Off the Handle is Artspace's advice column for all of your burning art-centric queries, answered by our Director of Gallery and Institutional Partnerships (and co-founder of New York’s yours mine & ours gallery) Patton Hindle. Here, the longtime art world denizen weighs in on the yearly pilgramage to Miami art fair week. Have something else you want to ask? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the election results this month, will collectors actually be turning up and spending money in Miami? - Still with Her, Los Angeles, CA
You’ve tapped into a fear that many dealers heading into Miami have—and, frankly, many dealers across the board have it too. I spent the Saturday after the election out in Chelsea catching up on current shows and was pleased (and relieved) to see many collectors out and about seeing exhibitions, inquiring about work, and, in many cases, buying work. Whew!
Most people who have dedicated their lives to collecting art do so passionately, and understand the innate need to continue to support artists and galleries in these uncertain times. It’s well understood that great art comes out of moments of instability.
To that end, I think we will see collectors out in force in Miami. Perhaps some of the late joiners or more decorative-seeking clients will not be along for the ride but I hope we can count on the core to still show. You hear that, loyal collectors? We can’t wait to see you!
I'm a Miami local who loves art, but a lot of the works at these art fairs cost more than I make in a year. If I go to the fairs, will I be a second-class citizen? - Nervous Native, Miami, FL
The way that wealth is splashed around during Art Basel can certainly be jarring, but allow me to let you in on a little secret: there’s plenty of great art to see at the satellite fairs and they often come at much more affordable price-points. I would encourage you to see the main fair for general context, but be conscientious of how busy it is if you’re asking questions of a dealer. Most won’t intend to be rude to you; however, if a client comes in the booth it’s their job to switch gears and speak with them. Galleries pay a lot of money to be at Art Basel and have a great deal of pressure to make it successful for both their artists and themselves. Additionally, I like to think of the main fair as a great way to see works of art that I may not see again in my lifetime if they end up in private collections. For this reason, plenty of local student groups come through the fair to take advantage of this gathering on their own soil.
After your foray into the convention center, I would venture out to some of the satellite fairs like NADA and Untitled where dealers will be more approachable and work isn’t so out of reach. This can be more fun, too! You may discover a new artist and genuinely get to know a gallery’s program, which will broaden your knowledge base.
I’ve attended Art Basel Miami Beach for the last 14 years but with all this news about Zika being present in Miami, I’m considering breaking my plans and staying in London. Am I alone in this thinking? Should I risk it? - Medic Alert, London, UK
You are right to be concerned and question your travel. After all, the CDC updated its transmission and cautionary areas on October 13 to include Miami. This is, however, a very personal decision so I can only speak to it from my perspective.
I can't compete with your record, but this will be my ninth Art Basel Miami Beach and I must admit that the Zika threat did not actually even cross my mind. I frequently joke, and have written in this column, that when I go to Miami I’m so rarely outside that I don’t even see the sun (or the beach). Given that I will be inside most of the week, I hadn’t considered Zika to be a real concern for myself. However, upon reading your question I did add a bottle of bug spray to my to-buy list.
I would weigh the pros and cons for yourself. Ultimately, no one can tell you whether you will get bitten, and whether this is a risk you want to take is entirely up to you (and maybe your partner).
I'm an artist and I want to go to Art Basel but I feel kind of silly going since I'm not showing my work. Will I feel out of place if I'm just a spectator and not involved in the fair? - Unattached, Marfa, TX
I think it’s actually quite the opposite! Many artists who are exhibiting choose not to come and watch the feeding frenzy that can occur (or not occur) over their work. You, my friend, are in a fortunate position where you can go to relax and look at art. Without having to go to specific gallery dinners and be “on” for collectors of your work, you’re able to see the fairs, museums, and collections at your leisure.
Not to mention that when you put a concentration of art professionals in one location plenty of natural networking occurs. Go to the parties in the evening and meet other dealers, artists, curators, and collectors—these are your people. Just be careful not to walk into a gallery’s booth at a fair and ask them to look at your work. If you get to know them as friends then you will be more likely to have luck following up after the fair week when they’re less stressed and have genuinely gotten to know you without an agenda. And, please, on behalf of us all, go to the beach and get some sun! We’ll be jealous but someone needs to take advantage!
I’ve been to Art Basel Miami Beach for the past four years but have never made it into the convention center. Am I really missing out? There’s so much else to do; plus, I need to save energy for the parties. - Raging Ralph, Chicago, IL
Oh dear, Ralph. Please, just don’t come down if you’re not going to see the art. I beg of you; we don’t need you there. You’re just making the line into the Tolga party extra long for the rest of us who have to be up at a reasonable hour and work a booth the next morning.
But, if you’re trying to mend your ways, come down, see some fairs, Instagram a thing or two so your friends know you’re #cultured at #ABMB, and then party away. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even find something to take home with you other than that weird rash you usually bring back.