One glance at the crowds amassed outside the doors of Art Miami—not to mention a line that snaked down the length of the block—counting down the minutes until the 5:30 VIP opening on December 1, left little doubt as to which of the plethora of this week’s fairs is the first choice of local and loyal Miami art lovers.
The lively sidewalk chatter among this clearly familiar group of collectors and friends, and the palpable sense of excitement, further cemented the feeling that this fair—now in its 26th edition—is perhaps the most beloved event on the annual Miami fair circuit, among locals at least.
Minutes after the opening, the aisles were crowded with eager buyers and viewers as champagne and wine flowed and waiters tried—sometimes to no avail—to keep up with intense demand for appetizers on the serving trays they carried.
“We have always had an incredible response for VIP passes for opening night but we have been swamped this year,” Nick Korniloff, executive vice president and partner of Art Miami, told artnet News, standing near the crowded entrance to the fair, which is situated in the heart of the city’s Wynwood district.
We asked Korniloff about the secrets of the fair’s success, especially given the increasingly crowded line-up of new fairs and pop-up promotional events.
“What we do very well here is service the seasoned collector—we have some of the greatest collectors—but we also cultivate new ones. When you’re focused on that, that is really good for the overall art market… it’s great for the artist, it’s great for the galleries, it’s great for good fairs.” Describing Art Miami as “accessible,” Korniloff noted that works started at as little as $1,000 and ranged up to $12.5 million for an Alexander Calder.
Similar commitment seemed to be reflected by several exhibitors we spoke to. New York dealer Mark Borghi of Mark Borghi Fine Art, a six-time exhibitor at Art Miami, told artnet News, “You have to exhibit in Miami in December. We start six months before,” in terms of curating the works for the booth. This year, the gallery mounted a show focused on Minimalism and monochromes.
Borghi summed up the eclectic blue chip display: “Silver Jackie, Gold Jackie, white paintings from Richard Prince, we’ve done post-war abstraction, the influence of Hans Hoffmann on people like Joan Mitchell and Frank Stella.”
Another eye-catching booth was that of London gallerist Cynthia Corbett, where serene Hockney-esque paintings by Andy Burgess seemed like the perfect subject matter in the context. The London-turned Arizona-based artist was on hand to field our questions about his inspiration.
“I’m very interested in modernist architecture, going all the way back to early Modernist, the Bauhaus. Then through being in Arizona and California, I started getting more interested in mid-century, modernist, and minimalist architecture,” Burgess explained. “I take photos of real places, but then I invent. I often invent part of the scene: the furniture; the mood; it’s all about creating a cinematic mood, like kind of dream-like reality that could be real but is also on the edge of reality.”
Another sign of enthusiasm for local galleries was in evidence at Bernice Steinbaum, whose eponymous gallery is located in Coconut Grove.
Fair-goers crowded into and around her both for a glimpse at a huge centerpiece—an ostrich sculpture by Enrique Gomez de Molina, and screens showing birds on cages by Troy Abbott, as well as custom-designed wallpaper and lush wall-embedded panoramic landscapes by Patrick Jacobs. The dealer explained to artnet News that, in response to political turmoil around the world, she asked four of her gallery artists to interpret Edward Hicks’s 1820 painting, Peaceable Kingdom, and related verse from Isiah, the text of which appeared on a wall outside the booth.
Asked about the challenges—or lack thereof—posed by upstart fairs and brands seeking commercial exposure through pop-ups, Korniloff told artnet News: “It’s very hard to come into the marketplace as an outsider trying to do an event. What you’ll see though is that the schedule is built in and collectors are very set. If you’re a brand, or a car that’s trying to do an individual event, I guarantee failure. You have to be aligned with a fair and a great fair.”
Were there any exceptions? “Jeffrey Deitch will do very well with Gagosiantonight just up the block at the Moore building. And all those collectors will come here also, because that’s super important,” he predicted. Overall, he said he expected attendance of about 14,000 on opening night alone.
Korniloff final word, however, was “community:” “There’s been a bit of a move to the beach, with these fairs that have just decided to come into town and pop up and really not invest in this community. Art Miami started based upon the loyal local collector group, and then the international collector group. We’ve been invested in this community.”
Via Artnet News