In the second edition of Off the Handle, we check in with Patton Hindle, Artspace's intrepid Director of Gallery and Institutional Partnerships, about how to negotiate the unruly, overwhelming mishmash of human affairs that is Art Basel Miami Beach week. Have something else you want to ask Patton? Email her at email@example.com.
I’m an artist who will have work on view with my gallery at one of the satellite fairs. What should I expect? Will other artists be in attendance? – Lone Wolf, Brooklyn, NY
Heading to a fair as an artist is always a challenge, Lone Wolf. It can be viewed as a great opportunity to meet first-hand with some of your collectors and various curators as they look at and engage with your art. However, I would suggest following the “ear muffs” or “blindfold” method. Some of what you hear and see is going to certainly be discouraging. After all, you didn’t make your art to be viewed at a fair—you made it to be viewed in a gallery. The fair proposition should be taken with a grain of salt. Take it for what it is: a chance to reach a broader audience and to make new relationships.
As a gallerist for six years (and an eight-year veteran of the Miami fairs), I can say it was always incredibly helpful to have our artists there... but, also, stressful. It’s important to understand that your dealers have just as much invested in seeing the fair be a success as you do. They’re doing their best to do right by you, and that may include having you speak with collectors/curators/press or enjoy dinners with other gallerists! You can be consoled, however, by the fact that you will certainly not be alone. Many artists travel to Miami every year.
I'm just a normal guy, not a fancy megacollector—won't everything good be snapped up by VIPs before I even have a chance to enter the fair? How many people are actually buying art in Miami? – Browbeaten at the Beach, Boston, MA
I’m pleased to share the most excellent news that you will have access to great work too! Despite many of the visitors being collectors, the vast majority are art enthusiasts just like you.
The nice thing about the Miami fairs is that, with booth prices sky high, many galleries bring plenty of top-notch work. Attend the fair on a daily basis and check the re-hangs of many booths for a front-row seat to excellent art. Also, do not be afraid to tell a dealer you like something—they may have similar pieces available at the gallery and viewable on their iPads.
There are so many parties!!! How do I know which one to go to? How do I get into ones I don’t have invitations for? – Posing as Posey, New York, NY
Firstly, call me old—call me a stick in the mud, even—but I'd say that most of the parties are pretty meh. It’s easy to get caught up in the flurry of invitations with so many different groups—from fashion and music to mattresses (Casper, really?)—having a presence. Over the years I’ve found attending a few good dinners and arranging drinks with people you often don’t get to see is more valuable than going to a party where you can’t hear anyone over the loud music.
That being said, Jack Shainman and Jeffrey Deitch have always thrown fun soirées (though invites are scarce, so find someone in the know with a plus 1 and take ‘em to dinner). Also, it's not impossible to sneak your way in if you're really desperate, as these experts will tell you. And if you can’t, have a few too many with a friend in town from London, Paris, Los Angeles, Zurich who you never get to see—it will be equally enjoyable.
With all the time I'll have to spend in the convention center, will I even be able to get a tan? – Wan in Winter, London, UK
Eight years in Miami and I’ve made it to the beach, in a swimsuit, once. To be fair, as an exhibitor my hours were more limited than an attendee, but Miami is all about setting priorities—with so many offerings to choose from, you need to decide whether dipping your pale body in the ocean is more important to you than seeing the de la Cruz Collection. So pack your SPF 50 and water wings and see where your week takes you. (Word to the wise: I’ve heard of some people taking a few days before or after the fair to get their beach time in.)
What’s more titillating to the olfactory glands than the smell of freshly made art? Truthfully, there are some mediums out there that you may not want to sniff. But, my favorite Frenchie, I think most dealers would let you inspect a work's aroma as long as you keep your wet nose a few inches away. Just don’t go lifting that leg….