Another Facet: Prizm Art Fair

by Halima Taha

Mikhaile Solomon, Founder Prizm Art Fair

The emergence of the art fair and how art has been exhibited within the last 20 years has dramatically changed due to the global shifts in the way art amplifies, challenges, exploits and is a product of globalism.   The direct impact and growth of this market is linked to the biennale boom in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, which established the idea of international exhibitions with art from around the world. 

Over the years, the marketplace for art was redefined by the rise in a creative economy; heightened interest in contemporary art at auctions; fine art’s elevation as a substantive asset class and museums increased fixation with the contemporary art market.  Combined, these variables defined art fair models targeting intellectual and aesthetic diversity among art consuming audiences. 

Over the years, people have likened the highly acclaimed Art Basel Miami Beach to art what the Cannes Film Festival is to cinema.  Consistent with globalism’s impact on art, Miami, like many urban centers, has used art to develop and market its city simultaneous to addressing and placating political issues within.  During the last 15 years, Miami has enhanced its local tourism and economy by creating an epicenter for first-rate museums and art fairs. One of the largest annual art fairs in the United States is Miami’s Art Basel (December 5th – December 8th), in which this ultra-contemporary ecosystem attracts collectors, dealers, curators, and artists from all over the world.  

Inasmuch as Art Basel has raised Miami’s profile by enhancing the local tourism economy, from its conception it did not have a democratic vision for the fair, in which all multifaceted and talented artists and dealers could have a stake within this ecosystem.  Something had to be done and visionary turned activist; Mikhaile Solomon founded the Prizm Art Fair (December 2nd -8th) to enhance the profile and exposure for artists of African descent during Art Basel Miami. 

Her founding mission is attuned to the words of American writer and art collector, Gertrude Stein, ‘There is a here, here”; to remind Basel audiences that there is an untapped reservoir of meritorious work by Black artists.  In December 2018, Art Basel attracted 80,000 visitors of which, fifteen percent made their way to the Prizm. Art Fair, located at the Alfred I Dupont Building on East Flagler Street.  

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BAIA interviews Victor Ekpuk, 2018 Prizm Art Fair

Since 2012 Solomon has developed unique opportunities for artists, dealers and collectors, in the form of an art fair, to present the work of artists of African descent from the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, North, South and Central America.

Being the first Afro-Caribbean American woman in Miami and the second Afro-Caribbean woman in the United States to become an art fair producer was a circuitous path.  Upon graduation from Florida International University’s School of Architecture she worked on special projects defined by the aesthetic landscape of the African Diaspora.  Disturbed by the “profound void in the presence of local and international artists of color represented at Art Basel “, she acted on the encouragement of mentors, Texas artist Frank Fraizer, Miami art consultant, Rosie Gordon Wallace, mid-west dealer George N’Nambdi and the late Philadelphia based artist/curator AM Weaver.

Along the way, Solomon’s interest in Afro-futurism, integrated her ideas with her interest in making a difference in the opportunities for many of the artists she had previously worked with in Miami and beyond. Afro-futurism’s innate definition: a cultural aesthetic that marries elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afro-centricity and magical realism with non western cosmologies, as a means of critiquing present- day dilemmas of people of color simultaneous to revising, interrogating and reexamining the historical events of the past; which shapes Solomon’s drive to imagine a self defining future beyond the western canon for art, collecting, exhibition and commerce. 

“I found that the work created by artists working in this mode visually seductive because I always enjoyed science fiction and all things celestial.  It seemed to deify subjects in the work that looked like me. I realized that I could not ground an entire fair in Afro-futurist work, so I decided to utilize Afro-futurism as inspiration for Prizm’s brand, which is to promote the work of artists of color who reflect global trends in contemporary art. “

Historically, Prizm is the third Black American owned art fair in the United States.  The premiere National Black Fine Art Show, founded by Jocelyn Wainwright in 1997 in New York City exhibited the best regional, national and international art and galleries at the Puck Building until 2008..  The second fair was Off the Main produced by Loris Crawford from 2006- 2013 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.  Currently, Prizm is the only Black owned art fair in the United States that is maintaining consistent and significant sales and attendance records comparable to successful regional fairs around the world.  In addition, Solomon has established herself as a trustworthy partner and advocate for the arts community. 

Jumaane N’Namdi, Curlee Holton and Najee Dorsey at The Historic ALFRED I. DUPONT BUILDING. Prizm Art Fair 2018

Unique to Prizm, is that in addition to dealer exhibition booths, she   creates the opportunity for guest curators and herself to curate the work of emerging and established artists not represented by participating art dealers within the overall exhibition space.  This unique feature creates a wonderland for self-discovery and collecting through art. 

This year, Prizm’s curatorial theme is Love in the Time of Hysteria.  The work at the fair illustrates how love, compassion, and respect endure in a social milieu riddled with divisive political rhetoric, unprovoked inflammatory attacks on members of marginalized communities, and broad societal malaise as a result of economic inequity. Through the work represented by galleries and exhibited, Love in the Time of Hysteria questions how these factors can alter and transform our natural disposition to love fully and replace love with a mindset motivated by fear, intolerance and scarcity.  In essence, love and ultimately sanity take a backseat to the basic need to survive. “Love does not only impact our interpersonal relationships, but also provides the foundation for flourishing communities. Love, when deployed aptly, lives in the narratives we pass on to our children, but sours in the untold and reclaimed histories of our ancestors and builds bridges of understanding between estranged communities.”  

As the increased presence of Black artists in museums and headlines like Wall Street Rushes to Scoop in Black Art Sends Prices High, Solomon remains focused on her mission  “ to create a fair that is well respected by artists, collectors and curators who love and want to promote a positive image of global blackness.”  The fact that Swann Galleries 

 May 2018 $4,509, 540 dollar African American art sale was its highest auction sale in any category of its 75 year auction history; or Sothebys’ May 2017  $110.5 million dollar sale for Jean Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, 1982 and the May 2018 $21 million dollars for Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times, 1997 sale has massaged the appetite for Black artists, Solomon realizes that market and journalistic trends can often obscure and overlook the meritorious work of the majority of artists of African descent. 

Solomon’s immediate goals are to continue to develop exhibition and acquisition opportunities for artists, collectors and curators in Miami 

as a gateway to the world.  Her long-term goals include expanding Prizm locations within North America and other continents. For more information about the Prizm Art Fair in December, 2020 visit

Halima Taha, writer, art and culture strategist and author of Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas

C  2019  Halima Taha

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