Nina Johnson-Milewski is the owner, founder, and director of Gallery Diet in Wynwood. She has produced over 30 solo and group exhibitions by new and emerging artists from around the world.
In addition to her work at Gallery Diet, she is also an active member of the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami’s Leadership Circle, the Wolfsonian Visionairies, and sits on the steering committee for the MAM Contemporaries, and the capital campaign group, Core Creative. Nina is also the publisher and founder of Miami Rail, an editorially independent expansion of the Brooklyn Rail produced both in print and online four times a year. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
What's the first piece of art you fell in love with?
The first contemporary work I ever saw was at PS1 in New York, that museum still holds a very special place in my heart. The work, which at the time, I just read as a single sculpture, turned out to be a group show about sound art, a giant mattress like surface where viewers could lay together and listen to various pieces on headphones, I had never in my life seen anything like this, it was mind blowing and now that I think about it, inclusive of design, technology and spacial considerations, which are typically themes I am drawn to. I also think for a child, PS1 is a great place to experience art because it's inside the familiar architecture of a school house.
Who are your favorite designers?
Emmett Moore who straddles the line between design and art so elegantly, he's currently working on a commission for our house. Prem Krishnamurthy from Projects Projects, an absolutely brilliant graphic designer in New York, he's also taken the initiative to turn the storefront of his studio into a gallery "P!". It's worth visiting when in New York. Terry Riley is one of the most thoughtful architects I can think of, he's always building brilliant bridges between potential collaborators and so sensitive to a building's surroundings, Herzog & DeMueron who are the perfect exemplification of how brutal dedication to function makes for brilliant form, and of course, Rene Gonzalez! I find there to be an unparalleled sensuality in Rene's work, he gets the way people want to live and work and knows how to strike the balance between simplicity and warmth.
What is the best piece of style advice you've ever heard?
Laugh often and loudly.
Who are your favorite writers?
I always recommend The Swamp by Michael Grunwald to people visiting Miami for the first time. He is such a gifted writer and weaves the story of the Everglades into this perfectly descriptive and simultaneously mysterious tale that transports you into the different ways of thinking that have shaped our city.
Also P. Scott Cunningham, in fact he's such a favorite, he wrote our wedding vows.
What is inspiring you these days?
Allan Graham, the amazing 70 year old Santa Fe artist whose work is up at Diet. He knives 6-7 layers of oil paint onto cotton and then grinds graphite stick into the surface while it's still malleable, the forms make words, or the words make forms, the pieces are "Art" with a capital "A", and he is truly an authentic artist.
What is your motto?
What is your favorite indulgence?
Taking my husband to a 6 pm dinner at The Cypress Room, sitting at the bar and ordering the chef's tasting menu. If you haven't done it, do… it's absolutely divine. Preferably with your own husband and not mine.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My relationship. My husband is my partner in all aspects of my life, we work together, play together, travel together and somehow manage to still love each other.
What career other than your own would you like to attempt?
Advertising! There's a fabulous book by a woman named Mary Wells Lawrence, she was the first female CEO of a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. She's vivacious, brilliant and totally inspiring.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I am a total shopaholic, collector, lover of objects… It would be fabulous to live without an attachment to objects, but it would definitely make being an art dealer impossible.
You're the publisher of Miami Rail. Could you tell us about the latest issue?
It's the best yet! Nicolas Lobo in conversation with Jonas Mekas is epic, for those who don't know who Jonas is, google him you'll be amazed. Also, Emily Mello wrote a spectacular piece on the Venice biennial, I'll admit, I was NOT a fan when I saw the show but she opened my eyes to a lot of subtleties that I was refusing to see at the time. I am also extremely proud of Cara Despain, she is one of Miami's strongest cultural voices and I am so happy we can give her a platform to write stories like the one in this issue about contemporary regionalism.
You are a witness and contributor (to say the least) of the evolution of Wynwood. What do you see happening over the next three years?
I am now the president of the board of WADA and we are in the process of implementing a series of public programs including temporary public art commissions, partnerships with non profits outside of Miami, and a membership program. I believe our next step is to define our voice more clearly so that the vision of a cultural neighborhood doesn't get lost amidst the economic interests that have helped bring us this far. This is possible, but it requires strong vision, leadership and patronage.
Photo credit: Justin Namon