By: ERIN MICHELLE NEWBERG
With unparalleled knowledge, candor, and distinctive styles, we introduce you to five notable creatives with robust South Florida ties.
Meet Austyn Weiner, a Miami-born and bred painter; Sharon Morjain, a collector turned advisor; Alex Gartenfeld, a curator and director; Claire Breukel, a multi-talented curator and David Castillo, an Ivy League-educated gallerist with an eye to kill, to learn how they shifted and challenged the audience through their lens.
#1 The Artist AUSTYN WEINER
South Florida native Austyn Weiner was always taken aback by the arts. Especially photography. Little did this Miami Country Day graduate know that she would one day become one of the most sought-after painters in America.
At just 34 years old, Austyn Weiner, born and raised in North Miami Beach, recalls a pivotal moment in her life at the ripe age of 12. Subsequently, it was “the first time I stepped into a darkroom and experienced that absolute magic,” she shares, “and it was the same year I was introduced to Lucas Samaras’ work.” Having attended the University of Michigan, Tel Aviv University, and Parsons School of Design, it was during her tenure at Parsons “when I was finally in a technical photography program but had just started painting.” The rest is history.
Weiner, who currently lives in Los Angeles, feels “my heart resides in the West,” and it seems as though that is where her creativity on the canvas erupts, too. Painting from the comfort of her studio in Frogtown, California, “I try to make something everywhere I go, and sometimes a doodle is as significant as a massive painting.” Using her Old Holland, Charvin, Gamblin, and Williamsburg oil paints, she swears by her Escoda Barcelona brushes, which are hand-made. While creating her masterpieces, which range in size from a 4 x 6 piece of paper to a 20-foot canvas – and everything in between, her music of choice throughout the process “is an oscillation between many genres because it makes the experience of painting much more layered.” Switching between Jazz, Rock, and Reggae, “I sometimes find myself back to rock again and so on and so forth, and because I am constantly making inspirational playlists, music is constantly at the forefront of my mind.”
Speaking of passion, her relationships mean the world to her, and “it is my artist friends including Lily Stockman, Jess Valice, Hilary Pecis, Emma Webster, Darren Romanelli, Candance Romanelli, Joel Mesler, Canyon Castator, Megan Reed and Ruby Neri who root me down, challenge me, and together we push each other’s ideas forward.”
Represented by Massimo DeCarlo Gallery, based between London, Hong Kong, Milan, Beijing, and Paris, Weiner returns to the Sunshine State, which she considers her “sentimental playground” every few months to visit her parents. With hopes to one day be in the collection of Bruce Springsteen, she is on the rise. Having executed a capsule collection with Parisian clothing brand Each x Other, “my dreams are big, but there have been sacred moments along the way where I am eternally grateful for being able to create and express myself as my livelihood.”
Eye on art
Daniel T Gaitor Lomack. A soulful conceptual artist and storyteller whose work has inspired me for years within the Los Angeles art scene.
Olive Diamond. A young painter and ceramicist whose work touches on the Jewish diaspora. Beautiful brushwork and endless potential.
Candance Romanelli. A ceramicist whose work acts as vessels imbued with cultural references and playful iconography that reflects the liveliness and importance of the history of LA ceramics.
#2 Collector Cum Advisor SHARON MORJAIN
With an inherent belief that art should make one happy at home, Sharon Morjain’s unique talent for buying art while crafting and curating her own family collection is now available for anyone.
Way before the Design District as we know it existed, Sharon Morjain’s late uncle, George Gandelman, owned the building that currently houses Design Within Reach and MC Kitchen. It’s also where he opened his very own gallery: Fénix Fine Art. Morjain’s earliest memories of falling in love with art include spending countless hours bonding over Latin American artists with her uncle. And that was when her life would always change, realizing now that her thirst for all things aesthetic was quenched in their creative utopia.
Today, Sharon’s lifelong opportunities are loaded with exclusive access to local art fairs and gallery openings. She also spent copious amounts of time in many local artists’ private homes and studios. And it was at that moment that this wife, mother of four, and former publicist “knew the art world and I was meant to be.”
