Gallery Beat – December 2014
Over the last few years I have discussed multiple times how almost a decade ago, the founders and organizer of a European art fair called Art Basel (which of course, takes place in Basel, Switzerland), decided to try an American version of their successful European model and started an art fair in the Miami Beach Convention Center and they called it Art Basel Miami Beach or ABMB for short.
And I’ve told you multiple times you how that one mega art fair spawned a few satellite art fairs in Miami all at the same time and how by now there are over two dozen art fairs going on around the Greater Miami area and art collectors, artists, gallerists, dealers, curators and all the symbiots of the art world descent on America’s coolest hot city in December each year and art rules the area. I’ve heard quotes where I am told that about 20% of all the visual art sold on the planet each year (less auctions I assume) sell in Miami during that first week in December.
I also pointed out ad nauseum, that if you are a visual artist in 2014 and are not aware of these events, and if you and/or your gallery is not trying to get your artwork there is what I mean, then something really big is missing from your artistic arsenal (unless you’re happy just painting or drawing or photographing or sculpting, etc. and could care less who sees and possibly acquires your work – if that’s the case, then skip the rest of this column and more power to you!) and from your art dealer’s vision.
But, if like some of us, the commodification of your artwork doesn’t bother you, and the fact that when you or your gallery sell one of your pieces, you feel honored and pleased that someone laid out their hard earned cash to simply add one of your creations to their home or collection, then Miami in December should be in your combined radar.
It’s not an easy goal to accomplish… the financial commitments are enormous, and for many a gallery, if they make a mistake, it is a one-time mistake: a bad art fair choice will break most galleries in one strike.
Most of the art fairs are gallery-focused; that means that it is art galleries, as opposed to individual artists, who exhibit artwork. The prices for the booths are spectacularly expensive, and generally, a small 200 sq. ft. booth can start at $10,000 or more, and a large booth can run as high as $100,000. And this is before a gallery adds other associated costs such as shipping costs of the artwork, transportation to/from Miami, customs, food, car rental, hotel and salaries. For most galleries around the world it is a daunting economic investment, which can turn into a financial disaster if sales fail to materialize.
Individual artists and those predators who feed on artists have also begun to use the Miami opportunity to showcase their own approaches. None of these have been as cool or successful as Calder Brannock’s Camper Contemporary.
Camper Contemporary is a mobile gallery created and curated by Calder Brannock. According to the artist, “It is a fully functional art gallery set up inside an altered 1967 Yellowstone camper. Camper Contemporary gallery poses a solution for many problems a gallery faces in the modern art market. It allows the gallerist to showcase work in a clean controlled gallery environment without being tethered to rents or a geographic location. The mobile gallery model allows the gallerist to maintain a physical space where work can be displayed with all the benefits and gravitas of a traditional gallery while easily reaching collectors at art fairs and other large art markets.”
Many of the artist-focused or individual artist-only fairs held during ABMB are NOT successful financial ventures for the adventurous artists who commit thousands of dollars to them. It is unfortunate, but nearly always true. The best way to gauge these fairs is to talk to artists who have participated in previous ones: learn from their experience!
In the past I’ve discussed strategies for individual artists to “make the jump” to the proven, gallery-based art fairs, and strategies for cooperatives, art leagues, etc. to also attempt the art fair process; many DMV area artist-based groups already do this. I’ve even offered myself to meet with groups and pass my experience and lessons-learned. And many of you have taken me on and 2014 has certainly seen many more DMV area art entities show up (and return) to art fairs.
This year, veteran area art dealers such as Connersmith, Adah Rose, Art Whino, Goya Girl, Mayer Fine Arts, Morton Fine Arts and our own Alida Anderson Art Projects return to Miami for ABMB, and hopefully will have another successful art fair.
Start planning for 2015!
Written by: F. Lennox Campello