Work by Tavares Strachan '06 MFA, photo by Andrea D'altoe Neonlaurok

In 2002, the vast European art fair ArtBasel decided to hold a similar event in the U.S., choosing Miami for the city’s proximity to Latin American collectors and for the warm weather to attract New York and East Coast gallerists.

From the very beginning an impressive number of the artists being exhibited — from the blue chip to the youngest artists — were Yale alumni.

This year will prove no different.

When the art world descends on Miami, December 5-8, its ranks will include a host of graduates from the Yale School of Art and alumni of Yale College, including artists Tavares Strachan ’06 MFA, David Antonio Cruz '09 MFA, Alteronce Gumby ’06 MFA, and Ilana Harris-Babou ’13; White Cube’s Artistic Director (New York) Eric Shiner ’03 MA; influential publisher Rebecca Ann Siegel ’07 of Frieze; and art history professors Cristina Cruz Gonzalez ’94 and Pamela M. Lee ’88.

“Art Basel Miami Beach is one of the most well-attended and talked about art events in the world,” said Shiner. “Yale-trained artists and art historians play a major role here, often defining the conversation at the highest levels, no doubt due to the academic excellence of the MFA and Art History programs at Yale.”

The rise of the global art world and the art fairs has made Art Basel Miami a major annual event – along with other satellite art fairs like NADA and Design Miami – drawing the top galleries, major collectors, museum trustee groups, art advisors, and some art collector movie and sports stars. Art publications and big brands sponsor parties, artists speak on panels and create special installations, and the art world mingles on sidewalks and in Miami’s museums and restaurants.

Seeing that growth and, with it, the opportunity to connect members of the Yale alumni and art community, in 2012 Miami alumna Magda Vergara ’82 and Nicholas Roman Lewis ’93, senior director of shared interest groups for the Yale Alumni Association, joined together to create a symposium featuring high-level content by Yale artists, professors, and professionals in the art world.

“Art Basel Miami has grown exponentially since its debut, developing into one of the premier destinations for artists and appreciators of art throughout the world,” said Lewis. “That so many Yale alumni factor into this mix is a real tip of the cap to the amazing work and study that is being done on campus – and also to the Yale alumni art community that continues to support these efforts.”

Previous speakers at these events included recent MacArthur Genius winners Titus Kaphar ’06 MFA and Njideka Akunyili Crosby ’11 MFA, as well as fellow artists Rina Banerjee ’95 MFA, Rashayla Marie Brown ’04, Nathan Carter ’99 MFA, and Mauricio Cortes Ortega ’16 MFA. Scholars such as Yale Professor Kobena Mercer and Deborah Kass have also made an appearance.

The 2019 symposium, which unfortunately had to be canceled, was due to feature a keynote address by Strachan, a talk by Yale Professor Lee, and a discussion on collecting between artistic director Shiner and publisher Siegel. A talk on contemporary art from Latin America by Gonzalez was set to open the symposium, and the afternoon was scheduled to include an artist panel of Cruz, Gumby, and Harris-Babou, who was the youngest artist in this year’s Whitney Biennial.

(Ed. note: This story was updated December 2.)

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