12.10.2007

FAIR FACTOR: Prologue

Reading over the dealer's shoulder at Pulse

The Mood and the Particulars

By all accounts the mood going into Miami was wary. Dealers in general were fearful that the bubble was about to burst, and the smaller dealers were concerned that the greater number of satellite fairs this year would dilute their sales. Apparently the big guns had no problems; Gagosian sold $10 million worth of art, according to Bloomberg News. Among the smaller galleries in the satellite fairs, the mood lifted as sales began to rack up. Many smaller galleries sold out, and most at least broke even. The mood going out was simply weary.
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In an elevator conversation at my hotel, I listened in as an elegantly dressed Brazilian dealer explained the art of the sale to an interested shorts-clad tourist: "Before the fair, we send out J–pegs of the work we’re taking so our collectors know what we’ll have. Some have already made their choices before they get here." And you wondered how those red dots appeared in the first five minutes of opening.
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By the end of the first day, the taxi drivers were so savvy that if you told them, "The Pulse Fair, please," they knew exactly where in the Wynwood section of Miami to drop you off. Hell, with 12 venues in Wynwood and an almost equal number along the Collins Avenue strip adjacent to the Convention Center, site of Basel Miami, those cabbies made a lot of trips back and forth over the causeways—and a lot of dough at $20-plus-tip a pop. Once I learned that Arden Gallery, showing at the Red Dot Fair, had sold one of my paintings, I splurged on the cabs. The idea of the fair-provided shuttles was good, but the waits could be long. Taxis got you there faster, and with 24 fairs to cover in four and a half days, faster was definitely the way to go.
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Covering the Fairs
So how do you cover 24 fairs in four and a half days? You don’t. Well, I didn’t. I started by eliminating three categories—the photo fairs, the design fairs, and the under-the-radar venues—and then got selective about what remained on my list. I saw everything I wanted except the Containers, NADA and the three private collections that open their doors to the public this time of year: Cisneros, Margulies and Rubell. I just ran out of time. And being a Type-A type to the extreme (it’s a defect; it has to be), I was there when the doors opened in the morning and stayed until they closed every night, between 10 and 12 hours a day.

It sounds like work—and it is—but it’s also the most fun I have all year, equal parts reporting, schmoozing, and looking until my eyeballs ache. You could travel the world for a year and not see as much as what you see here in four or five days.
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Some Particulars
You could see art in hotel rooms (Art Now, Aqua, Bridge, Flow, Ink, Red Dot) and shipping containers (Art Positions); under tents (Scope, Art Miami) and on a yacht (SeaFair); in a convention center (Basel Miami) and in warehouses (Aqua Wynwood, Pulse); even in a medical center (MASH) and the Miami Ballet (RAM). The spaces ranged from cheek-by-jowl claustrophobic (Bridge) to highway-wide aisles (the Convention Center), and from stifling (the AC was down on Saturday morning at Scope) to breezily open to the sky (Aqua, Ink, and the hammocks lining the entrance way to the Ice Palace, home of NADA).

This installation by Walter Robinson is as good a metaphor as any for the five-day Miamapalooza. Seen at the Catharine Clark booth in Pulse


Some (random) numbers
Fairs:
24
Total number of galleries: between 1200 and 1300
Artists shown: about 12,000 (figuring 10 artists per gallery, more or less)
Individual artists showing: 153 in four fairs (Gesai, Pool, Ram, Zones)
Artworks: 60,000 is a conservative estimate; factor in small works, prints, and works on paper and the number can easily reach 100,000+
Total attendance at Basel/Miami: 43,000, and that provides a good estimate for the satellite fairs as well
Price per night for a beach-view corner room at the Day’s Inn, where many of the artists and smaller dealers stayed: $160
Price per night for a city-view standard room at the Setai next door, where many collectors stayed: $1250, with the last of the suites going for a reported $9000 a night
Pounds of printed matter acquired in four days: 49. I checked an empty bag on the way down just so that I could haul my stash of catalogs, press material, brochures and cards.

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Good links:

. Overheard Conversations at Artworld Salon

. All the fair reporting on Artinfo
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