Monday, October 15, 2018

Superfine DC coming!

Art fairs in cities across the world continue to remain as one of the key components of the planet's cultural tapestry, with Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) still holding the title of the "big dance of the art world" each December in the Greater Miami area.

Other cities around the world, London, Toronto, Madrid, Capetown, Frankfurt, Basel, Buenos Aires, etc., all host and have really good art fairs as well, and many American cities - besides Miami - also host excellent fairs, most notably New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, etc.

And yet, in spite of several attempts by art fair world giants such as the Art Miami group, and by ubercollectors such as Mera Rubell, the DMV's attempts to enter the art fair circuit have failed. Here's my review of the 2008 attempt by Art Miami to start a fair in DC.

It's a paradoxically confounding issue! After all, according to a recent poll, the DMV has the planet's second highest concentration of multi-millionaires, so the disposable income is present in the Greater DC area and surrounding counties (six of the top 10 richest counties in the United States are in the DMV). 

Thus it is a fact that although the money is here, as anyone who's ever tried to sell a piece of art in the area knows, the collectors themselves are far and few in between, and a significant number of the 125,000 millionaires who (according to Census figures) live in the DMV region do not generally buy artwork with the same zest and zeal that they obtain giant mansions in Potomac, and ride around in huge SUVs, or expensive weekend motorcycles.

Why? Because to a certain extent, many of them lack the "formation" (as a Communist would say) to really understand, appreciate and know the difference between a "picture" and a work of art.

It's not that they are stupid or uncultured - after all, most of them are first generation, self made "progressive" men and women, often from blue collar backgrounds, and who worked their way up the capitalism food chain and made themselves what they are today.

Savvy businessmen, too many sharp lawyers, brilliant computer geeks, enviable technocrats - and all with little, if any, exposure to the arts in their upbringing, and more importantly, exposure to the availability of the arts. The last due to the exceptional apathy that our local DMV media has towards the visual arts.

We also have a really good art scene, mostly centered around the many museums which we're lucky to have in the area - mostly all "national" museums, which sucks for DMV artists, since they seldom pay attention to their own backyard, but a lot of museums nonetheless. We also have a lot of great art programs, since we're surrounded by dozens of world class Universities and colleges in the area with terrific art programs. 

We also have highly attended and highly ranked outdoor art festivals - most notably in Bethesda and Reston, and the Artomatic open show draws as many as 1,000 artists and 75,000 visitors!

Our area also has the lowest unemployment rate in the Universe.

All of those things are ingredients which would lead one to think that an art fair would do well around the DMV.

No one has cracked that nut yet, and if you are a constant reader of this blog, then you know that (since I have been participating in art fairs for well over a decade now), I have often offered advice via this blog on how to stage a potentially successful art fair in the DMV. You can read some of that advice, given 10 years ago here.

Art fairs are a huge financial risk to art galleries - You drop $10,000 to $15,000 bucks on an art fair, and if you come home with little or no sales, and an empty bank account... that often means that it is lights out for the gallery. I've seen and heard this happen multiple times in the decade plus that I've been doing art fairs.

What are the art fair costs? There are direct costs and associated costs.

Direct costs are:
(a) Cost of the basic booth
(b) Cost of additional booth stuff (extra walls, extra lights, storage)
(c) Some fairs have a "shared" advertising cost

Associated Costs are:
(a) Cost of required insurance
(b) Cost of transportation of the art. If using own vehicle, then also cost of parking it and gas
(c) Cost of people transportation to the fair, food and hotel, etc.

Bottom Line: Commercial galleries take huge chances at art fairs. My very first art fair all-around cost was about $8,000 over a decade ago in New York - all that was charged on the gallery's credit card and we held our breath while at the fair. We sold about $30,000 worth of art, and thus after commissions to the artists we cleared $15,000 and paid off the credit card, and then had $6,000 to put towards the next art fair fee. 

I can count on one hand the number of times that we have ever sold that much art in any gallery art show in the DMV; and as a reference, I've had a physical brick-and-mortar gallery here of one sort or another since 1996 and through 2009. 

Since those galleries closed - the last one in 2009, three years after I left it, and we went virtual, we've focused on art fairs and done OK - and art fair prices kept going up, and up.  The last art fair that we did in Miami last summer cost over $60,000! It was a giant booth... too big!

But, in the 21st century, doing art fairs is a "must do" not only for independently owned commercial fine art galleries, but also for any and all other genres of visual art spaces (non profits, artists cooperatives, art leagues, art schools, etc.).

What's in an art fair for the artists?

Usually a lot more than for the gallery. I will repeat this: just as often, an artist reaps more good things out of an art fair than the gallery does.

These things include:

(a) Exposure to more art collectors, curators, press, etc. in a few days than in years of exhibiting art around the DMV. You will see more people in 4-5 days than in five ten years at a gallery in the DMV.

(b) Exposure to other galleries who may be interested in your work. I have multiple examples of this - Just ask DMV area artist Judith Peck what has happened to her career once she started showing at art fairs.

(c) A significantly higher chance of getting critical press, as art fair openings are a magnet for nor only the usual press, but also for every other scribe who has anything to do with writing about art.

(d) A significantly higher chance of getting your work noticed by both freelance and museum curators. The chance of getting your work noticed by a DMV museum curator is probably worse than the chance of winning the lottery. Most DMV area museum curators (AU's Jack Rasmussen being the brilliant exception) would rather take a cab to Dulles to fly to Miami to see emerging artists' works at Miami fairs than taking a cab to see a gallery show in Georgetown.

