was also around that time, I guess around 2003 or so when you signed on with Emmanuel, right? With Perrotin.

DA
So I met Emmanuel in 2002, maybe. When I was back for Art Basel, and at that point we had an additional studio that was in the Design District that Craig Robins had given us.

VJ
Yeah, I remember that.

DA
It’s in a building that no longer exists, but it was basically on Northeast Second Avenue and like 39th Street. Yeah, we had the studio there and we met Emmanuel through a local collective.

VJ
Okay. Did you know Craig Robins before you left to Cooper? Or was he somebody you met during the early Emanuel years?

DA
I had met him once when I was in high school, so I must have been, or maybe directly after I was probably 18 or 19 years old. I think there was like a talk that was given at another gallery that I was at. And I remember him asking me what we were up to. And there were a couple of other artists, I think Hernan Bas and Naomi already had a studio in the Design District. And so we asked him if he would do that for us too.

VJ
Cool. And he ended up giving you space in Design District, right?

DA
Yeah, we had space there for multiple years.

VJ
You and I ended up meeting probably in 2005 through Carolina. I remember the first time I met you I think was in Jenny Goldberg’s backyard.

DA
Yeah, probably. I could see that.

VJ
I think it was a party. I was playing tennis with Chris Mcleod and then you, me and Chris were hanging out. When did you end up leaving for NYC?

DA
During all those years I effectively had a place in New York, so I would come back and forth. Some friends, Alex (Mustonen, Arsham’s partner in Snarkitecture) actually had this apartment that a bunch of people, I basically just had a bed in there. I started coming back more frequently in 2005.

VJ
So this book is called
Making Miami, and it tells a story of all of you guys, all the artists that were here during those years between 2000 and 2008, and how that group of artists really had an extraordinary impact on making the Miami we all see today. When you think back to those years in the early 2000 and in Miami, why do you think that those years ended up producing that really interesting mix of creative people and what’s just your impression of that time?

 


DA
Yeah, I think it’s a couple of different things that I can pinpoint. One is certainly, that was the moment that all of the magnet schools were starting to produce real talent. So New World, Dash certainly, and all of us were basically starting to graduate college at that point. We all knew each other. So that’s one aspect of it. I think the Magnet High Schools graduating students that were going to a lot of significant art colleges whether it’s RISD or Cooper, Pratt, all of those schools. And then the other thing I think was a combination of inexpensive rents being available in Miami. Everyone’s sort of gathering in a very small neighborhood. Everyone lived between Edgewater and Wynwood basically. It was probably within a 10 square block radius. Most of the people I knew were living there.

VJ
Yep.

DA
Then the thing that really set it off, I think was Art Basel coming there. This acted as a catalyst for other people from outside Miami to want to go there and see what was happening at the beginning of Basel. Before Basel, there weren’t the kind of parties and other things going on that we see every year nowadays. So before the fair arrived, people rarely visited art studios or engaged with contemporary art in that way in Miami. It’s all so different now.