Art Basel Miami 2019 took place December 5th–8th in the Magic City. There, approximately 260 of the top art galleries in the United States, as well as art museums showcased their best stuff at the yearly contemporary art bonanza, which had its inaugural staging in 2002. And for the third consecutive year, Art Basel Miami featured Jamaica’s finest art form, reggae and dancehall culture, as an exhibition segment. Dubbed ‘Let There Be Reggae’, the exhibition centered around art collections and works done by: Steve James (Jamaican music photographer extraordinaire and historian); Alejandra Estefania (Ecuadorian artist); and Emilio (‘E The Artist’). Art Basel Miami 2019’s ‘Let There Be Reggae’ festivities, which began on Thursday, December 5th and closed on December 6th, was MC’d by David Muir—also a well-known and highly regarded Jamaican photographer—who played a central role in organizing this year’s event.
Since its launch, Art Basel Miami has undoubtedly become one of the most prestigious art fairs in North America, as attendees can take in awesome paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photography, from over 4,000 artists from all over. What’s more, Art Basel annually has three major stagings—that is, in Basel (Switzerland), Hong Kong, and Miami. As such, Art Basel Weekend in Miami is indeed an entry to be made on the calendars of art enthusiasts, lovers, and aficionados each and every year.
On the closing night of ‘Let There Be Reggae’, things got underway at 8pm sharp with the juggling of some nice reggae and dancehall classics by Fifty Kaliba Sound as attendees milled around and chatted while looking in amazement at the art collections on display all over the main room of the exhibition. In a smaller room contained therein, there was a collection of photos (taken by Steve James) of elite and unforgettable reggae artists who had passed away—such as, Dennis Brown, Gregory ‘the Cool Ruler’ Isaacs, Sugar Minott, Frankie Paul, Winston ‘Merritone’ Blake, and Joseph Hill of the roots reggae group, Culture just to name a few. While several exhibition attendees were in the room, including Oliver Mair (Consulate General of Jamaica to Miami), Steve James popped in and gave an insightful historical background behind each photo. Fascinating stuff indeed!
In addition to the indoor ‘Let There Be Reggae’ art exhibition room, there was an adjacent outdoor garden-style space that was filled to the brim with a lively crowd that included a number of reggae and dancehall industry celebrities, such as Zeke Don and Honorebel. Zeke Don later graced the stage during the live entertainment segment. Aside from Zeke, there was the beautiful songstress, Tosh Alexander, who has been making great strides in recent years up to present. Virtually all the attendees in the room swayed back and forth to the songs she featured in her set, especially to the very melodic and bouncy song ‘Games’ (a rendition of dancehall artist, Serani’s, 2019 smash hit). The 2019 ‘Let There Be Reggae’ art exhibition was then closed by the night’s headliner, Mykal ‘Grammy’ Rose—formerly of the iconic reggae group, Black Uhuru. Grinning from ear to ear, Mykal Rose hopped on stage and immediately asked, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”? The audience then shouted, “Natty Dread Locks!” to cap off a fun and enjoyable night for all.
Photos by Nick Ford, who lives and works in South Florida.