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Pittsburgh artists seek 'road win' at Miami Art Week

A car being hauled by a truck.
Jason Sauer
The Most Wanted Fine Art rig, including pickup truck with sculpture and '77 Chevy Station wagon, have gone south for Miami Art Week.

This is WESA Arts, a weekly newsletter by Bill O'Driscoll providing in-depth reporting about the Pittsburgh area art scene. Sign up here to get it every Wednesday afternoon.

Pittsburghers racing to Miami in December — it happens.

Relatively few, however, head south in a pickup truck towing a ’77 Chevy station wagon full of art.

But that was what Jason Sauer and Shawn Farester were up to when I reached them by phone Monday, 200 miles north of Miami, and 14 hours into a road trip that started the night before in Pittsburgh.

Their destination was Miami Art Week, the nation’s most celebrated annual art happening, and one where several Pittsburgh artists in Sauer’s camp will seek to make their mark this year.

Sauer is a painter and sculptor whose practice overlaps with the world of demolition derby: He spray-paints art onto derby vehicles, and takes a welding torch to salvaged bumpers, grills and panels to craft his distinctive, large-scale abstract sculptures. One such piece was hanging over the tail of his Ford Super Duty this week as he sped down I-95.

The art in the station wagon belonged to Sauer, Farester, DS Kinsel and Camerin “Camo” Nesbit. Farester is a painter and sculptor. Kinsel is an artist and co-founder of the multivalent arts nonprofit BOOM Concepts, while Nesbit is a well-known Pittsburgh muralist.

Miami Art Week is the catchall for a wide array of exhibits, events and parties that lure artists, collectors, gallerists and celebrities of all stripes. The biggest is Art Basel Miami Beach, whose 2022 visitors included Serena Williams, Rihanna, Jeff Koons, Cardi B and sundry Kardashians.

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The key destination for Sauer and friends was Red Dot Miami, a five-day art expo starting Wednesday at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center, in Miami’s Wynwood district, known internationally for its public murals. Red Dot showcases dozens of galleries and hundreds of artists for upward of 38,000 visitors. The four will share Booth 601 and, as Kinsel puts it, “We’re hoping for some sales.”

You might recall Art Basel Miami Beach as the fair where, in 2019, an Italian artist duct-taped a banana to a wall and sold the piece for $120,000.

Sauer, for one, credits Miami Art Week with boosting his career.

The former Army truck driver has been a force on Pittsburgh’s independent art scene for years. For a decade, starting in 2007, he and his wife, Nina, ran Most Wanted Fine Art, a gallery and event space in the Penn Avenue arts corridor, in Garfield. (BOOM Concepts joined Most Wanted on Penn several years later, and Sauer and Kinsel and their families still live in the neighborhood.)

Sauer is also a featured personality on “Track Shot Live,” a live-streamed YouTube show for which he travels the U.S., spray-painting cars at demolition derbies.

Though he and Nina closed the gallery in 2017, Sauer remains visible tooling around Pittsburgh in his art car, boldly painted with the graffiti-style MWFA logo. Seven years ago, he drove it uninvited to Miami during Art Week and started making connections. He’s been exhibiting at Red Dot ever since. Once during Art Week, he said, he sold one of his big sculptures to “a man who owns his own mountain next to Vail.”

Sauer also said the gallery that reps him, New York’s Mark Gallery, found him in Miami.

Other stops for Sauer and friends this week include the Wynwood Mural Festival — “We get to spray-paint a wall,” said Sauer — and Sunday’s event at the Museum of Graffiti Art, where Sauer said he’s a featured artist.

Kinsel, reached by phone in Miami while Sauer was still en route, said he’s always wanted to visit Miami Art Week, which he called a “convergence of the international art world.”

“It was really important for us from Appalachia to get to the coast,” he added, noting that, even in the age of Instagram and online galleries, “Nothing replaces the real-life experience.”

Moreover, Kinsel said, “There’s nothing better than a road win. This is an opportunity for us to get a victory on the road and really test our skills.”

Sauer said other Pittsburghers who go south for Art Week often stop by to say hello. So if you happen to be in South Florida this week, don’t be shy.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: