Beyond the Fair: Aesthetics and Socially-Engaged Art

Ø.K Fox
Rosa Naday Garmendia
Ebony Golden
Michelle Ivette Gomez

In the shadow of Art Basel, Miami’s socially-engaged or politically motivated practices are not often amplified. The annual art-fair-spotlight centers around traditional formalist concerns, monetizing "good, bad or high quality" and reinforces discriminatory value systems that frequently exclude communities of color. These exclusionary and hierarchical value systems create the conception that contemporary art functions primarily as a form of commercial capital accessible only to the elite and overlook Miami’s burgeoning landscape of community-based art, experimental communities, artist-driven initiatives, interventions, and research-based collaborations. These artful actions function beyond the fair to unfold complex issues of visibility, colorism, and the conventions of social engagement.

How do organizations that function on the outskirts of major art markets or fairs support socially-engaged art? In light of social unrest, immense political turmoil, and erupting social justice movements, can socially-engaged art help close the gap between art world values and reality? How do we build a vocabulary with which to talk critically about works that focus on civic purpose over aesthetics? Does providing a platform to speak critically about socially-engaged work strengthen the role of artists as leaders and partners in movement building and social change