The W Hotel played host to the Arts Fund Expo, a double gallery show, curated by Justin Giarla of White Walls fame and sponsored by The Art’s Fund: a San Francisco venture capital firm that invests in culture, innovation and publishing.

It’s Friday night of Art Basel week, this is it, Basel.

Our next stop is cocktail hour at the W Hotel South Beach. On the 12th floor of the hotel you’ll find the first part of the show entitled “The 6 on 12 Art Crawl.” Welcome to “The W-Model Home,” where units are for sale to interested parties for upwards of a few million dollars. Each condo pristinely decorated with the distinct elegance that has made the W brand name famous.

Beneath the watchful eyes of the hotel staff, art lovers were free to wander the residences with cocktails and hors d’oeuvre’s in hand, taking the art and atmosphere in. The lights of South Beach’s swankiest hotels glittered on the skyline, you could feel the excitement in the air. Miami exuded art – it sizzled with possibility – it was a beautiful summer evening in December.

Artists Hush, Eddie Colla, Mindy Linkous, Casey Gray, Robert Malmberg and Kofie One were the residence’s featured artists, each having their own “solo residence.” Robert Malmbeg’s residence set the scene for The Art’s Fund Expo’s nightly cocktail hour – pairing a lovely mixture of hospitality and ambiance – attendees networked and talked excitedly about art and the Basel experience.

Each artist had something unique to bring to their residence…

Hush’s origins as a street artist have translated with fluidity into the contemporary art scene. His popular works blend a mixture of graffiti, anime, and bold color palates to created pieces that blur the line of “fine” and “street” art.

Kofie One, who also has roots urban subculture, has been gaining a lot of recognition lately. His work pays homage to the draftsman and is highly geometric in nature, almost architectural in style. In a world where artists use reclaimed materials more and more, Kofie is king. The artist makes recycled materials look new, and successfully transitions them into something you’d see hanging in a museum.

Mindy Linkous’ work focuses on culturally familiar events rendered in black and white. The artist found quite a patronage at this years Expo, selling a number of works during the event. Her newest works on display at The Arts Fund Expo came to life through a series of creative sessions that produced the concept and generation of a new and fresh design.

Robert Malmberg’s moody photographs capture a filmic nostalgia and modernity that is becoming lost in our digital era. His work has become widely recognized due to his slight, random ‘imperfections’ associated with alternative mediums and retains an antiquated ambiance and atmosphere.

Miami based artist David Le Batard (known as LEBO) has several very large murals thorough the city of Miami, and had a special showing of his fine art at the Arts Fund Expo. His style is unlike any out there, and he’s known to have dubbed his movement “Postmodern Cartoon Expressionism,” a blend of cartoon imagery, linear composition, and heavily saturated color palettes. Also recognized for his live painting, he received special notice on Page Six of the New York Post during our time at the Expo, for his live painting with world renowed DJ Danny Tenaglia at the W’s night club.

Prolific stencil artist Casey Gray’s work looked especially at home in the luxury of the W Hotel. His bright, kaleidoscopic color palate easily translated well into any living environment. Gray’s paintings are composites of interconnected stencil imagery, and represent the human condition within their ethereal, repetitive patterns.

To reach the second show, one must travel downstairs… poolside. Passing through a cabana lined oasis “Never Say Never” combined a solid mix of established and emerging artistic talent.

Blek le Rat is one of the standouts at The Arts Fund Expo, who became famous for his street art rats which he stenciled around Paris in the early 80’s. His work is known to have inspired Banksy and Shepard Fairey to move into their personal street art careers, and has since been dubbed “the godfather of street art.” Blek’s work has become a worthwhile investment for the serious street art collector.

Street art veteran Dan Witz – who is well known for his intricate and highly detailed mosh pit oil paintings – previewed his latest street art at this event. Witz began street art in the late 1970’s and became known for his tiny hand painted realistic hummingbirds in a time when “big” graffiti was popping up everywhere. Decorating garbage cans, walls, and other miscellaneous urban structures, the artist’s originality and creativity stood out amongst the ocean of graffiti that was New York in the early 80’s.

Dan’s latest work focuses on activities occurring “behind closed doors” and features characters in situations that are both taboo and bizarre. These characters then have grates placed over them, as if they are just on the other side of the wall. These grates are placed on spaces on the sides of freeways, and are meant to give the occasionally passerby in rush hour traffic a “WTF” moment.

Controversial street artist Eddie Colla’s fine art was also featured at this event. Colla’s images are extremely engaging, well executed, and have captured the attention of mainstream art world with his distinct asian aesthetic. Raw yet familiar, Colla’s wheatpastes are often found dotting the urban landscape, while his fine art works are beginning to gather some well deserved attention in galleries worldwide.

Another noticeable street artist that made a strong showing at the Expo was D Young V, an emerging artist from the West Coast. His runic motifs resemble a modernized Lichtenstein and contain a futuristic, post-apocalyptic San Francisco narrative. An artistic homage to the comic book, D Young V’s work is a unique blend of street art and fine art.

Fine oil artist Jessica Hess is an important figure within this contemporary scene brought some of her best work to the Expo. Her immaculately rendered, highly skilled oil landscapes document the street art world and her work pays homage to the beauty of tagging, graffiti, and wheatepasting.

“Never Say Never” merged some of the most interesting and talented artists in the contemporary scene today. This show was a testament to the curatorial power Giarla brought to the show, and the high class, elegant environment that only The Arts Fund and the W South Beach could provide.

– Lyrica Glory for Warholian

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