MIAMI -- Brazil has been a powerhouse in the art world for more than a decade, and now its booming economy is putting its artists and collectors on the global map.
Both will be making their mark during the 10th annual Art Basel Miami Beach festival and its satellite events this week.
The country, the fifth-largest in the world, is part of the growing Latin American presence at the art extravaganza. But it's not just about art. As Brazilians and other Latin Americans fly in for the fair, Miami-area real estate developers are enticing potential customers with special Basel packages. Meanwhile upscale Brazilian design and furnishing companies like Ornare and Artefacto are hosting parties and conferences on architecture and design.
Regina de Almeida, one of the founders and directors of the Institute of Contemporary Culture in Sao Paulo, and a longtime collector of Brazilian works, says she's seen a rapid internationalization of the country's art, thanks in part to Brazil's booming economy, which grew by 7.5 percent last year.
In the past, she said, Brazil was something of a cultural island.
"The new mobility that galleries today have abroad, this didn't use to happen 20 years ago," she said. "It used to be art just for us."
Miami's Art Basel fair, the offshoot of the annual festival in Basel, Switzerland, and one of America's most prestigious art events, runs Thursday through Sunday and brings together more than 2,000 artists from peer selected galleries around the globe. This year it boasts 26 Latin American galleries, 16 of them Brazilian. Among its featured "Art Positions" section dedicated to new talents, a quarter of the 16 galleries are from Brazil. Other international galleries are also exhibiting work by Brazilian artists, including masters such as the sculptor Tunga.
The artists on display reflect the diversity of Brazil, which is home to the largest community of individuals of Japanese descent outside of Japan, as well as sizeable communities of Italian and Lebanese-Brazilians.
Among the artists featured in this year's fair is Rosana Ricalde, whose lyrical yet stylized sea paintings hint of Japanese influence and who turns maps of cities into abstract lattices. Paulo Nazareth's bold photography features images such as an indigenous Guatemalan man holding a sign reading in Spanish: "My Image of Exotic Man for Sale."
"Brazil has always been on top of the creative world. You have only to look at Carnival. People look at it as a party, but it's an incredible artistic world," said Miami gallery owner Gary Nader, who will showcase more than $5 million worth of Brazilian art at his Wynwood Arts District gallery this week, including Walter Goldfarb and Vik Muniz. He is featuring multiple Brazilian works at his first Latin American modern and contemporary art auction Thursday and plans a show dedicated solely to Brazilian artists in March.
Outside the art scene, developers hope to capitalize on the new class of Brazilian collectors. In Florida, Brazilians are second only to Canadians in scooping up real estate, making up 8 percent of foreign buyers, mostly in the luxury condos.
"Those people who like to buy high-end art also like to buy high-end real estate on the ocean," said Mark Pordes, whose company oversees Miami Beach's Canyon Ranch and is planning receptions for potential Brazilian clients. So too is International Sales Group Chairman Philip J. Spiegelman, who is bringing New York designer Karim Rasheed to meet primarily with the Brazilian and other Latin American buyers in town for the fair.
Meanwhile, the Brazilian firm Ornare, which specializes in luxury wardrobe, bath and kitchen manufacturing, is hosting a week of events, culminating in a conference Friday on the influence of Brazil on the world of design, featuring top Brazilian architects.
Zize Zink is among them. The Rio de Janeiro architect is attending her first Art Basel, scouting for works for her clients and herself.
"It's the moment in Brazil," she said, adding that construction in Brazil in advance of the 2016 Olympics is also fueling new interest in design.
Still others are using the week to remind collectors about the millions in Latin America still living in poverty. The Chilean-based nonprofit Un Techo Para Mi Pais (A Roof for My Country) will auction miniature models of the transitional housing it produces for Latin America's poor designed by some of the region's most popular artists – including one by Brazil's Rosana Ricalde.
AP Reporter Juliana Barbassa contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.