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To celebrate the end of Art Basel Miami Beach, and to honor artists across their varying artistic platforms, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® held its sixth-annual Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series in a cozy beach tent behind Nautilus, A Sixty Hotel, in Miami Beach. In collaboration with Russell and Danny Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Art Foundation, the series is intended to search for and award the most talented emerging visual artists in the United States. Twelve artists across the nation were selected to partake in this unique opportunity, and they exhibited their work for the night’s attendees to see.
Actress, social activist, and co-founder of Studio 189, Rosario Dawson, attended for the first time last year as Simmons’ guest, and this year, is the series’ creative mentor, and will continue to be so for the winner in spring 2016. Dawson’s longtime advocacy for positive social change has led her to launching Studio 189—an online platform headquarted in Ghana that is dedicated to promoting and fostering African culture and African-inspired content through creative projects and e-commerce. As an extension of her commitment to the global artistic community, Dawson has teamed up with the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series to help propel the creative voices of our nation’s current creators.
After arriving to the hotel, and being directed toward the back of the hotel’s spacious patio deck, guests were left to wander on a wooden pathway down to the beach tent. At the event’s entrance, guests were given a blue tile and asked to use it as a voting token, and to insert the tile into the box next to the art they thought deserved to win. Three winners would take home the prize of creating a public art installation in their hometown, as part of the brand’s Mural Arts Project, and the first place winner would welcome Dawson into their home (or she would welcome them to her hometown of New York, if they so wished) to act as a creative advisor and partner, and would also receive a solo exhibit at SCOPE New York in March 2016.
“Everybody has a very different feel and vibe, and that’s just awesome. So often, I feel as if there’s a really particular perspective, and so the fact that they get so many thousands of submissions, and then they bring in the 12 finalists… It’s getting people talking. You know, it’s making you think ‘well, what is my favorite?’ and it’s getting you to be creative, and it’s getting you to participate,” said Dawson. “We have that visceral, special quality about us that no other creature on this planet can experience, and that’s what we need stuff like this for—to bring that out in us.”
Careful consideration for the series’ winner was taken into account by Rush Philanthropic co-founder Danny Simmons, Vice President of SCOPE Art Show Daria Brit Greene, and Afropunk Community Affairs Director Manushka Magloire. The judges also took into account the popular vote, and an online vote, that was open to the public. Prior to announcing the top three winning artists, Artisan Series program curator Andre Guichard, Creative Mentor Rosario Dawson, and Russell Simmons toasted to the program’s incredible achievements.
“Over the last six years, we’ve succeeded in discovering some truly remarkable talent in partnership with Bombay Sapphire gin, and I’m very proud of that. This year, for the very first time, we’re honored to have the opportunity to introduce my friend, actress and social activist Rosario Dawson to our program, who will serve as a Creative Mentor for the program,” said Simmons. “We continue to discover the most talented generations of visual artists, and we are very excited to continue working with our partners Bombay Sapphire to discover and shine a light on their creativity and imagination. It’s been a successful six years, and we’re just getting started!”
A few highlights of the work on view included: POSTED, an acrylic on wood piece that portrayed a house, and reflected the broken yet beautiful human condition with emotion and honesty by Atlanta-based artist William Mize; BATGAL, a painting of a woman in Batman’s classic ears to represent women who are heroes to their children and community by Philadelphia-based artist Oba Jackson; BIRKREAM, a fiberglass sculpture of a Birkin bag melting atop an ice cream cone to depict the excessive love of consumerism, the melting component of expensive taste, and our overall mortality by Miami-based artist Becky Rose; and the winner—THE ALTRUIST, and oil on canvas piece by New Orleans-based artist Aron Belka, whose description read: “The inspiration behind this portrait is the courage and determination throughout the Ebola crisis demonstrated by Lina—an epidemiologist and disease ecologist who does field research in Sierra Leone. She was on the front lines of the Ebola response since the first days of the outbreak and spent nine months in West Africa during the height of the epidemic.”
Of his win, Belka said, “I’m still in shock considering the thousands of worthy entries received, and how talented they all are. Having my work viewed at an international festival as influential as SCOPE Miami is a dream that every artist has. I can’t wait to bring my vision to life at my solo exhibit at Scope New York, and my future collaboration with Rosario Dawson.”
“I strive to collaborate with programs that are personally meaningful to me and that will make a significant impact on the next generation of artists. I’m fortunate to have opportunities to further my commitment, and help support emerging creatives around the world like Aron Belka. I’m so excited about working with Aron and Bombay Sapphire to bring his vision to life on a public mural next spring,” said Dawson.
A mix of celebrities, musicians, socialites, fashion designers and art influencers attended the finale event, including Solange Knowles, celebrity stylist Ty Hunter, Recording Artists: Miguel and Teyana Taylor, models Shaun Ross and Garrett Neff, Lady Victoria Hervey, BK The Artist, TK Wonder, DJ Cassidy, and the founder of The Liquor Cabinet Patrick Janelle.