The Faena district in Miami Beach is fast becoming a cultural destination,
and that’s largely due to one woman. Meet Ximena Caminos.
When Ximena Caminos was 15 years old, she was sent for private lessons with the celebrated artist Luis Felipe Noé in Buenos Aires. For the first six months, Noé sat her by his easel, equipped only with a metal-tipped ink pen. “Draw nothing but lines,” he told her. “You’re going to learn abstraction and vibration through those lines.” She dutifully complied. “I was very shy, and he has a big, extravagant personality,” Caminos recalls of the two years she spent under his tutelage. Finally, the maestro deemed her ready to join his main class, which was filled with students far older than Caminos. By the age of 20, she had won several prizes and participated in multiple exhibitions. Yet she wasn’t satisfied. “I didn’t have the temperament to be in the artist’s shoes—begging for an exhibition, or for someone to buy the work,” she says. “But I was very good at bridging, connecting, and producing big projects.” That realization helped turn Caminos into a powerful figure in the Latin American art world.
Looking at her career now, it’s easy to understand how she achieved such influence. Dressed in a colorful floating caftan and sitting in the Miami Beach lobby of the Faena hotel that she co-owns with her husband, Alan Faena, Caminos is pixie-like and warm. An unstoppable presence, she exuberantly dots her Spanglish with colorful metaphors. Technically considered a curator, Caminos goes beyond that field’s conventional remit, becoming as much a creative director, coach, and even cheerleader for those she champions. Think of her instead as a kind of cultural Swiss Army knife.
Caminos’s initial stint as a curator came via the first cultural center to open in Recoleta after the Argentine junta was displaced. “The main exhibition floor? It was just dirt, and it took us years to get it to a great place, but it ended up fabulous.” From there, Ximena was headhunted to join the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Bueno Aires, or MALBA; it was there that she first tested her skills beyond conventional curating. “I did things to make the museum more dynamic and younger, to bring a little fresh air in,” she says. Typical of this was her reinvention of MALBA’s shop, commissioning dozens of local artists to design objects for sale, and persuading fashion world friends to host events at the museum.
One of those friends was the then-erstwhile designer Alan Faena. Having sold a successful fashion company, Faena was mulling his next move: a mammoth, mixed-use urban regeneration project in Buenos Aires. He intended for the development, formally called the Faena Hotel + Universe, to combine apartments and hotel rooms alongside cultural spaces. Would Caminos consider joining him to steer the arts programming? he asked her. Loath to leave her post at MALBA, she suggested helping him part-time.
That was 2004, when what began as a casual arrangement quickly morphed into their enduring, powerful partnership. Within six months, Caminos had become both Faena’s muse and a major force shaping the entire development. “I knew what Buenos Aires lacked: a state-of-the-art platform for cutting-edge, avant-garde artists,” she says. Caminos initiated art prizes, a program that funded emerging experimental artists, and finally a dedicated cultural center. It opened with a site-specific commission from Ernesto Neto, alongside a smaller project by Argentine installation artist Manuel Ameztoy. “I wanted local, young artists to benefit from Ernesto’s level of exposure, and help them make a career.” (Ameztoy is now a regular fixture at most major art fairs, like Art Basel, Pinta, and the Milan Art Fair.)
Now, Caminos is turning her full attention to her husband’s next project: another mixed-use neighborhood, this time in Miami Beach. Here, she is spearheading the artistic programming of the second Faena-verse as the executive director of Faena Forum. As conceived by Caminos, the OMA-designed building operates as both a convention and commercial space, while simultaneously hosting visual and cultural arts events. It’s no clone of the Argentinian outpost. What happens here is quintessentially Miami.
The inaugural event planned for Faena Forum, which she calls “the most difficult project I’ve ever done in my life,” is a public celebration-cum-processional around Miami Beach to mark the building’s opening in November. Curated by Claire Tancons, it will feature several international artists, notable chefs, and local residents. “The idea is to try and knit the fabric of the city together—there are so many Miamis scattered around,” Caminos says. To coincide with this procession, she’s debuting a new, ongoing series of solo performances at the site, under the Soledades banner: The first will be by Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani. Caminos has also partnered with Gonzalo Casals of New York’s High Line Arts for another ongoing program of artist collaborations, this one bringing artists to the Forum for experimental, site-specific pieces. It’s a formalization of the pairing she tried during Art Basel Miami Beach 2015, with a neo-disco roller rink conceived by the Brazilian-French artist duo Assume Vivid Astro Focus. The cheekiest expression of Caminos’s commitment to ribboning art throughout Faena Miami, though, is undoubtedly Elevate, which deeds the elevator of the small satellite hotel, Casa Claridge, to a local, mid-career artist like Cristina Lei Rodriguez, who can reimagine it as they wish. Nothing has greater transformative power than art, she says. “Art has always been at the forefront of pushing boundaries.” She smiles. “I believe in the forefront. That’s where I like to work.” Luis Felipe Noé would be proud.