(e) Being part of the art fair "wake effect" --- Read about that here.

(f) A much better chance to getting invited to participate in other shows such as university shows, themed-shows, group shows, etc. Ask Virginia artist Sheila Giolitti about that, or (now) Ohio artist Audrey Wilson.

Twice in the last five or six years I've been retained as an advisor to two giant international art fair conglomerates which were exploring the DMV as a potential site for expansion.

I was pretty brutal with them on the negatives (which I'll gladly expand on upon demand, but most of which have been documented here in the nearly two decades that this blog has been documenting the DMV art scene), and the many great positives, as well as what I thought was the secret code to break the art fair losing streak of the DMV.

Enter SuperfineDC! In their own words:

The Art Fair DC Deserves Arrives This Month

Fun, approachable, and chock full of art by local and global emerging artists, Superfine! DC descends on the capital from October 31st to November 4th for a fall art spectacular the likes of which the District has never before seen. The art fair that's built its chops in New York and Miami by serving up a clear, transparent, new art market friendly to both long time collectors and people interested in art who've never purchased a piece before is bringing its unique formula to DC's Union Market, and you'll never experience art the same way again.
Over 300 visual artists from DC and beyond will present new contemporary artwork throughout 74 curated booths, and with price points beginning below $100 and 75% of works available below $5,000, you're certain to discover the perfect piece for your castle or cottage. Join us for a chic sneak peek Masquerade Vernissage opening on Halloween night, or indulge your inner child with artisan scoops by Trickling Springs Creamery at our Young Collectors' Ice Cream Social on Friday 11/2. From panel discussions with local art luminaries to art movie nights and VR experiences, Superfine! DC has Washingtonians covered as your own local, global art fair.



Cindy Lisica Gallery | Houston, TX
Monochrome Collective | Washington, DC
Most Wanted Fine Art | Pittsburgh, PA
BoxHeart Gallery | Pittsburgh, PA
Antieau Gallery | New Orleans, LA
ArtShape Mammoth | Burlington, VT
Pure Artistry Works | Philadelphia, PA
Walton Gallery | Petersburg, VA
Sean Christopher Ward | Wichita, KS
Gallery O on H | Washington, DC


Zenith Gallery | Washington, DC
Touchstone Gallery | Washington, DC
Vox Populi Print Collective | Madison, WI
European Design & Art LLC | Miami, FL
Art Village Gallery | Memphis, TN
XOL Gallery | Baltimore, MD
glave kocen gallery | Richmond, VA
YNOBE DNA Gallery | Miami, FL
Gallery Orange | New Orleans, LA
RoFa Projects | Potomac, MD
Foundry Gallery | Washington, DC
Adah Rose Gallery | Kensington, MD
Susan Calloway Fine Arts | Washington, DC


Jeremiah Morris | Mount Crawford, VA
Lori Cuisinier | New York, NY
Alexandra Aroyo | New York, NY
The 36-24-36 Project | Brooklyn, NY
James Miille | Brooklyn, NY


Brooke Rogers | Ocean City, MD
Julio Valdez | New York, NY
Svetlana Nelson | Madison, AL
Daniel Stuelpnagel | Baltimore, MD
Rogelio Maxwell | Washington, DC
Virago | New York, NY
Bruce McGowan | Montreal, Quebec, CA
JJ Galloway | Annapolis, MD
Deming King Harriman | Brooklyn, NY
Noel Kassewitz | Washington, DC
Kelly Moeykens | Washington, DC
Olan Quattro | Washington, DC
Fei Alexeli | Thessaloniki, Greece
Mary Westphal & Armand Fogels | Alexandria, VA
Susan Hostetler | Washington, DC
ALIGUORI | Fort Lauderdale, FL
Jaclyn Mottola | New York, NY
Emma Repp | Seattle, WA
Sheila Cahill | Washington, DC
Hannah Sarfraz | Gaithersburg, MD
Diana Contreras | Miami, FL
Brianne Lanigan | Arlington, VA
Brendon Palmer-Angell | New Orleans, LA
Dennis Crayon | Washington, DC
Julie Christenberry | Washington, DC
Joseph Meloy | New York, NY
Sarah Magida | Baltimore, MD
Scott Hutchison | Arlington, VA
Chaney Trotter | New York, NY
Joseph Shetler | Washington, DC
Aaron Patton | Wichita, KS
Stephen Perrone | Sylvan Beach, NY
Christine Ruksenas-Burton | Stone Ridge, VA
Sonja Rohde | New York, NY
Wayson R. Jones | Brentwood, MD
Michael Heilman | Alexandria, VA
Helen Robinson | Brooklyn, NY
Sarah Jamison | Washington, DC
Colleen Garibaldi | Washington, DC
Adam Chamy | Washington, DC
Steve Wanna | Mount Rainier, MD
Rod Webber | Boston, MA
Kathryn Jane Leung | Manassas Park, VA
D'Arcy Simpson | Hudson, NY
Will Superfine DC succeed? I hope so!

October 31 - November 4, 2018
1309 5th St NE
Washington, DC 20002

All the details that you need are here. Disclaimer: My own spectacular work will be exhibited at this coming fair by Zenith Gallery.