She is now able to manage procurements for a selection of clients. And this past Art Basel, “I realized that my new business Sharon Morjain Art Liaisons, is a win-win because not only have I created my own happiness within the confines of my home, but I am also witnessing that my capabilities to make others happy has been nothing short of a dream come true,” she explains. “Launching this consultancy was the ideal situation because I was a client, and as a result, I can now secure work for my clients before the work even makes it to the international fairs.
And thankfully, throughout the years, Morjain developed relationships with her go-to galleries, which include Hauser and Wirth, Shulamit Nazarit, Almine Rech, Anat Ebgi, Blum & Poe, Sorry We’re Closed Gallery in Brussels, and locally with Bill Brady, Nina Johnson and KDR 305.
Her personal taste in art is eclectic. The Morjain residence boasts masterpieces by Rob Pruitt, Scott Reeder, Jose Bedia, Liz Marcus, and Ken Gunmin. “When it comes to choosing what I buy myself, it’s about evoking an emotion,” she adds. “When I buy for my clients, part of my interview process, before they retain me, includes better understanding the inner workings of their lives and listening to them, asking endless questions to see what reminds them of their spouse or child and what makes them, simply happy.”
Eye on art
“Following her journey for many years, Sharon hopes to own one of her pieces soon. Her works, including paintings and sculptures, encompass the female body and rituals I hold dearly, such as meditation, transformation, and transcendence.”
Ken Gun Min. “Love at first sight, it is his modern approach to Western traditional art through sexuality, fantasy and landscaping that make his works unique. Using different techniques and materials such as Korean pigment, crystal beading, and silk thread to create whimsical landscape images of rainbows, magic mushrooms, and beautiful sunrises, he sometimes integrates his sexuality preferences into his work as well.”
Alejando Pineiro Bello. “His magical blurred colors and abstract island vibes are most attractive. Discovering him at NADA, his solo show was completely sold out and is now a part of the Marquez family collection currently on display at MAP. Transporting you, his blurred expressions of bodies of water, islands, and trees bursting with colors make you wish it was your reality.”
#3 The Artbitrator CLAIRE BREUKEL
Since 2012, Bal Harbour Village has been implementing public art projects via Unscripted, its art program co-founded by Claire Breukel. The installations scattered through the area are there, in part, thanks to its founding curator, who most recently collaborated with the globally renowned Bal Harbour Shops to shed light on their archives, which include a collection of fashion illustrations and photography.
The Bal Harbour Shops have firmly supported fashion photography and illustrations since their inception. “We chose to work with Claire because she is extremely bright, works with integrity,
and boasts a deep knowledge of contemporary art,” explains Travis.
“As trust is key, we have worked with Claire on many levels, but most recently on the archival project and assessing its curatorial value.”
Breukel first moved to Miami Beach from South Africa in 2003 for an internship with the Rubell Museum. Shortly after that, Claire became the first Locust Projects Executive Director. Working nomadically, she also served as the curator of PUMA. Creative for the Sports Lifestyle brand, where she handled arts sponsorships and partnerships in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Claire then became a project-based art practitioner, most notably co-producing BONO’s 2013 (RED) Design Auction at Sotheby’s New York with Jony Ive and Marc Newson and the 2018 (RED) Auction.
Currently, the self-proclaimed ‘art strategist,’ whose personal style is functional, monochromatic, and very efficient, is spearheading the ‘Friends of the Zeitz Museum’ alongside Koyo Kouoh, “who I respect beyond words and is changing the dialogue of contemporary art in the world.” Claire is taking seventeen donors behind Fountainhead Studios to Cape Town this spring for a ten-day tour.
A fan of the Perez Art Museum, she loves the Art Basel fair, The Armory Show, and Photofairs in New York City. When not writing for various publications, she focuses on the Bal Harbour Shops annual photo awards and plans a few embargoed activations for 2024.
Eye on art
Zizipho Poswa. Based in South Africa, she draws on her cultural heritage and identity as a Xhosa woman to create these totemic ceramic works referencing the Black hairstyle that is personal, powerful, and ethereal.
Simón Vega. An essential inspiration for my curatorial work for decades, this El Salvador-based artist uses found objects to create to-scale spaceships and astronauts while inserting humorous everyday elements into the pieces. Historically, he references El Salvador’s insertion into the Cold War during its then USSR and USA-supported Civil War.
