Many art dealers have forgone the idea of running a gallery, instead opting to only display work at art fairs, where the business of art is increasingly focused. Right now the art world is focused on Miami where several fairs have opened simultaneously.
One of the most prominent, Art Basel, is at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where dealers pay upwards of $50,000 to rent a space.
The fair is the centerpiece of Art Week, with major fairs, exhibits and events scattered throughout the city, featuring some of Philadelphia’s dealers like Bridgette Mayer and the Paradigm Gallery.
Normally a playground for blue-chip dealers and their well-heeled clients, this year Miami’s Art Week will host scrappier artists who traffic in collectives, including a handful from Philadelphia.
New to Art Week this year is Satellite, an exhibition housed inside a dilapidated hotel in the North Beach neighborhood where 40 artist collectives from around the world have created art environments in each of the hotel’s abandoned rooms.
For a mere $250, those collectives were given a chance to be at the center of the international art market’s movable feast, displaying work that is often impossible to sell.
“The real focus of the fairs is this commercial-driven world,” said coordinator Mark Brosseau, a member of the Philadelphia-based collective Tiger Strikes Asteroid. “The idea of us showing there is a thriving alternative model to the commercial gallery was really exciting.”
That alternative model is a collective approach to showcasing, where the point is not to sell work but foster community and dialogue around contemporary art. The artists transformed the Ocean Terrace Hotel, an aging beachfront property being prepared by developers for demolition, into an immersive art experience that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
“Given the nature of the hotel, it doesn’t lend itself to a white box presentation,” said Brosseau. “It’s an environment to try to do something that you normally wouldn’t do. A lot of rooms are pieces in themselves, rather than having discrete works hung up.”
An instillation by the collective Fjord simulates an underwater environment. (Image courtesy of Tiger Strikes Asteroid)
Because the building is targeted for demolition, the artists could do whatever they wanted in the rooms without worrying about cleaning up later. Many found their rooms had not maintained, with dead cockroaches (likely a few live ones, too) and spaces open to the elements.
“There were some pigeons living in the space – it was pretty raw,” said Natessa Amin of the Philadelphia collective Fjord, whose three members spent five days preparing the space. “We tore up the carpet, redid the floor, painted the walls.”
By the opening on Tuesday night, the Fjord collective created a room resembling an underwater environment built for that particular room. Much of the work will stay in the room after they leave. “Whatever we can carry back in our suitcases will make it home,” said Amin.
Leslie Friedman, founding member of the Philadelphia collective Napoleon, wheat pasted artwork directly onto the walls of room 203, such that it cannot be removed until the building is demolished.
“I do a lot of site-specific work, and I hate deinstalling them,” said Friedman. “The idea I could do something and not have to take it down was just too delicious to ignore.”
Opening night saw a several hundred people come through the hotel, in and out of its 40 rooms. No one bought anything. There were no price lists available.
“The energy in the hotel was really fantastic, which is what we were after,” said Brosseau.
She says the point is not to sell work, but collaborate with other artist collectives. The Herculean effort it took to transform the blighted property galvanized the artists.
“I hear about artist-run spaces, and to actually meet these people and be working together to turn this hotel into something that looks like art, not decay, was really magical,” said Friedman, of Napoleon.
The show in Miami’s North Beach will open for visitors this week only.