Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Miami: Two Weeks and Counting

It's a busy, busy time of year. Not only do the holidays launch in earnest in two days, one week after that we open a solo show of truly fabulous new work by Ivin Ballen, and exactly two weeks from today is the preview party for PULSE Miami (and a seemingly infinite number of other fairs whose names I can't recall at the moment...just kidding, here's the most comprehensive list I've seen thus far).

We have been very fortunate of late with regards to the fairs we've been invited to attend in that we're good friends or very friendly with the organizers of most of them. More than that, one of our dearest friends, the incredible Janet Phelps, who was the director or co-director of no fewer than 4 pioneering art fairs (The Meat Market art fair, Fast Fwd, Art Point, and the first NADA fair) has
on a few occasions shared the challenges of running one with us
over cocktails. All of which has given me an immense amount of respect for how much work is involved in the planning and execution of these events. Above is a photo of the SoHo Building in the Winwood district of Miami, the location for Pulse Miami this year. Here's the interior as it sits normally.
It takes an army of carpenters, electricians, painters, art handlers, and fair and gallery staff to transform that into the likes of this:

(this photo is actually from Pulse Miami last year, which was in a different location, but you get the idea)

By the time the public arrives, the fair organizers have been literally living in Miami for weeks. Helen Allen, the director of Pulse, and my number one example in any context of "grace under pressure," personifies the unique set of talents it requires to keep 80 anxious, very demanding dealers happy. Helen has this amazing knack for focusing her energy on you, even in the height of the insanity, and in very reassuring tones convincing you that any issue (and it doesn't matter what it is) is already on its way toward resolution. It helps, I'm sure, that her entire team are total pros and a pleasure to work with.

Between now and the time Bambino and I arrive in Miami, our artists will have each pulled off their own small miracles of logistics and collaboration in helping us organize the work for shipping
(God bless them all!), our very patient Associate Director Max will have put in so many extra hours and essentially saved us (again!!!), and there will be countless co-ordinations/appointments with shippers, printers, travel agents, fair organizers, barbers (yes, we're vain), insurance agents, other dealers...oh, and the collectors we're hoping to see there too. Indeed, we have lists of the lists we need to make.

But don't feel sorry for us...we thrive on this stuff. All you have to do is show up ready to see some great art. We'll do the rest.

Labels: Art Fairs


Anonymous Sharon said...

Speaking of Miami...
Joanne Mattera Art Blog and Two Coats of Paint are organizing a little get-together for art bloggers during the fairs in Miami. Any bloggers at the fair should stop by and say hello.

It's on Friday, December 7, 10am-11am
The Dorset Hotel lobby
(site of Flow Fair)
1700 Collins Avenue.
For more info and updates,
check out the event blog.

11/20/2007 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the reminder Sharon. It's on one of my lists somewhere. Looking forward to it!


11/20/2007 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Santa, be good to Max!

11/20/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Thinking about the posting below, and looking at the list of Florida fairs, I think it's important to take account of how galleries and collectors have speeded up the conditions of visibility for artist's work. A while back I wrote an article for the Times about the non-profit Hudson Valley Center of Contemporary Art, and how pieces in an exhibition there are removed in the middle of exhibition to be placed in a commercial gallery, leaving a hole in the floor of a non-profit exhibition. There are no rules here, and it seems to me that galleries, in collaboration with their collectors, do indeed have a lot of power in creating a market that increasingly is dependent on speedy fluidity of movement and visibility in order to increase value. Auction houses seem fairly clumsy in comaprison, no?

11/20/2007 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Sharon: You beat me to the punch. I just logged on to say the same thing. I hope all you art bloggers will stop by to meet us, and one another, in real space and time.

Ed: It's interesting to read your behind-the-scenes description of preparing for the fair. I've been preparing, too. As a member of the press--with my blog, I qualify--I've been lining up my passes and planning my itinerary. Unlike you, I just have to show up and pay attention to what I'm seeing.

