Trong Gia Nguyen asks a few questions of young Miami collectors Jack and Tara Benmeleh, who give our readers a little insiders' insight to the best of the Art Basel scene, a few hot Miami artists to keep an eye on, and their bliss for art collecting and doing their part in growing the 305 cultural scene.
Trong Gia Nguyen: What is your background and what first got you interested in collecting art?
Jack Benmeleh: I'm an attorney.
Tara Benmeleh: I'm a jewelry designer. We met at the Bass Museum, our first date was at the MAM. We love being surrounded by the arts and being part of the creative community.
TGN: What's in your collection so far, and how many works does it comprise?
J&TB: We have about fifty works in our collection varying in medium. We predominantly collect emerging Miami and Latin American artists, like Bhakti Baxter, Nick Lobo, George Sánchez-Calderón, Adler Guerrier, Antonia Wright. We also collect artists outside of that realm such as Ryan McGinness, Olek, David Kramer, Ed Lehan and Jon Pylypchuk.
Olek, My Father's Bike; Collection Jack and Tara Benmeleh, Miami.
TGN: Is the Miami art scene a welcoming place for young collectors to "jump into the action"? One often hears of horror stories in New York where newbie collectors are shut out of acquiring "important" pieces. Have you ever been denied a work for some ridiculous reason?
J&TB: 100%! The Miami art community is very welcoming; they have accepted us with open arms. In fact, we have had positive experiences in both Miami and New York.
TGN: Do you have to mutually agree on the works that go into your collection? How are your tastes different?
J&TB: Yes, yes, yes. Jack loves color and geometric shapes and Tara likes forward and esthetically driven work. At the end of the day, all of our pieces have conversations with each other in great symmetry.
TGN: What do you look forward to during Art Basel, from a Miami insider's perspective?
J&TB: MAM's Crash the Ball, MOCA's Vanity Fair Party, the beach tent at the Soho House, Le Baron, and all the champagne and vernissages.
TGN: What was the most memorable experience for you at last year's edition?
J&TB: Literally running through the convention center on Sunday afternoon right before the convention center closed trying to pick up a last minute deal!
Adler Guerrier, Welcome to the Magic City; Collection Jack and Tara Benmeleh, Miami.
TGN: Do you travel to other art fairs, and do you tend to buy there or more at galleries?
J&TB: Yes and it all depends. We buy instinctually and the moment has to be right. It's all part of the experience.
TGN: Who are some Miami artists we should look out for during a visit to the fairs?
J&TB: Bhakti Baxter, Nick Lobo, George Sánchez-Calderón, Agustina Woodgate, Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares.
TGN: What's missing in the Miami art scene that you'd like to see develop further?
J&TB: More participation from the general Miami community all year round and not just during Basel.
TN: Thanks so much Jack and Tara!
—Trong Gia Nguyen
(Jack and Tara. Image on top: Bhakti Baxter, Blue Diamond; Collection Jack and Tara Benmeleh, Miami.)