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News / December 5, 2012

Rodney Graham, Jessica Bradley & Other Canadians on Facing the Market’s Heat at Art Basel Miami Beach

North America’s biggest art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, kicks off this evening with dozens of satellite fairs, hundreds of galleries, thousands of artworks, and tens of thousands of visitors in tow.

Here, some prominent Canadians representing at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012—blue-chip dealer Robert Landau, contemporary dealer Jessica Bradley, artist and panelist Rodney Graham and artist-run centre Art Metropole—chat with Canadian Art about some of their thoughts on the fair and the big week ahead.

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Robert Landau is owner of Montreal’s Landau Fine Art, the only Canadian blue-chip gallery to have a booth at Art Basel Miami 2012.

How long have you been going to Art Basel Miami Beach?

Since the beginning, in 2002.

What are you hoping to show or accomplish this year at the fair?

We have the same booth as in past years—right inside the entrance, an important spot. It’s the largest size booth in the fair; there are others the same size, but none larger. Most of the time, people come up and tell us we have the best exhibit at any art fair they’ve gone to. So we are hoping to keep up that same history.

We are bringing approximately 90 major artworks to the fair. In the front of the booth will be the most important painting ever by Marino Marini. It’s a large work—more than 2 metres by 2 metres—that’s on the front cover of the catalogue raisonné. It’s come from a collector in Europe, and it’s never really been on the market before. Together with that we have a major sculpture of his, a horse and rider from the early 1950s.

Also at the entrance is a major Henry Moore. Then we have vitrines; we have a room of Picassos; we have a wall of Dubuffets; we have a wall of Max Ernsts; we have wall of Surrealist works; we have works by Le Corbusier; we have a Fernand Léger room; we have a fabulous Chagall painting from 1938… we have so many things, you know.

Besides attending to your own booth and business, what else do you hope to see or do while in Miami?

Nothing. We’re exhausted at the end of the day; we don’t go to any other parties, we don’t go to any other exhibitions. You can imagine talking to 100,000 people during the fair—the fair gets 40,000 to 50,000 total, but many people come back to the booth twice in one day—that’s 20,000 a day. So that’s all we do.

It’s a lot of work and a lot of concentration. We have a lot of press there, and clients from all around the world.

Art Basel Miami Beach is obviously a very market-driven event. What is your view of the art market at this point in time?

It’s crazy right now. It’s so strong, it’s unbelievable. The last time I was in New York, the contemporary sales were on and it cost millions just to get a seat at the night sales.

It’s an incredible market, essentially—and the flight of capital into art and collectibles just seems to be continuing. People may obtain money and have a distrust of it at the same time. So money is going into collectibles and antique cars and furniture and objects like that, including art.

But it’s major art where the market is, it’s international art where the focus is. It’s not British art or French art or Canadian art—it’s art that can travel, artists who are in museums. The artists we represent are all dead and they’re all in museums, and I guess that’s why we attract so much attention. There are fewer and fewer galleries like us that exist in the world.

Also, more and more people are coming to art fairs because they get to see 300 galleries—or taking into account all the other fairs in Miami, 1,000 galleries—in one place. And everyone finds their own level. People who can’t pay $5 million or $10 million for a picture can pay $5,000 for a picture and be just as happy.

Miami fairs week is very busy. What are your survival strategies?

We’re just used to it. At our stand, we’re always busy. It’s incessant; it’s nonstop. So it does take a lot of stamina to get through this fair—or any of the fairs we go to, because we only do the big ones, you see. In Miami, we’re right next to the collector’s lounge, and you get that high-powered traffic all day long from when it opens to when it closes. We never have a time when it’s empty—never. So we just have to be on our toes.

I must say, I get a little short-tempered sometimes when we have people coming in with backpacks on, because they may damage the paintings and a lot of them don’t understand that. Yet this is what we do—it’s like running a museum in a public space.

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Jessica Bradley is director of Jessica Bradley Inc., the only Canadian contemporary dealer to have a booth at Art Basel Miami this year.

How long have you been going to Miami for the fairs?

As an individual, since Art Basel Miami Beach started in 2002. In fact, the year before that, I was one of about 20 artists and curators from Canada invited down to Miami—I think I was still a curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario then—to check out the collections there and see what Miami was.

As a dealer, we did the NADA Miami art fair last year and the year before. I think it’s a really good fair; of the satellite fairs, it was the one that always interested me most. Then as luck would have it, we applied for Art Basel Miami Beach this year and we got in!

What do you hope to accomplish at the fair this year?

Well, what you look to accomplish at a fair when you go outside the country is first of all to get your gallery known. And, of course, get your artists known. It’s really about a kind of layering where you’re building the reputation as much as you can on every level.

And of course, it’s nice to sell things, and fairs are about selling. But I think the truth of the matter is when you take a gallery and artists that are, by and large, fairly unknown outside the country, what you’re doing marketing. I mean, it’s expensive marketing, but that’s the nature of the business.

