Latin Americans who sell or collect top notch contemporary art are key players in the 10th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, the biggest art fair of its kind in the United States.
Thousands of art lovers, collectors and gallery operators from all over the world filled the Miami Beach Convention Center in a frenzied opening Thursday that recalled last week's Black Friday shopping binge.
"I want to buy a sculpture by a young Korean woman who is promising and spectacular," said Ana Rosa Villasenor de Urrea, a Mexican from Guadalajara who hasn't missed the art meet in 10 years.
"I love art. Everything one sees here and what the artists and their works convey makes my life happier," she said as she walked through the fair with Mexican curator Patrick Charpenel.
Charpenel runs the Jumex collection and recommended the $20,000 sculpture that Villasenor plans to buy for her private collection.
The fair's big attraction is that it pulls in modern and contemporary art by artists from Latin America, Asia, Africa, the United States and Europe.
More than 260 galleries from around the world are exhibiting works by more than 2,000 artists in an event that organizers expect to draw some 50,000 people.
"This show stands out for the variety that it brings from the whole world and for the Latin American accent it has acquired over the years," said Ana Maria Goldstein, an art historian and museum coordinator in Colombia.
"In addition, it has created an artistic environment in Miami that has sprouted parallel fairs which get better every year and where you can find works of great artistic value at very good prices."
"Uomo a Cavallo," a small bronze sculpture by Colombia's Fernando Botero, is the magnet at the booth of Swiss gallery Gmurzynska. The sculpture costs more than $500,000 and by Sunday, it's very likely to have a new owner.
"Here one finds incredible pieces and the prices tend to be lower than at fairs in Europe," said Ana Weal, who traveled from Peru with friends to visit Art Basel and the other fairs, hoping to find a little treasure for their private collections.
"I don't buy every year, a lot of times I come to appreciate the new talent. But this year, I do want to take something home with me," Weal said.
This year, 16 art galleries came from Brazil, some of which have witnessed the growth of Art Basel Miami Beach since its debut a decade ago.
"Before the 2008 crisis, the sales were spectacular. Then there was a slight drop, but this year has been phenomenal for us," said Cristina Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Sao Paulo gallery Fortes Vilaca.
Like Thompson, Vivian Gandelsman, of Sao Paulo's Millan gallery, said the best clients were Brazilians who have come to the art fair to satisfy a desire to see and discover sculptures, paintings and installations by artists who may one day become household names.
Within 24 hours of opening its doors, Fortes Vilaca had sold eight pieces, ranging in price from $6,000 to $84,000.
Nearby, Los Angeles artists Olga Koumoundouros and Andrea Bowers presented their "Transformer Display of Community Information and Activation" installation, which each night will feature activists from community organizations, including the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
"The idea is that those people who for some reason are socially excluded be included and form part of art so that this art may serve them as a means of communication," said Koumoundouros.
The installation was erected on the beach in Collins Park, where the works of various artists are presented in an open and public exhibition.
Jose, an undocumented Argentine student visiting the installation who asked that his full name not be used, said the installation could help others "experience the surrealism in which we live."