The art world’s Queen of Arts, Bernice Steinbaum, is no BS. An incredibly vibrant character, she stands no more than 5 feet, 2 inches, is as distinguished as she is colorful, and just as big in presence as she is small in stature. But to know BS, the legendary art collector who has always advocated for women and people of color, is to see that she is showing few signs of slowing down.
It was no accident Bernice Steinbaum fell into the niche of artists she represents and calls family. Feminism and the Civil Rights Movement had effected change, but there was still a long way to go. Women and people of color were still underrepresented and undervalued in every area of the art world.
When Bernice completed an advanced degree at a New York art school, she said she graduated with more than 60 other women. Yet, she noticed galleries filled their walls and spaces with work only by white men. Refusing a “separate but equal” model of representation, her mission was to exhibit artists working with narrative, while maintaining a roster of 50 percent women and 40 percent artists of color. The gallery opened on Madison Avenue, and later moved to 132 Green St. in SoHo.
In 2000, BS moved the gallery to Miami, opening on a semi-quiet corner of NW 36th Street. It was the first commercial gallery in the quasi-industrial and working-class community of Wynwood. BS helped to turn the former warehouse district into a bustling arts haven.
With its new location, the gallery’s mission shifted. In New York, the indoor spaces of galleries had been welcome oasis from the weather and bustle outside. In Miami, BS was impressed by the fact that the city competed with nature for the public’s attention.
Her attention turned to the future of the natural world, and the many threats to it that human endeavors pose. She sought out artists engaging with environmental themes and working with found or repurposed materials. Given the role of technology and globalization in both causing and countering environmental issues, she also developed an interest in artists pursuing similar themes in their work.
In 2014, she closed her gallery in Wynwood saying it was “time to pass the gauntlet.” BS continued to work from her home, while planning a new gallery space on her property in Coconut Grove. The new gallery opened January 7, 2017 with the exhibition, “Threads of Connection.”
Opening on October 28, 2017, in Bernice’s new Coconut Grove gallery space, is New Paintings & Works on Paper by Cuban artist Pavel Acosta, whose pieces are made by cutting paint chips from drywall and using them in collage, often recreating master works.
With BS continuing to support and nurture her artists, they are able to continue to pursue their dreams of creating art. In doing so, she revolutionized the art industry and helped establish a new culture of diversity in the art world. Bernice Steinbaum is one determined visionary who has changed the course of history, and created her own legacy along the way.
Publicist for Treece Financial Group