As a new gallery at a major fair, you can only apply in certain sections and you can’t apply with all of your artists, for example. You can only apply with a curated selection and hope that the jury sees what you’re getting at. So in Miami, we’re presenting new work by Zin Taylor, Julia Dault and Derek Sullivan. The principle for me is that whatever is good for an artist in the gallery is good for the gallery, and whatever is good for the gallery is good for all the artists in the gallery. By that I mean that people remember and recognize this gallery or that artist who is in that gallery, and then they ask about other artists that are in that gallery—it’s a kind of organic thing that becomes exponential in terms of getting out there.

Besides attending to your own business and booth, what else you do you hope to see or do in Miami?

Well, the fair opens at noon and goes until 8, which means you can only really get an hour or two on either side of that for other things.

I always try and see some of the major private collections now, which are easy to go to because they’ve become quasi-public-museum-type places. So if I can get a few hours between 10 a.m. and 12 or 1 p.m., or if my assistant director Leah Turner and I can spot each other, I might try and disappear for a few hours over to the Wynwood area to see the ones that are open, like the de la Cruz and the Rubell and the Cisneros and the Marguiles. That’s a lot to see in 3 hours, so I have to pick and choose. I’ll also want to check out other people’s booths and swing by the NADA fair.

Obviously, when you’re doing the booth, there’s not a lot of you left to party till 3 o’clock in the morning with everybody else. But you might have dinners that you go to, or you might take your artist out with somebody. I mean, things happen—and you gotta eat.

Art Basel Miami Beach is a very market-focused event. What is your take on the art market at the moment?

You know, you read all kinds of things, and the figures can be put together in all sorts of ways. All I can tell you is that during our experience at Frieze this fall, there certainly seemed to be people flowing through the doors. And there’s more art fairs all the time, like in Hong Kong and Dubai. You know, the art market follows the money.

So the art market is certainly not in a slump from what I can tell! We were very happy at Art Toronto, too. Canada, I guess, is perceived as being in good shape, comparatively speaking. I think since 2008 everybody at times feels like, “Oh, I wonder if we’re on the edge of a cliff.” But so far, I don’t sense that. We’ll see what Miami is like.

Miami fairs week is a busy time. What are your survival strategies?

Well, I’ve said it to people before: don’t go partying really late the first night. And this is sort of a joke, but it’s actually true: Vitamin B and adrenaline can get you through just about anything. Also, I have say the fair experience itself is really stimulating—it’s a big high to have new audiences and to see how people look at your artists.

Of course, it’s even more fabulous if someone that you’ve never met before buys something—or even more important, if curators stop and really look and talk. You might not see that conversation or their impressions transpire into anything, or it might take a few years… but those are really, really important conversations.

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Internationally renowned Vancouver artist Rodney Graham is appearing in the Art Basel Conversations series this year. The Sunday panel “The Artist as Musician,” moderated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, includes Graham alongside Angela Bulloch, Ragnar Kjartansson, Ari Benjamin Meyers and Jim Shaw. Graham’s dealers 303 Gallery, Hauser & Wirth and Lisson Gallery will also have booths at the fair.

How many times have you gone to Miami for the fairs?

Never. And I’ve never been to Miami otherwise. So I’m curious about it.

What are your hopes for the “Artist as Musician” panel?

It’ll be interesting to meet other the artists. I know some of them, and I like Hans Ulrich—he’ll galvanize some interesting dialogue, I think. And actually, it shouldn’t be too difficult, because I don’t have to make a presentation! I wouldn’t do it if I actually had to make a presentation! I just have to sit there and hopefully make intelligent comments.

I guess each artist on the panel has a different relationship to music in their work. Ragnar, he integrates it more in his work. For me, it’s like more of a sideline, a hobby that kind of keeps me a little bit sane—you know, something outside of art. I have, on pieces like The Phonokinetoscope or How I Became a Ramblin’ Man, integrated it into my work. But it doesn’t happen a lot. It’s not an integral part of my work. The next thing I’d like to do in terms of music is probably an EP of pop songs.

What else are you hoping to see or do in Miami besides the panel?

Just meet with people. I have some galleries that are at the fair, so lots of meetings, doing a bit of business, have some lunches.

Overall, I am looking forward to meeting other people and doing the panel. But art fairs are not really my cup of tea—I find them a bit overwhelming. I’ve gone to various fairs for events that I’ve been invited to, but generally I don’t spend a lot of time at the fair itself. Also, I don’t like flying—I’m afraid of flying and I’m a really bad flyer. So I don’t travel any more than I have to, actually!

Art Basel Miami and its associated activities are very market-driven. What is your take on the art market right now?

I don’t know. I mean, I’m dependent on the market, you know? I’m kind of, I guess, a commercial artist. Right now, my practice is kind of expensive, so the market is something I think about.

I’m not sure what else to say about it. I find it hard to think about things outside of the market, in a way, because most of my exhibitions are at commercial galleries. I have a few galleries and I try to do a show every couple of years at all of them, and that’s kind of enough.

