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Santolo De Luca’s oil painting Colitvare I’idea or “cultivate the idea,” portrays a star-like scene of marijuana leaves floating against a deep blue background. His work will be on view at Galleria Seno’s Art Miami show Dec. 3-8.

Santolo De Luca’s oil painting Colitvare I’idea or “cultivate the idea,” portrays a star-like scene of marijuana leaves floating against a deep blue background. His work will be on view at Galleria Seno’s Art Miami show Dec. 3-8.

Galleria Seno

Gone are the days when marijuana-inspired art was confined to dorm posters and hand-blown bongs.

As cannabis products have evolved into a high-powered multi-million dollar industry, so has the art scene around it.

No more evident is that shift than at Art Miami, one of the country’s premier art fairs that has been a mainstay at Miami Art Week for 30 years. Visitors from around the world are drawn to Miami in early December to attend Art Miami, Art Basel Miami Beach and nearly 20 other shows.

Traditional gallerists like Galleria Seno, of Italy, will have oil paintings on view at Art Miami that reflect new, marijuana-centric trends in the art scene.

Santolo De Luca’s Colitvare I’idea or “cultivate the idea,” for example, portrays a star-like scene of marijuana leaves floating against a deep blue background.

Art Miami Vice President Nicholas Korniloff said with major, mainstream artists like painter-photographer Richard Prince creating their own marijuana brands and strands, it shows that pot “is something that’s not going to go away.”

“There are artists, very good artists, working with galleries to present what they interpret to be the connection to this plant that’s been around for thousands of years,” he said. “It’s now become mainstream in a capitalist society.

In Florida, where marijuana became legal for medical use in 2017, the marijuana industry is expected to become a $1 billion business by 2020. Globally, the market is even larger.

“There are social messages, political messages and capitalist messages regarding the influence of cannabis in our culture,” Korniloff said. “For me, it’s interesting to see the mainstream artists that are heavily collected that are integrating cannabis in their work.”

Benjamin Milstein, who keeps a collection of elaborate, hand-blown bongs worth more than $10 million, has shown his collection at Art Week fairs over the last four years. There is a collector base for his trove, he said, and fan bases gather to see the elaborate works and view live glass blowing events.

Mother Nature’s Rifle by Robert Mickelsen and Calm.jpg
Benjamin Milstein

Milstein is attending as fair-goer this year to see a portrait of himself by Nigerian artist Iké Udé on display at the Betsy Hotel on South Beach. While he’s not working this year, he looks forward to seeing the cannabis art space continue to grow.

He said the conversation around cannabis is much more lenient and relaxed than it’s ever been. Now, street artists and live events draw marijuana enthusiasts and celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Deitch to take part.

“We don’t remember but five years ago, it wasn’t that way,” he said. “Art is usually the first industry to pick up on these taboo subjects. This is how innovation is supposed to be.”

The cannabis connections at Art Week go beyond the art as well.

Leafstyle, an international cannabis lifestyle group, is hosting an Art Basel-inspired dinner featuring Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried and Miami-based medical marijuana doctor Michelle Weiner.

Art Miami has also partnered with Fort Lauderdale CBD company Veritas Farms, which will act as the first “health and wellness” partner for Art Miami. In addition to sponsoring activities throughout the fair, the company will infuse its product — marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin — into craft cocktails, coffees, chocolates and even sandwiches at satellite snack bars across the event space.

Derek Thomas, the vice president of business development for Veritas Farms, said the partnership makes sense for the brand, which hopes to promote the health and wellness aspect of CBD products to well-heeled fairgoers.

Veritas Farms will have a cafe set up in the walkway between the Art Miami and CONTEXT Art Miami tents, and will also be hosting events at the Doral CityCenter and Faena hotel in Miami Beach during Art Week.

“It speaks to the versatility of the cannabis industry,” Thomas said. “What better way to spread this message than at a well-regarded and highly attended event?”

Thomas added that the partnership signifies cannabis has gone “absolutely mainstream.”

Cannabis in its own way is still kind of sexy and mysterious and flexible,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of product categories still like that.”

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Samantha J. Gross is a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she covered breaking news at the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News.



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