Jada Brings Art With a Message to Miami Art Week

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When Art Basel announced in September that it wouldn’t be returning to the Miami Beach Convention Center for Miami Art Week this year, the disappointment was felt in the global art community. Others soon followed suit, with satellite events like Art Miami, SCOPE Art, and NADA forgoing their annual Florida editions. (Several fairs, including Basel, eventually announced they will hold virtual exhibitions this year.)

Jada Art Fair, however, is keeping the spirit of Miami Art Week alive and pushing forward with its in-person exhibitions from Thursday, December 3, through Sunday, December 6.

Jada made its debut last year inside the building that once housed the Blue Sky Marketplace at 1250 Normandy Dr. in Miami Beach and attracted more than 2,000 guests. It also organized an art conference, dubbed JadaTalks, that welcomed 40 speakers — from journalists to artists and activists — to share their thoughts on art and social issues.

But Jada’s organizers see the event as more than an art fair. It’s an art movement started by a collective of artists eschewing contemporary art’s reputation of being devoid of meaning and substance.

The collective was started by Jônatas Chimen Dias DaSilva-Benayon, a Brazilian-American symbolist artist, academic, public speaker, and author; and Dana Blickensderfer, an international visual artist, editor, and entrepreneur. The pair met a few years ago during Miami Art Week through one of Chimen’s exhibits. They stayed in touch, eventually coming together to collaborate on the Wandering Masters Art Salon in 2015.

While working together on the salon, Chimen and Blickensderfer began to talk about what kind of art they yearned to see more of. They agreed that art should place an emphasis on social issues through sincere, meaningful conversations, which contrasts popular ideas that had stemmed from past art movements, such as postmodernism. According to Chimen, who also teaches art courses at Broward College, postmodernism inaugurated the notion of making “art for art’s sake,” something Jada strongly disagrees with.

Jônatas Chimen Dias DaSilva-Benayon (left) sits with two speakers during JadaTalks 2019.EXPAND

Jônatas Chimen Dias DaSilva-Benayon (left) sits with two speakers during JadaTalks 2019.

Photo by Fillipe Murino

“One thing about postmodernism that doesn’t work for us today is the lack of understanding that art does have a purpose. We cannot just worry about the painted surface,” Chimen explains. “In postmodernism, it was said that the painted surface should be the totality of the concern of the artist, and that’s not true at all. We want to make sure we carry on narratives, identity, and purpose while being able to speak our minds both politically and ideologically.”

This year’s fair returns to the burgeoning Normandy Isle Arts District, a project that Chimen says he’s been working with city officials to get off the ground and bring attention to the often-overlooked area of Miami Beach.

“For the past five to seven years we have been working together with local city officials and community members with the idea of making sure North Beach gets the attention of investors, without going through the process of gentrification that could be damaging to the local identity of the community,” Chimen shares. 

With the pandemic still looming over everyday life, Jada has adjusted its model to the New Normal. To adhere to regulatory guidelines, the art will be displayed across several venues, including the abandoned Blue Sky Marketplace and the International Inn on the Bay. While last year’s event was salon-style, this time around, Jada will follow a more traditional art-fair format with gallery booths. The fair will also host galleries virtually via Artnet.

Jada’s art conference, JadaTalks, also makes a return. Talks will be livestreamed, opening the doors for speakers and listeners from all over the world to tune in for a diverse experience.

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“We want to focus on bringing people together from communities around the world that have suffered especially hard,” Chimen says. “For instance, artists from Iran. People who protest there are usually executed. Many of our own Iranian artists that showed at our virtual reality exhibits [earlier this year], had to do so in secret because they could be prosecuted by the local government for [criticizing] the government.”

At Jada’s core is a commitment to artists who reflect on what’s happening in society and the world.

“Our art has to speak about our feelings, and the immediacy of the moment is to talk about society, the environment, the need for social justice, and the need to embrace the plight of the suffering other,” Chimen says.

Jada Art Fair. Thursday, December 3, through Sunday, December 6, at 1250 Normandy Dr., Miami Beach; jadaartfair.com.

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