Art fairs can often be busy, hectic times. What are your survival strategies?

Well, again, I don’t spend a lot of time in the fairs themselves. I just get overwhelmed by all the work. It tends to make me feel, I don’t know… somehow inadequate. You see all this work… and most of it’s really good! It’s not like it’s all this shitty work, you know, that makes you feel good about yourself. There’s a lot of really good work in fairs now.

At the same time, it’s not an inspiring place to see all these works as an artist, I think. Maybe it’s the context. I’m not sure. Anyway, I don’t venture too deeply into the fair itself for my own survival reasons. And I don’t want to sound negative about it. Personally, I just find it a bit overwhelming, that’s all.

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Toronto’s Art Metropole is an artist-run contemporary art centre with a focus on multiples and artists’ books. It will be featured in the bookstores section of Art Basel Miami Beach in a booth shared with New York’s Printed Matter. Corinn Gerber is director/editor of the organization, while cheyanne turions is the shop manager/curator.

How many times have you been to Miami for the fairs?

cheyanne: Neither of us have been before as individuals, but Art Met has been there every year since 2005.

Corinn: Art Metropole has a longtime relationship with Art Basel. So that was transferred to Florida when Art Basel Miami began. There will also be an Art Basel Hong Kong in May, but we’re not entirely sure we will attend that.

What will you be presenting at the Art Met booth in Miami?

Corinn: We are presenting a selection of the artists’ works that we also sell in our shop, part of which we specially commission. So there will be specially commissioned editions by Ben Kinmont, Jeremy Laing and Geoffrey Farmer, as well as hundreds of other artists’ works available in multiples.

As a special this year, we will have a record by Andrea Bulloch related to one of her drawing machines; the music on it is actually a score for one of her machines that draws. Bulloch will be at the fair—one of her drawing machines will be on view at Esther Schipper’s booth—and we will have a record release where she’ll do a signing.

There will also be work by Sara MacKillop, a young artist from London. She just released a new book called Ex Library Book. It explores what she frames as being the least valued of all books, and the most manhandled.

cheyanne: The Geoffrey Farmer edition is based on a memory he has of his grandfather nailing stuff to the wall with the bottom of an oxford shoe; it’s a Plexiglas version of a shoebox filled with poster reproductions related to this political bookshop that went out of business in Vancouver. There’s also things in it like a golden nail and a fake cigarette that looks like it’s burning—it’s sort of like an art collection in a box.

And the Jeremy Laing edition is a tapestry he made that references acrylic nail art. So it kind of looks like it’s a blanket with these wild, tacky acrylic nail designs on it.

Corinn: Some of the works in Miami are related to projects done in Art Met’s Toronto space. Robin Cameron, who is from BC and now in New York, did a project with us in the summer. She turned the whole Art Metropole space into a book. That is part of her system of work—turning the book into space, basically. She made a special print on mirrored mylar edition for Art Met based on the pattern she painted over our front window.

What else, beyond staffing the Art Met booth, are you hoping to do or see?

cheyanne: Personally, I want to try some Cigar City Beer and check out a Florida microbrewery. I think we also just want to be able to make it to the beach. Though I don’t know if we will make it away from the booth.

Corinn: I would like to see Josiah McElheny’s The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women’s Picture at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Art Basel Miami is obviously a market-focused event. What is your take on the art market at the moment?

Corinn: I think there is no contradiction between the market and what we do. I think it’s about finding ways of making the two things productive together. I believe that many artists are going to be happy to be represented with us in Miami. What we’re trying to do with Art Met is working on sustainability for artists and their work; we want to try to support them with any means possible.

Last year, Art Met launched Commerce by Artists at the fair. It’s an anthology of work from the 1950s to the present that takes on transactions of value and that questions existing values and proposes new ways of looking at them. At the same time, the book itself is also circulating and is sold and it’s creating its own commerce.

It’s interesting to look at the differences between what we do and the marketplace, and it’s also to look at the points where those things can connect and where you can make things work.

Canadian Art: Fairs week is a busy time. What are your survival strategies?

cheyanne: I really don’t know what to expect. I’ve never been to Miami and I’ve not been to this fair before, so I think will be a process of acculturation or learning or something.

I’m very curious about the city. Miami presents itself as being so rich, yet it’s one of the places that has been hardest hit by the recession over the last five years. I just wonder what that looks like on the ground, actually.

Corinn and I are staying in an Airbnb administered by a realty company, and I don’t doubt it will be someone’s foreclosed home. So I wonder that that will feel like. And I’m interested in the other parts of Miami, like its huge service class, largely made up of the Haitian and Cuban refugees. I’m going to try and access that as much as possible.

We will rent bicycles and bike to the fair every day, and hopefully along the way get a chance to see something of Miami that is real.

 

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor of white settler Canadian (Irish and Ashkenazi) descent. She is also news and special sections editor at Canadian Art and has written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. Sandals welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.