An ongoing collaboration between Pratt Institute and Hennessy V.S, the world’s top cognac brand, allowed one current student and two recent graduates to prominently display their fine art, photography, and film work in the Epic Hotel lobby during Art Basel Miami Beach, the renowned international art fair that attracts 50,000 visitors from around the world in December each year. The main event includes a mix of work worth $3 billion by masters and emerging artists and has grown over the last 11 years to include dozens of satellite fairs, design presentations, museum exhibitions, and private shows in the Miami area.

The Pratt work on display during the fair included winners from a competition, organized by Pratt’s Office of Corporate Relations and led by Graduate Communications Design Chair Jeff Bellantoni, that challenged nine art and design students from several departments to explore the theme of Hennessy’s recent campaign: “Never stop. Never settle.”

“Partnering with a global brand enriches the educational experiences of students by offering new opportunities to extend their creativity and influence beyond the classroom and studio,” said Ludovic Leroy, Director of Corporate Relations at Pratt. “The Pratt presentation at Art Basel Miami Beach allowed these students to have a presence at the country’s most prestigious art fair early in their careers and we are proud that their work represented the Institute at this international showcase attended by the most influential forces in the art world.”

The exhibition at the Epic Hotel featured work by the three winners: André De Castro, (M.F.A. Graphic Design, ’13), who won first place, as well as Mike Finkelstein (B.F.A. Photography ’14) and Stephen Mondics  (B.F.A. Film/Video ’13).

Thousands of people visited the “Never stop. Never settle.” show, which was on display December 2-8. A cocktail reception on December 5 at the Epic Hotel in Miami included Pratt alumni, press, and other guests who had the chance to hear short presentations by each of the artists about their individual work. It was followed by an event at The Pulse Art Fair where the Pratt artists met acclaimed hip-hop artist Nas and attended an evening performance by him sponsored by Hennessy V.S. 

Two potential buyers have expressed interest in De Castro’s vibrant, silk-screened portraits as a result of the Art Basel Miami Beach presentation. His series features people trying to make a difference in the world; he identified them by reaching out via social media to young people from countries experiencing political or cultural change, asking each person to choose an object, place, individual, and color that best represented their feelings. Mike Finkelstein’s “Bike Path” emphasizes the connection between process and product; he photographed his 15-mile bike journey to Coney Island, making eight final prints using water collected from Coney Island.

In Stephen Mondics’ short film “Natural,” he follows a filmmaker making a movie with his real life girlfriend. The work highlights certain processes in film making that Mondics finds most important—including camera movement, body movement, lighting, and color.

“Our partnership with Pratt focused on identifying the top, burgeoning talent in the arts and challenging them to bring to life our ‘Never stop. Never settle.’ mantra, centered on the notion of pushing the limits of one’s potential,” said Rodney Williams, Senior Vice President at Hennessy. “The work we were privileged to evaluate this year exceeded our expectations and the stories behind the pieces moved us immensely.”

The competition, now in its second year, builds on a relationship between Pratt and Hennessy that began in 2012 when Mike Cook (B.F.A. Communications Design ’12) won the inaugural art challenge with a mixed-media piece marrying stop-motion and live-action video with sculpture.

For the 2013 competition, Bellantoni initially invited nine Pratt students from photography, jewelry, film/video, and communications design departments to participate in the art challenge. Judges from both Pratt and Hennessy evaluated the nine pieces and selected the three winners. The artwork has been extensively showcased on the Hennessy V.S website and social media channels, providing students with even greater exposure through the company’s global platform. 

 “To have their work exhibited during Art Basel is a dream come true for students,” said Bellantoni. “The quality of the work produced by these students is simply outstanding and this competition shows how a collaborative exchange can spark such a wide range of innovative new work.”