Gallery owners, beneficiaries and prominent members of Miami’s arts community gathered on Saturday to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Museum of Contemporary Art in north Miami. Wonderland was there to snap up quotes from some of its chief guests – including Tracey Emin and sculptor Mark Handforth – and inhale as much expensive Champagne as we could.

MOCA is synonymous across the globe with cutting edge, contemporary art. Under the guidance of chief curator Bonnie Clearwater, the institution has emerged as an influential voice in the art world. The museum has played an important role in the development of the Miami art scene over the past 15 years too, not only by exhibiting local artists, but also in championing emerging international artists. It was the first US museum to acquire work by Tracey Emin and will now be the home of her first solo show in the USA.

Emin participated in the celebrations and was clearly excited about her upcoming MOCA show, even revealing a few details to us. “It’s going to be a big, big show. It will probably be the most neons I have ever shown. There will be some old, classic ones but I will pick up inspirations and feelings when I am here.”

Another artist whose career is strongly connected to MOCA is Miami-based sculptor Mark Handforth, who had his first solo show there in 1996 and just closed his second successful solo show a few days prior to the party.

“I just took the show down and it was very sad – it meant a lot to me. This is kind of my studio to me in Miami rather than a place where I show normally, so it’s a little bit like a way of connecting your work in process with the place and I have been connected to MOCA for all these years. It makes so much sense that the show would have been here. It was actually a really nice recap about everything that has happened over those years.”

David Stark transformed the walls of the event space into a continuous narrative of the 15 years of MOCA’s history, in the form of an abstract grid of 20,000 images paying tribute to the institution’s many accomplishments. The party had guests mingling and dancing to an 80s pop soundtrack. Dressed in designer wear with distinctive arty twist, the guests turned the red lit walkways into their own, personal catwalk.

The festivities came to a close on Sunday with an artist-to-artist discussion, bringing some of the biggest names in art to the table. It offered an exciting, informative and dynamic discourse on art, narratives in art, developments in the Miami art scene as well as perceptions of Miami from outside and within.

Artists in attendance included Tracey Emin, Isaac Julien, Daniel Arsham, Naomi Fisher and Ragnar Kjartansson. Kjartansson had performed a specially-created piece called “Du Holde Kunst”, at the night’s dinner party. The piece will be presented again at a public performance in May 2012 when MOCA opens Kjartansson’s solo exhibition, “Song.”

Tracey Emin, not usually a fan of US art, shared her thoughts on the Miami scene. “Bonnie (Clearwater) asked me to do a show maybe six or seven years ago and we have only been able to organize it for 2013, which is brilliant because it will be on show for Art Basel Miami. Being British, I have a magic idea of what Miami may be like, but for me it is much better to come here for work, for a real reason and not just a holiday. I feel good here – even when the weather is bad, I like it. I like the storm clouds coming in, I like walking along the beach. The people seem slightly dysfunctional – that’s an understatement, but that, to me, compared to LA where everyone thinks they are so fucking together and so right, seems quite real.”

Words: Heike Wollenweber


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