Gallerist David Castillo Continues To Elevate Miami’s Art Scene

David Castillo and Dog

David Castillo and his dog Harry

David Castillo Gallery

David Castillo Gallery

David Castillo Gallery

So much to see at David Castillo Gallery

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By: Gino R. Campodónico

Preeminent gallerist David Castillo is a Cuban-American pioneer who reflects the vibrant culture of Miami through the artists he showcases at his eponymous gallery on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road. As a champion for minority artists, his groundbreaking vision has helped shape contemporary art in the city and amplified the spotlight on Miami’s art scene on an international scale.

Born in Madrid, Spain in 1973, Castillo and his family moved to Hialeah, Florida when he was an infant after years of refuge from the increasing political turmoil in Cuba. He grew up in Hialeah and immediately felt welcomed, relishing in the city’s strong sense of community. “I was proud to call that place home,” Castillo said. And even though he describes his childhood as normal, his achievements later in life have proven to be nothing but extraordinary.

As a child, Castillo recalls wanting to study medicine, but it was art that fascinated him the most. He frequented Downtown Miami cultural gems such as the Center for the Fine Arts and Gusman Cultural Center, now known as the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and Olympia Theater, respectively, to see art and photography shows with his family. Art and culture were very appealing to him, yet he never saw his passion as a viable career path. After pursuing his academic degree at Yale University, Castillo enhanced his skills early on by working in the curatorial department at the university’s art gallery and then as a registrar at the Miami Art Museum (now PAMM), further inspiring him to pursue a career in the art world.

Cut to Wynwood circa 2005. Castillo opened his contemporary art gallery space with a clear vision focusing on the concept of identity and how minority cultures, including African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ+ and women, are often labeled as “other.” This label is something he too was very familiar with as a person of color.

“The vision has been exactly the same since the beginning because it has a lot to do with who I am as a person. It has to do with a lot of intellectual moments that I had as a student where I realized that I myself was seen as the ‘other,’” said Castillo. “This idea fascinated me - this concept of identity.”

Remaining true to his gallery’s vision was never easy, however, Castillo’s steadfast determination and self-imposed responsibility to represent a diverse group of trailblazing artists – whose narratives not only continue to influence the art world, but cultural conversations in Miami, the U.S. and beyond – has paid off over the years. And in 2018, success hit an all-time high when the David Castillo Gallery was selected to join the Galleries sector at Art Basel Miami Beach, making it only the second Miami-based gallery to be included in the fair’s top-tier show space – an honor reserved for the most important galleries in the world.

According to Castillo, this was more than a personal achievement, it was a moment of pride for his home. “Miami is very important to me so any banner that I can carry as a small participant or as one individual is awesome. The city is part of me as much as I am part of the city and who I became as I person has a lot to do with where I grew up. And I hope that that is well represented in that accomplishment.”

Castillo credits Art Basel for galvanizing culture in Miami. Small galleries and cultural institutions were present in the past, but he believes the revered art fair truly helped in cementing it with the international level of attention it has brought to the city since 2002. To that point, visitors of the David Castillo Gallery, which is now located inside Lincoln Road’s historic 420 Building, can enjoy some of the best things Miami has to offer – world-class culture and stunning beaches – all within a few blocks.

Miami’s robust landscape of cultures has remained a constant theme and an organic sense of inspiration for the gallerist throughout his career. “The city can see itself in the gallery,” he shared. That is why Castillo is so keen in artists that represent themes of diversity via paintings, sculptures, video and more. He adds, “I feel like these artists are making the most important work of our time…obviously there is many artists doing that, but these artists in particular are doing that and also speaking to these narratives of identity which include the LGBTQ+ community, people of color and women.” On that note, Castillo shared that he’s working on a major presentation with a gay artist for Art Basel this year which will soon be announced in full detail.

Outside of exhibiting at Art Basel, placing artists in major institutions such as The Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York, and selling artwork to the top collectors in the world, Castillo enjoys taking a break from his busy life to relax at home. He currently lives in Downtown Miami and loves to walk his dog Harry in Maurice A. Ferré Park (formerly Museum Park) to take in the panoramic views of Biscayne Bay and the PortMiami. Other places he likes to visit to escape and just chill? “Vizcaya and The Deering Estate are places that are special and never get old for me,” he said. “And I like to go to museums for unexpected shows every now and then. The Wolfsonian-FIU is a little gem in this city!”

When in the mood for a good meal, Castillo loves to go to La Petite Maison in Brickell or to MC Kitchen in the Design District where he likes to order a Bloody Mary during brunch on the weekends. As for his favorite LGBTQ+ hangout spots, he said, “Twist remains a neighborhood bar and a welcoming watering hole.” The Palace, famed for its drag shows on the iconic Ocean Drive, is another favorite of his. “It’s cool because you see tourists, LGBTQ+ people and everyone coming together,” he said.

As Miami’s cultural scene continue to flourish and grow, the David Castillo Gallery will continue to be a driving force at the forefront of artist representation. To learn more about the David Castillo Gallery and a list of upcoming exhibitions, click here.

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