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Virginia Miller
ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries

By Candice Russell
South Florida Times, December 2003

An eye for what's good and a nose for what's new distinguish Virginia Miller, owner of Artspace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables. Next May this trend-setting woman of vision celebrates her 30th year in the business of showcasing artists from around the globe.

The first to spotlight Latin American art before other galleries jumped on the bandwagon, Miller has been an active participant in the Miami art scene. She launched the Coral Gables' Gallery Night thirteen years ago, attracting people to the area and taking them by trolley from one gallery to another. In January, she participated in the prestigious Art Miami art fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center. She also makes continuing contributions as president of the Coral Gables Gallery Association.


"I do things that excite me," says Miller, who is proud of her new website "It is very eclectic. The defining element is quality. I've always believed that a dealer in contemporary art has more than a responsibility to sell. To open your emotions and mind to art, to see through the eyes of an infinitely gifted artist is an enriching experience. There's great satisfaction for me in finding artists who are or who have the potential to be historically significant."

The gallery launched this season with Arturo Correa from Venezuela, featuring his new paintings, works on paper and an unusual installation meant to bring attention to the plight of the homeless called "Art House," now on view at Pineapple Grove ArtWalk in Delray Beach. Miller also arranged for Correa to paint a 120-foot mural of a carousel on the exterior fence of a building in Coral Gables.

ArtSpace's activities continue with "Matt Carone: New Paintings," December 5 to January 29, 2004. Carone is the owner of the Carone Gallery, Fort Lauderdale's oldest commercial space. His large-scale paintings, inspired in part by his friendship with the late Chilean painter Roberto Matta, were recently shown at the Boca Raton Museum of Art and Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky. Next up is "Gunther Gerzso: 1935 to 1941," February 6 to April 30, 2004. Miller describes him as Mexico's first abstract painter, though a selection of early figurative work will also be shown. The season finishes May 7 to 30 with an annual event called the "Latin American Invitational."

Highlights in the gallery's life include Miller's retrospective of painter Alice Neel in 1978, a 1985 show for Richard Pousette-Dart, the youngest member of the New York school of Abstract Expressionists and a show on Aboriginal art from Australia in the 1990s, featuring Rover Thomas of the Turkey Creek School. Groundbreaking exhibitions devoted to contemporary Russian artists and digital photography are further examples of the broad-based approach that this farsighted owner takes to art.

From her unique perspective, Miller is able to reflect on changes in the Miami gallery scene. "It has evolved dramatically from 1974 to today," she says. "There are many more collectors who are much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about art. Their collecting habits are more diverse. They'll come in and ask about a specific style, category or medium of art, like glass.

"When I started showing Latin American art in the mid-1970s, nobody knew anything about it. Because my husband's a travel writer, we started going to Latin America where I visited schools and art studios, then brought back art. Now art from more countries is here in great numbers. If Miami is the gateway to Latin America, Coral Gables is the portal to Latin American art."

The burgeoning number of art galleries in Miami now is a far cry from the scant handful of galleries in Coconut Grove and Bay Harbor Islands' Kane Concourse three decades ago. "Miami's hot," says Miller "The art scene exudes a positive energy. Art stars live in south Florida, including José Bedia, Edouard Duval-Carrie and Ruben Torres Llorca, among others. What's going on is exciting. Art Basel brought more galleries, dealers and major collectors to the area. The Rubells moved here and opened their collection to the public. Miami collectors have established themselves to the point that they're loaning sculpture, photography and avant-garde art to museums. In 1974, there was only one collecting museum, the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami. Now there are five major collecting museums in Miami."

Miller prides herself on not falling into the traps of some gallery owners and curators who exhibit new work of little value. "So much of it is a fad," she says. "People show it for shock value. Curators have to have new things.

"I show what I believe in. This is art that people place in their homes and offices. I'm so rewarded when I hear from my clients who bought art from me years ago and tell me it's the art they love the most. This makes it all worthwhile, because it is art that has enhanced their lives."


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