Leon Amitai, a Latin American Art Lover

On 01 December 2017, by Céline Piettre

Leon Amitai is a collector and member of Art Basel’s Global Patrons Council. He says that Art Basel Miami Beach is a must for Latin American collectors.

Leon Amitai

Is attendance at Art Basel Miami truly a prerequisite for all Latin American art collectors? Do you believe there are equivalents of this fair in Europe – Arco Madrid, for example – or within Latin America itself, such as Artbo (Colombia), Zona Maco (Mexico), or ArtRio?
Yes, I believe Art Basel Miami Beach is a must. For Latin American collectors, it is the nearest setting for us to see the most important galleries in the world all in one place. Overall, I can say it is a favourite. I don't think that European fairs like Arco or others would be comparable to Art Basel in Miami Beach for us. Even though Latin American attendance in recent years has increased, it has not reached the same level as Miami Beach. As for fairs like ArtBo in Colombia, it’s also different: there are more Latin American galleries and the opportunity to learn in depth about art from the country itself.

Have you ever made any finds at Art Basel in Miami Beach? If so, can you give us an example?
Art Basel in Miami Beach is definitely an opportunity to make discoveries, with the advantage of having some of the best galleries in the world at hand. Personally, I've had the opportunity to come across artists like Andrew Dadson, Kishio Suga, Jonathas de Andrade, Carlos Bunga, Leonor Antunes and Carlos Motta, among many others –all at a very early stage.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2016
Art Basel Miami Beach 2016© Art Basel

Does Art Basel deserve its reputation as a more elite fair, exclusive to the very rich?
I don't agree with that. Obviously if you go to the fair and only ask the prices of very well-established artists, you will get that impression, but the fair has pieces for all budgets, often less expensive than the parallel fairs, but with important galleries that can support artists' growth. So ultimately you can invest in those emerging artists with much more confidence.

Today, much is said about the growth of the Colombian art market. How is its daily reality in terms of institutions and the support given to artists? What do you think of the impressive success of various artists, like Oscar Murillo?
For many years people didn't come to Colombia, so what has happened in recent years, more than recent growth, is that there is a new opportunity to discover artists who have been developing their work for 30-40 years away from the market's influence – like Oscar Muñoz, Miguel Angel Rojas and Jose Antonio Suarez – and at the same time younger artists, such as Nicolas Paris, Gabriel Sierra, Mateo Lopez, among many others. In Colombia, we are still far from understanding that Art can transform a society. Institutional support is at a very low level, with very few corporate or institutional collectors. This means that any activity relating to the art ecosystem is only attained with great effort. However, we feel fortunate that we are part of the transformational journey. It is very positive, and we are certainly enjoying it, while institutions like NC arte, MAMM (Medellin), Banco De la Republica and Mambo have been able to achieve very high-quality exhibitions with a huge impact. Success stories like Oscar Murillo and Ivan Argote are highly important in many ways. Young artists in Colombia are given hope; collectors are encouraged to support young Colombian artists here and abroad, and others become curious and interested in collecting, which in the end is healthy for galleries, and thus, of course, for the artists themselves.

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