Before being appointed as executive director of Untitled, Art earlier this year, Manuela Mozo was a partner at Simon Lee Gallery (she established the gallery's office in New York), after serving as director of both Skarstedt Gallery and Metro Pictures. Untitled, Miami Beach was Mozo's very first art fair in her new role, and now she's gearing up for her second: Untitled, San Francisco, which takes place January 12-14th. Here Mozo speaks about the challanges and opportunities associated with running a fair, and highlights what we should have our eyes on next week in San Francisco.
What sets Untitled apart from other art fairs?
The architectural layout of the fair is one of the most unique features. We work with two highly regarded architects—Keenen/Riley for Miami Beach and Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects for San Francisco—who both have experience designing spaces for artworks, and give a lot of thought to how visitors move through the space, light, etc. We definitely sacrifice square footage so aesthetics can take precedence.
You are well known in New York's contemporary art gallery scene. What made you decide to shift to art fair directing?
The shift to directing an art fair was quite unexpected for me. I had such a wonderful gallery career that exposed me to incredible artists, collectors, and dealers. I worked closely with Metro Pictures and Simon Lee Gallery from my first job with Skarstedt. There was a lot of overlap in their programs, it really felt like a very organic evolution. In 2016 I decided to take a sabbatical and think about my future. I determined I was not interested in opening a gallery of my own so I decide to take some time to reset and consider how I might re-engage with the art world. I was interested in exploring the structures that support the representation of art and the overall art market that is always evolving. The scale and diversity of an art fair aligned with my interest and desire to expand on my previous experiences.
Untitled, Miami Beach was the first official fair you've directed. Can you tell me a bit about the experience?
It was a great experience. There are always going to be challenges, but it was mostly experiential for me as when I started this role, Untitled, Miami Beach was pretty much completed. I got to approach the experience from an outside perspective and I think that will help me develop my ideas for the fair moving forward.
What are the greatest challenges of directing an art fair?
I think navigating the fair's growth in a period of fair fatigue and fiscal difficulties for smaller galleries. It is crucial to continue supporting emerging and mid-carreer artists and their galleries, and continuing to bring fresh perspectives for wider audiences to experience.
How does Untitled, San Francisco differ from Untitled, Miami Beach?
I think we approach the fairs themselves in similar ways, but they are very different cities and our community engagement and collector development will reflect those differences.
Do you anticipate a big turnout from the tech world in San Francisco?
We have been doing a lot of client development in San Francisco, not only with the tech companies but with all industries. We are collaborating with 12 Bay Area non-profit organizations and we're presenting a film and video series, artist and curator talks, panel discussions, performances, etc, that will appeal to a wider audience.
What are you most excited about seeing at Untitled San Francisco? What should we be looking out for?
I’m very excited about the fair’s special projects sector, curated by Juana Berrio, which includes works by Lynn Herschman Leeson, Judith Scott, Lauren McKeon, and Summer Lee, to name a few.
Can you tell me a bit about the fair's curator, Omar Lopez-Chahoud? How do you collaborate with him to put together a fair?
Omar has been a part of Untitled since its inception in 2012. He will continue to be involved as aristic director-at-large and help me implement independent curatorial roles for both San Franciscicso and Miami Beach. The curatorial role for Untitled, Art not only encompasses Special Prjojects and Programming, it is also about vetting proposals submitted by galleries. Omar has been incredibly generous bringing me into his process and being open to discussions about the future.
How do you go about choosing which artists and galleries to feature at a fair? What do you look for in an art fair booth proposal?
The artistic director, curatorial team and myself review and discuss all applications. Of course we have long-standing exhibitors to consider, as well as new and exciting galleries to include. Throughout our reviewing process, we take note of any underlying regional and curatorial themes that can be explored. We have many conversations.
Do you think that Untitled will expand to other cities in the coming years? What cities do you have your sights on, if so?
Perhaps in the future. Right now we are committed to continuing to present a strong fair in Miami Beach and further developing San Francisco.