But my self-imposed task is to report on about 12 fairs, with pics and some connect-the-dots narrative. So for a week after I return, I'll be hammering out a series of blog posts on the the fair. Uploading the images and writing captions takes the most time(former editor that I am, I do check names and links). It's kind of crazy, and by mid week I'm cursing that I ever took on such a huge project, but you've never seen an art fair until you've committed to writing about it. You look at everything. Twice. So I look forward to seeing Pulse, and your booth, and you. I'll be writing it all down.

May you have a safe trip and easy setup. And much success!

11/20/2007 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

how pieces in an exhibition there are removed in the middle of exhibition to be placed in a commercial gallery

That's the first time I've heard of that, Catherine. Do you have a link to your story?

I do know that there is pressure to have work you believe will sell better at a fair than it might in a gallery (for no other reason than if there's not a waiting list for it, there's no place you'll have it seen by more potential buyers) put aside for an art fair. This pressure may lead some folks to reconfigure what they'll put in an exhibition.

One would hope that wouldn't take on a life of its own to the point that there's no reason to visit exhibitions (and truthfully, I think we're a long way from that), but again, the pressure to sell is incredible right now, for artists and dealers. The potential pending downturn making it all the more so.

11/20/2007 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Such a homey, happy, humble post.

11/20/2007 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

The article is "Giving new Artists a Place to be Noticed".

In my discussion with Marc Strauss, his reason for removing the work for a gallery was that the artist was holding her first one person show in a Chelsea Gallery, and so the sculpture was needed to bring her strong work into view. So in this case, it was for the good of the artist, and in order to flesh out the strength of a gallery exhibition.

In no way are exhibitions going to fade! Gallery exhibitions are outdoing what is on view in the museums precisely because they don't have the burden of the institution's bureaucracy - you can pull together in a few days what it takes a museum months if not years.

Good exhibition galleries have cultivated strong relations between artists, collectors and writers that can really hone in the specificity of the work in its present context. The Buchloh catalog for Marian Goodman's retrospective is pretty amazing for this. It's just not in the material of the auction house to make the discriminating choices that a gallery makes, and to see what is at stake in these choices.

My blog, Catherine's Art Tours, covers such exhibition.

The art fairs are their own animal, not just the presentation of artists but of gallery identities. I have done tours, and really sympathize with the journalist who covers them - it will take weeks to recover! Things are moving pretty fast in those booths.

11/20/2007 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Bnon said...


Any tips, advice, or comments for a first-time attendee AB/MB? My wife and I are going just for fun (not to promote my work). Is there anything we just shouldn't miss? Do we need dress-up clothes? Will rich people sneer at a poor artist and his wife? Will we sneer at the rich people?

Hope to see you there!


11/20/2007 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I'm skipping it all this year. I've done every ABMB to date and I plan to spend this December painting instead. Best of luck to all attending, and to the bloggers meeting up, have a great time. Be sure to check out my man Dorsch - I'll have some new work up.

11/20/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I love Dorsch's poster for the exhibition. It's like a car crashing through a Mondrian.

11/20/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catherine, your link (to your blog) doesn't work.

11/20/2007 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...


Thanks, anon!

11/20/2007 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

You will be missed, Franklin.... Looking forward to meeting some of the rest of you. Everyone start taking your vitamins now!

I am unveiling a new painting with the art world as subject at Art Miami, and will also have stuff up at Chelsea Galleria in Wynwood.

Best of luck, Edward.

11/20/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Hey, bnon--

While Ed may want to offer you some advice from the dealer's point of view, I can offer some from the artist's.

. Wear comfortable shoes.
. Take a break after each fair.
. If you want to remember anything, make notes, because your brain will turn to mush after 10 hours of art viewing. Actually, it will start to soften at about the three-hour mark.
. Look for the shuttle buses to get you back and forth across the Causeway, or around Wynwood, but don't depend on them. (I'd rather spring for a taxi than wait 90 minutes for a free bus; time is money, too.)
. In the past Pulse has had the best lunch concession, but don't wait until too late in the afternoon or it will be all gone. Prices are not unreasonable for the convenience.
. If you're on Collins Ave, there's a little hole-in-the-wall falafel place, around 19th Street. Prices were pretty good last year, as was the food.
. Don't wait until you really have to go to look for a bathroom, because a dozen other people will have the same idea at the same time.
. I would suggest that brief conversation with a dealer, related to the work on exhibition, is not inappropriate, but trying to do personal business is. I once saw an artist literally back a dealer into a corner as she, the artist, kept thrusting a package of visual materials at the dealer, who kept retreating until the wall of her booth prevented her escape.
. Don't worry about the rich people. They will pay no attention to you.
. Artists, on the other hand, seem to form friendly, ad hoc groups.