Gonzalo Fuenmayor. This Columbian-born artist works insanely detailed drawings, predominantly on charcoal, which perfectly illustrate a dichotomy of worlds I’m so interested in. Living in Miami, he infuses his Latin American culture into his works, drawing a distinction between ways of living, disparate economies, value of labor, cultural stereotypes, and more.
#4 The Multi-Talented Mister: ALEX GARTENFELD
With a degree in Art History from Columbia University, Alex Gartenfeld wears more hats than your average museum master. Having relocated from NYC to South Florida over a decade ago, he was hired by the board and staff of ICA to spearhead one of Dade County’s most impressive museums. “It was a purely positive move, and looking back, I have no regrets because I love Miami – it’s an amazing place to live,” he says.
Living a life around art and color, he appreciates all the local fairs. “I am especially partial toward NADA Miami. Our young collector’s group will be purchasing a work there this coming year,” he adds.
When not on calls with his donors about art or funding, crafting guest lists for events, handling major campaign gifts, or focusing on ‘Culture Club,’ the LGBTQ+ art group he launched, you can find him planning ICA’s exhibitions, lining up through 2027. He is also a curatorial advisor of Real-Estate Developer John Marquez’ ‘MAP’ artist in the residency program in Allapattah, which keeps him busier than ever.
Eye on art
José Zúñiga. Born in California, this Mexican-American painter, whose colorful works all include tornados as cultural references, boasts surreal, humorous, and intensely personal images. He reflects on the complexities of Chicano experiences, focusing on forming identity and freedom.
Sasha Gordon. Gordon will have two galleries on the ground floor of ICA. She was also the only artist invited to the MET Gala as a guest of Balenciaga. Sasha paints sublime surrealist self-portraits, and her show will remain open until April 2024.
#5 The Gallerist DAVID C ASTILLO
With thirty years of art dealing and two decades of gallery owning under his belt, David Castillo has earned the loyalty and trust of some of America’s most influential collectors and institutions. The artists he represents have been with him since the beginning of their careers; their success can be attributed to his distinctive approach to management. Whether that be of the artists or the collector’s roster, which includes Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, Mera and Don Rubell, Craig Robins, Ernesto and Cecilia Poma, Amy Dean and Alan Kluger, and Paul and Trudy Cejas. “All of them are great supporters of my program,” he shares, “as are museums which include the Bass, ICA, the Perez Art Museum, MoMA in New York City and the Guggenheim.”
David, who is of Cuban descent, was born in Madrid, Spain. Having grown up in Miami in the 1970s, his early memories date back to the Gusman Center for Fine Arts (currently the Olympia Theater) when it used to host exhibitions. The definition of the American Dream, indeed, this Hialeah High graduate was the Valedictorian of his class and a recipient of the Silver Knight award. “I was that kid with over three thousand hours of community service who was also in all of the Advanced Placement classes,” he says.
In 2005, he opened his first gallery in Wynwood. “At the time,” he explains, “there were no businesses in a three-mile radius, and this was a turning point for me as I shifted my operation from secondary market dealings to primary market.”
What differentiates him from a saturated art market rests on intuition and loyalty. “I have remained true to my vision and the artists I was interested in,” Castillo explains. “I was never looking at a trend or a market; I never looked at it from a business perspective, solely about interest.” Many of the organic relationships he has forged with his artists yielded, for many, world recognition and success.
Some of those success stories include Sanford Biggers, the late Belkis Ayon, who was in the last Venice Biennale, Lyle Ashton Harris, Pepe Mar, Xaviera Simmons, Shanique Smith, and Vaughn Span David, Castillo represents Belkis Ayon’s estate and is working on releasing a book on her works as well as a solo show in the gallery in January.
Eye on art
Susu. This painter from China, who I saw in a group show, came to the gallery during a solo show I was having, and we started discussing Chinese opera. After we did a studio visit, I included her last year in a group show for Basel; the previous month, she was my solo show. Based between Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, Susu created a method of painting by pushing oil paint through silk, and what emerged was figurative.
Rachael Anderson. Based in New Haven, she is fascinating as she paints thematically relating to nature. It’s fresh and new, and she’s a Yale grad, too!
Se Jong Cho. She is a Baltimore-based floral painter from South Korea who offers distinctive and realistic works that are pure fantasy.
Nadir Souirgi. A Yale graduate from Miami. He is very interesting to watch and develops fresh abstractions about his narrative.