NWSA Visual Arts Alumni Nationally Recognized During Art Basel

Painting young man with shells on ears

Some had already graduated from New World School of the Arts while others were still in their classrooms absorbing the knowledge their faculty had to impart and experimenting with their artistry when, in 2002, Art Basel became a national household name. Still, other NWSA alumni who would eventually become part of the nation’s leading art fair, had not yet walked across the commencement stage. Yet, all these remarkable artists have found their way into the artistic fabric of South Florida, paving the way for the next generation of artists, and serving as a rich source of inspiration for our community and beyond.
Following is a compilation of the coverage NWSA visual arts alumni received during Art Basel 2023. As you peruse this list, please click on each headline for the complete article. You will find that these highlights are a testament to the training and opportunities New World School of the Arts offers its students while bringing to the forefront the vision of the school and the important role it plays as a national education center of artistic excellence.

Miami has Matured into a Cultural Capital. What’s Next?

Hernan Bas standing in front of painting on wall
Hernan Bas. Photo by Silvia Ros

The local hoopla surrounding Basel was still in the future in 1996, when Hernan Bas graduated from the New World School of the Arts, a magnet high school in Miami, and left for Cooper Union in New York. “Miami had such a small, kind of nonexistent art scene. We were painting nude figures and 90 percent of the kids in the class had never done that before.” Mr. Bas is now arguably Miami’s most sought-after painter, with his homoerotically charged portraits of waifs and dandies attracting critical praise and steady sales — if you can manage to buy one from his galleries. Demand remains so strong, and supply so tight, that Mr. Bas’s work regularly commands mid-six figure prices at auction; last November, one particularly large painting sold for 11.2 million Hong Kong dollars (the equivalent of about $1.4 million) at Christie’s in Hong Kong.

Artists to Watch During Miami Art Week

The Bass’ Art Week presentation is “Hernan Bas: The Conceptualists.” The museum showcases the Miami native’s largest work to date (measuring nine feet tall and 21 feet wide), along with his portrayals of welcoming spaces and scenes of queerness. Bas is one of the most recognized contemporary artists in the global art world, which makes this hometown showcase a must-see for anyone who seeks to actively experience the talent that resides within the Magic City’s boundaries. A bonus: the enchanting Easter eggs — ties to literature, mythology, religion, and television — that the artist sprinkles in. The Bass show is on view through May 5, 2024.

Chris Friday sitting in front of flowers mural.
Chris Friday

Chris Friday (AKA Friday) is stacked in public and private art installations and activations throughout the city. In October, the artist inaugurated “Banned: An Interactive Lucy St. Project” in the project room at the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum. In addition to that activation, Friday offered the final installment of this year’s Art on the Plaza public art series with Narcissist at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. Narcissist is a large-scale, freestanding metal figure sculpture enraptured by its reflection in the plaza’s fountain, oblivious to passersby and onlookers. Befitting an artist whose mission is to create Black art that refuses to meet the eyes of the viewer, Friday’s presence during Art Week was a veritable manifesto against the forces that threaten to push out the rooted arts community.

Jen Stark

Miami During Art Basel

Artists have re-created and rebuilt 4 of these artist-run or nonprofit gallery spaces that are still standing strong. Each gallery curated their own shows of Miami artists from a specific era. An outdoor sculpture garden featured large works by artists such as Jen Stark, “Friends With You,” and Daniel Arsham’s “Snarkitecture.” The accompanying book contained about 90 conversations with artists, curators, gallery owners, collectors, and others who were active during that period. 
Jim Crow–era zoning laws once divided Miami, and Black people could only access Miami Beach to work but had to leave by nightfall. Multidisciplinary artist Loni Johnson, who was born and raised in Miami, sees her work as creating space for self-realization and dialogue that honors Black women and ancestors through rituals, silence, beauty, and song. Her performance, “5:31 Sundown Procession,” honored a century of Black service workers who passed through Miami Beach, never being able to claim that space as their own. The gathering met at the beach and processed into the the Wolfsonian’s Bridge Tender House building, where Johnson activated a high-spirited altar, followed by a panel. “5:31 Sundown Procession” is part of an ongoing series of projects titled “Bridge Deconstruction Site,” organized by Department of Reflection, a Miami artist collective that creates art in public spaces founded by Misael Soto.


VantaBlack’s “To What Lengths” activation, reflected on legacy building and preservation as foundational to Black and diasporic culture, while a solo show by Coralina Rodriguez Meyer, an Indigenous Colombian American artist, embodied motherhood.