Hope this helps.

11/20/2007 02:32:00 PM  
Anonymous bnon said...


Thanks a lot for the advice. I wondered about the shuttles, and all the other info is also very helpful. It's good to know the artists are friendly and the rich people won't bother me.

I'd love to have any other tips from anyone else!

11/20/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous joy said...

Don't forget to get in a swim or two on a daily basis, especially if you feel snubbed or slimed, or just plain bedraggled, but do watch for the jelly fish alerts by the life guard stands.


11/20/2007 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous bnon said...

Thanks, Joy. I will swim a lot, I expect. It sounds like there's slime on both sides of the shoreline!

11/20/2007 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Oh, stop. Go and have fun. Forget slime. Think of Miami as a giant aquarium. Different fish swim at different levels. You won't be splashing around with the sharks; you'll be among the emerging and mid-level artists who are swimming at the same level as the emerging and midlevel dealers--and, for that matter, the emerging and midlevel collectors.

Let's not demonize the dealers who are all working hard to cover rent and payroll at home, plus the pay the huge expenses of the fair. And those collectors are the ones who are helping us all pay the bills.

As for the big blue chip galleries and the really wealthy collectors, someone else will have to address that. I don't swim in their part of the pool.

11/20/2007 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Some of the fairs (Art Basel in particular) will make you check your cameras at the door.

Some of the fairs start earlier in the week than others: go to see these first, and you wil beat the crowds who might be there the next day.

I like to get a map of the booths at the door of each fair, and make notes on the map as to which ones I might want to contact at a later date, as they are often too busy to talk to artists, and do not want to carry home the things that you may want to leave with them on.

If you are at the convention center, and the restaurants are mobbed on Lincoln Rd. or you are in a hurry, Epicurious is a great gourmet food store on Alton & Lincoln. They have lots of prepared food to go and a place to eat stuff there as well.

Pack light in the morning, the days are long.

If you are dressed for warm weather, always have a sweater handy in case of killer AC indoors.

South Florida drivers are maniacs: be careful when driving or crossing the streets. Normal traffic rules do not necessarily apply.

11/20/2007 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I once saw an artist literally back a dealer into a corner as she, the artist, kept thrusting a package of visual materials at the dealer, who kept retreating until the wall of her booth prevented her escape.

Bambino has strict instructions to break out the rhino-stopping dart gun and shoot at will should this occur in Miami. :-)

11/21/2007 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

"Epicure" is the name of the gourmet food store. "Epicurious" is the name of a great recipe website. (Sleep deprived)

11/21/2007 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what is the last count?

20 or 24 fairs?

11/21/2007 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous bnon said...

Thanks Kate and Joanne! Sorry to demonize. Merely feelings of inadequacy!!!

11/21/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

20 or 24 fairs?


anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?

I can see it now. Jack Bauer learns that a sculpture in one of the fairs is actually a cleverly disguised nuclear bomb about to go off. But how can he search each location?

He commandeers an ABMB shuttle bus, and then after torturing all the gallery directors and staff with Middle Eastern sounding names but getting nowhere, he decides the only solution is to buy up all the sculptures in every fair and shoot them into outer space out of Cape Canaveral. Only the haggling with the dealers takes longer than he expected (he insists on 20% off, having heard that's what Alice Walton gets, and the dealers just laugh at him), so he deputizes Marty Margulies and has him call each gallery in all the fairs, promising to buy every sculpture in their booth, if they'll bring them immediately to a warehouse. A traffic jam ensues in the Winwood district, with Dietl's chief contact tossing his cell into the bay in desperation and heading off to Deuces.

tick...tock...tick...tock...what will agent Bauer do???

11/21/2007 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous pedro velez said...

hey, that was Photo Miami original site!

11/21/2007 09:02:00 PM  

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