Sunday, July 12, 2009

Welcome to the real party...

Have you ever been to a party or club and made it to the VIP room? The first time in you are thinking "oh so this is the real event, the rest is like the waiting line outside" or something to that effect. ( at least that is what I was thinking that first time)

Who makes the list, and why? Why didn't you get into that VIP room before?

Professionally, now I want to talk about that same concept. The world of art fairs is not like any other trade show in any industry. You can not merely apply and whoever is willing to pay gets booth space. At least not the well respected fairs; it is a highly competitive process. I have been thinking of my best strategy for fair entry for a few years now. I wanted to do my homework and find the one I found fit my vision best. I wanted to find the fair I thought had enough swagger to deliver not only potential collectors but also denote a level of proficiency with my job if accepted.

A few years ago, as I began my life as a gallerist, I asked a competitor locally about these fairs. She was exhibiting in a fair I thought sub-par. I was not fond of the hotel layout. It felt different than any other fair for Miami Art Basel and the energy of the exhibitors felt desperate and stale in their separate rooms. I asked her if it was productive, and why not another fair with bigger name. In the Miami Art Basel week there are many satellite fairs. Why that one? The response back was less than objective or even kind. I was told yes it was productive. I was told "I didn't curate well enough to be accepted in those other fairs let alone make that fair." I remember those words to this day exactly. She went on to say well she didn't e curate well enough either to make those other fairs. Then explained how another gallery, well respected for this area didn't even make the cut for her fair and was directed to the next fair in Chicago.

I thought about that a lot. I talked to as many impressive people in the art industry I could find about the subject. I went onto websites of industry veterans that did show in these impressive fairs. I looked long and hard at their schedules. What did they offer that I was not doing exactly? I took a different strategy in my mix of my "program."

I was sure of only one thing. It was making me happier because I felt I was doing my best work. I tried to push boundaries with topics. I tried to push boundaries with use of medium. I did my best to bring in artist that had either made great success for themselves or were emerging to be highly notable and interesting. It didn't always work. Sometimes I felt let down. Often the sales were not impressive. But sometimes it all came to sync. I took a risk. The artist pushed boundaries and it sold.

I vowed to never rest on the easy. Mass amounts of artist ask to show, as we know some not subtle or professional in their approach, some follow protocol but fall short of my vision. When I find a gem it makes it all that much sweeter. Yes, I really want to show this one and there's always a plan or reason. Never because I had a space to fill and they were there.

There was intention in what I did every time. Sometimes people got that. Sometimes people left saying how weird or disturbing.

I am not showing art to match your home decor. There may be more money in fluffy cloud paintings or florals. However, I knew deep down there should conceptually be something there or why bother. I don't want fluffy couch matching "art" in my living space. I know there are many others too that appreciate good art. However in his community they are limited, very limited.

This was the first year I felt ready to apply to my fair of choice. I decided last week I was ready. I merely asked one question to the information email about the locations. There was at one point a hotel and Wynwood location. The director himself wrote back and explained they had hotel trouble. They decided to consolidate to the stronger location. I explained that although I loved the intimate vibe at the hotel I would indeed apply to the Wynwood location. I explained a little about the artist I would propose because one had shown in the hotel lobby last year for a magazine party.

Next thing I know I am being invited to show. I am being told that the two directors went onto my website and felt my program would indeed fit their fair quite well, no application needed.

I was trying to get the next few shows to send me their CV's to impress this fair, meanwhile my past body of shows was enough.

I understand I still must actually rent the booth space. But let's recap; it's a highly selective process. I had a person in my past doubt my ability to make it to a lesser fair. I became driven and focused to do what it took to be good enough.

...welcome to the real party...

I feel like I was given the VIP pass to the party.

Now let's hope the market is still buying art. I know the climate has shifted in general. But, I am happy to be exposing my space and these select few artists to a more sophisticated collector and art appreciator.

It is a door to a new world.

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