Two ladies standing in front of lights one in rollerskates
TM Sisters

TM Sisters in Making Miami

For its participation in Making Miami, Locust Projects invited the TM Sisters (Tasha and Monica Lopez de Victoria) to create a new installation that revisits and reflects on their 2009 WHIRL CRASH GO!  kaleidoscopic installation of light, sound, and action that was Locust Projects’ first major activation in the Design District in an empty storefront on NE 38th Street which became its home from 2009 – 2012.

Loni Johnson


The four inside gallery spaces connected by a Sculpture Garden curated by Katerina Llanes featured works by Miami artists including a sculpture by artist Daniel Arsham’s “Snarkitecture,” a collaborative practice known for their multidisciplinary approach that blends art and architecture; a large-scale mural by multimedia artist Jen Stark; and a massive inflatable by FriendsWithYou, the artist collaborative of Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III. The Sculpture Garden also showcased works by artists Loni Johnson, Naomi Fisher, Carlos Betancourt, Antonia Wright + Ruben Millares, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, Jillian Mayer, Rimaj Barrientos, Robert Chambers, Jason Hedges, and Swampspace/ Kenny Scharf.

Zonia Zena

Women’s Voices: New Perspectives in the Archives

“Women’s Voices: New Perspectives in the Archive” is the second of a two-part exhibition curated by Anita Sharma, founder of WAAM. This exhibition united the distinct voices and artistic vision of artists who have participated in WAAM since its inception and featured a range of artistic mediums, including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, fiber practice, and mixed media works, offering viewers an understanding of the innovative approaches and thematic connections.

Shaping Community in the Modern World

Woman standing behind bar holding mannequin hand
Kelly Breez

“Spaces of Influence: Shaping Community in the Modern World,” a collective exhibition presented by Faena Art, offered works by internationally recognized Sebastian Errazuriz (Chile) and Beeple (United States) along with local artist Kelly Breez (United States) with major works collectively addressing themes of community and change. Kelly Breez’s assemblage turned the “Project Room” into a space that pays homage to the long-lost bar scene of old South Florida. One of the first kinds of community spaces, the bar is a place where people gather and tell stories, and Breez’s installation was a celebration of that. The bar as a communal-space recounts both a familiar and an unfamiliar tale—a mysterious meeting place where relationships begin and end, wars are started and ceased, business deals made and broken. 

Bridge Deconstruction

Misael Soto

MISAEL SOTO (faculty, NWSA 2021)

“Bridge Deconstruction” continued with a procession led by artist Loni Johnson and a conversation on Miami’s historical and current infrastructure issues. Honoring a century of service workers and Black culture, Johnson’s “5:31: Sundown Procession” referenced Miami Beach’s former “sundown town” laws barring African Americans from residing within the city and requiring them to cross the causeways to the mainland before nightfall. An interdisciplinary panel discussion, moderated by Department of Reflection director Misael Soto, shed light on the intersectional ways public space is political. The panel included Transit Alliance Miami co-executive director Cathy Dos Santos, Palm Beach bridge tender Sue Welch, and South Florida bridge engineer Andrew Barthle. 

New World School of the Arts Exhibitions

“Selected Works from the NWSA Collection” highlighted gems from the New World School of the Arts permanent collection, this is the first time in over ten years that some of the works are open to the public. “The public was surprised that NWSA had these amazing works of art as part of the collection,” said O. Gustavo Plascencia, dean of visual arts at NWSA. The collection was originally started with the help of Professor Rosario Martinez-Cañas back in the early 2000s and it focuses mainly on Latin-American artists. Miguel Padura, exhibiting artist, was able to attend and talk to the audience about his work and Enrique Campuzano, currently living in Chile, reached out when the news of his work being exhibited in NWSA.

In “Artists | Alchemists,” the New World School of the Arts permanent collection was used as a jumping board to contextualize the collection into new artwork. As the students approached their work, presented at the Miami Dade College Koubek Memorial Center, as visual artists and alchemists of sorts, they created something new by reinterpreting, reimagining, or remixing the existing artwork in the permanent collection, thereby linking both exhibitions. By contrasting the two shows, the latter of which focused in the site-specific/experimental approach, the students looked at the past and at te future of artmaking, the collection, and its legacy.
The participating students were guided by Virmari Garcia-Davila, NWSA alumna, Dean Plascencia, and NWSA faculty. Participating students included Lazaro Gonzalez, Veronica Gort, Sureily Marestein, Citlali Salas, Zoel Sarraga-Lintz, and Hayden Weaver.