Friday, December 3

Is this the most inclusive art fair in the world? | Art


WWelcome to perhaps the most diverse art fair in the world – Superfine, which focuses on contemporary art and prides itself on its inclusion, with a huge representation of artists of color and LGBTQ + and female artists.

Under the Superfine umbrella, three simultaneous art fairs with 130 artists will share the space of an entire city block in downtown Manhattan for five days. Comprised of Superfine (Wo) man, the largest women-only fair with 80 artists; Superfine Magic, representing LGBTQ + artists; and Superfine Myth, dedicated to surreal art (one of its best-selling genres), is the largest iteration of the fair in six years to date. Since its launch at Art Basel Miami in 2015, Superfine has generated more than $ 9 million in sales at events in Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Washington and Seattle.

Building on their respective careers in hospitality and arts, founders Alex Mitow and James Miille started Superfine to address what they viewed as systemic issues at art fairs. Shortly after they started dating in 2014, they encountered what they call the “gloomy back-end” of art fairs. “There was no real price for distributors who exhibited at fairs, so some galleries may get a discount if they are friends with the show director,” Mitow says. “That translates into how art is marketed to visitors at fairs: there is no real price, most people don’t use price tags. It’s a different price for this or that person, and you end up with racial and gender discrimination. It permeated the entire system. It was like a boys club, a business where things happened behind closed doors. “

Alex Mitow and James Miille
Alex Mitow and James Miille. Photography: Superfine

Superfine was born out of the desire to create a fairer platform everywhere, with transparency in everything from booth fees to artwork prices to ticket costs. “The way an artist can exhibit at Superfine is very clear,” says Miille. “There is a price, there are no hidden fees and not this kind of under-the-table deal where it’s all about relationships. We make that price as fair as possible so that it is accessible to as many artists as possible. “

That leads to what he calls “a good trickle-down effect” in which lower booth prices, between $ 2,000 and $ 5,000, compared to $ 20,000 to $ 100,000 at other shows, lead to more artwork. affordable. Most artworks are priced between $ 100 and $ 2,500, perfect for your target demographic of 26-45; prices at other art fairs start at $ 2,500 and skyrocket into tens and even thousands of dollars. And each piece should have a list price, something many galleries still detest despite research suggesting that benefits all parties involved. And it’s been proven to drive sales: About 25% of Superfine visitors find artwork to take home.

Chris Minard - A Pair of Big Green Fairies with Reflective Orbs
A pair of big green fairies with reflective orbs, by Chris Minard. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist / Superfine

Since Covid, Mitow has noticed a change in the market, with prices growing in the direction of the fair. “A lot of people bought houses during the pandemic because of low interest rates, so we are seeing younger people buying art, which was already something we bet on years ago,” he says, adding that artists are doing it too. your offers. more affordable price. “A collector is not necessarily the billionaire who walks in and spends $ 30,000 on a work of art. For that person who buys a $ 100 print, you become an artist that they have on their walls for the rest of their life; maybe you foster a relationship and they become collectors for life. “

Superfine was one of the first to highlight those who did the works; at other comparable art fairs (Art Basel, Frieze, The Armory), galleries represent artists. “You have this direct connection between the artists who are exhibiting and the people who come in excited to buy art,” says Miille. “Actually, that’s one of the things our audience loves the most: meeting artists directly rather than visiting a gallery or viewing artwork in a museum. They can talk to the artist and see why they did their work, what they are passionate about. That’s an experience that you really don’t get in most settings where you see art. “

And the fair is distinguished by its emphasis on supporting independent artists. (Notable superfine artists from past fairs include Ken Goshen, Elisa Valenti, and Mikael B.) “We’re providing an opportunity for artists who might be waiting for a gallery to decide to cast them to really get their career started,” says Miille. That also includes a business advice podcast and to blog, both oriented to the training of artists.

Their efforts to make fair things equal have almost naturally resulted in diversity: About a third of the artists at Superfine fairs identify as LGBTQ +, about a quarter are artists of color, and 60% are women. “Making it more democratic, making this experience the one that more artists can take advantage of, it just organically leads to more artists in these minority categories.”

A work by Olivia Vandekamp.
A work by Olivia Vandekamp. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist / Superfine

The atmosphere at Superfine is markedly different from other art fairs. First: no super-bright ceiling lights. Instead, a more theatrical stage lighting, with a warmer but darker and moody atmosphere. Also music: “It’s a taboo in the art world, but we don’t really understand it because it makes people feel more comfortable and have a good time,” says Mitow, a DJ who has created custom playlists for each fair this year. week. “Everybody is used to art fairs being such cold and stuffy affairs, and we think, ‘No, we can make this warm and comfortable and welcoming.’

However, try as you might, there may be a limit to curbing favoritism. Among a list of artists at the show that Mitow is most excited about (including Chris Minard, Celine Gabrielle, Aidan Lincoln Fowler, Albert Leon Sultan) is Miille himself: “The cheeky bias here, but it’s my favorite.”


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