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What started out as a plan for a private office space turned into Miami’s newest contemporary art space.
Marquez Art Projects, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to homegrown and international emerging artists, opens its building Saturday, just in time for the start of Miami’s busy arts season. The works on display are from the contemporary art collection of John Marquez, a Miami-based art collector, real estate developer and restaurateur. Admission is free.
“Why not?” Marquez said. “Why not open to the city, open it to the community and be able to share what I do and use it as a platform to show artists [that are] local and from all over the world?”
The 8,000-square-foot space, which used to be a wholesale shoe and retail warehouse, is located in Allapattah, an industrial area just west of thoroughly gentrified Wynwood. Developers and arts aficionados see it as the next up-and-coming hub, given that it’s home to other arts attractions, like the Rubell Museum, Superblue and El Espacio 23.
Marquez bought the property about five years ago, intending to turn it into a private office space decorated with works from his collection. Buying the Allapattah property made sense, he said, especially given its proximity to Wynwood. Besides, Wynwood was already pricey by then.
“It naturally made sense that the art scene would push this way,” he said.
Marquez, 41, was born in Miami. He lived in Venezuela until he was 9, and his family returned to South Florida. He was introduced to art by his mother, who collected work by Latin American artists for their home. He got hooked on street art around the time Wynwood Walls opened. He had also just bought his first apartment, which needed some art, of course.
“At first, it was just put art on my walls,” he said. “But then little by little, that passion grew.”
Some of his first pieces were by KAWS and Banksy, two of the best known street artists in the world today. At the time, street art spoke to Marquez as a young man, he said. And it was different compared to the Latin American art he was used to seeing while growing up. A blood red work by KAWS is on view at Marquez Art Projects now.
“I just loved the fact that it was accessible for a lot of people to see it free of charge,” he said. “It was just something that I identified with at the time. It was a good starting point for me to start collecting.”
Around 2016, he began to expand his artistic palate by researching more contemporary artists. He started his Instagram page to share the art he was collecting and hanging in his home. From there, he connected with more artists, gallerists, art collectors, and soon his hobby became a full blown project.
In just a few years, his collection outgrew his home. He got storage for his art, which freed up space to collect even more.
“That’s when it really took off because there was nothing holding me back to buy more,” he said. “And that’s when I decided to buy this place.”
Four curated rooms
Today, the Marquez Family Collection boasts over 1,000 works, much of which was made in the last five years. That means his contemporary art is as contemporary as it can get.
He began working with Terry Riley — an acclaimed architect who worked with the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron to build the Perez Art Museum Miami and who was chief architectural curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art — to revamp the building. When Riley died in 2021, his former mentee Wesley Kean took over the project. Studio RODA designed the interior. The end result was a simple yet effective design. The building’s downstairs galleries and upstairs office space are bright white, a stark contrast to the deep dark green paint on the outside walls.
The building is divided into four distinct galleries, which were curated with the help of Marquez’ advisor Adam Green and Alex Gartenfeld, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami’s artistic director.
“John Marquez is one of the leading collectors internationally, and through his philanthropy has built a reputation as a leading supporter of the next generation of great artists,” Gartenfeld said in a statement. “I am excited for MAP as a major new cultural destination in our city and as a hub for Miami-based talent.”
First is what Marquez calls “the OG room,” featuring the big name artists that informed the evolution of the collection: KAWS, George Condo, Robert Nava, and others.
Then there’s a gallery space dedicated to rotating solo exhibitions. Currently on view is “Your Body is Pieces,” a show of newly commissioned works by Christina de Miguel. The New York-based artist is known for pushing the boundaries of figurative art with bold, colorful and expressive works.
The next gallery is a world of squiggly lines, thick brush strokes and various shades of hot pink. This room features paintings by female abstractionists. Marquez has been particularly focused on collecting works by women abstract artists lately, he said. Featured here are works by Andrea Marie Breiling, Grace Carney, Sarah Cunningham, Li Hei Di, Jadé Fadojutimi, Francesca Mollett, Lauren Quinn, Marina Perez Simao, and Michaela Yearwood-Dan.
And then there is the Miami room, a selection of works entirely by Miami-based artists: Hernan Bas, Loriel Beltrán, Bernadette Despujols, Tomm El-Saieh, Viktor El Saieh, Alejandro Pinero Belo, and Didier William. “A lot of them are my friends,” Marquez said.
Possibly the trippiest work in the entire building is a rainbow-colored work by Beltrán, a Venezuelan-born artist. Beltrán is known for his process of pouring paint into molds, letting it harden, cutting it and arranging the slices into artworks. Stare at this painting for a few seconds and the lines appear to warp on their own.
A work that sticks out to Marquez is “Bienvendios,” a painting by Cuban artist Pinero Belo. In the painting, the viewer looks from the sea onto shore. A small family, two parents and a child, walk from a jungle of swirling, multicolored trees onto the sand to greet whoever is approaching.
“Being Miamians and being able to show them here during Art Basel means a lot to me,” Marquez said.
Marquez Art Projects
Address: 2395 NW 21st Terr., Miami
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10-6 p.m.
Info: Free entry. Admission by appointment only. https://marquezartprojects.com/
This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.
This story was originally revealed September 22, 2023, 6:30 PM.