Fairs Market Features USA

The new gallerists hanging in Miami

Young galleries are looking above and beyond the blue-chip giants

Julia Wachtel’s A Dream of Symmetry, 1988

While auction houses were going gangbusters in New York last month with blue-chip standards, a younger art scene is, if not thriving, then at least humming along in good health. And there is a relationship between the two. “If there is a trickle-down within the art world,” one dealer remarked, “it is that people are looking to younger dealers and younger artists. They are looking to whoever in New York is at an $8,000 to $12,000 price point and doing exciting things.”

Some of the younger New York galleries, including Bureau (P14), 47 Canal (N19) and Real Fine Arts (P8), are new to Art Basel Miami Beach and they share a puckish humour about the frothy upper reaches of the art market. “I put it there as a joke,” says Tyler Dobson, one of two 30-year-old owners of Real Fine Arts, of a photo on the gallery’s website of Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange), which sold last month for $58.4m at Christie’s. The image features on Mathieu Malouf’s page, the artist Real Fine Arts has brought to ABMB’s Positions section. Dobson says that the Koons is “a bit of a reference point” for the orange that dominates in Malouf’s new work, which features his signature use of mushrooms.

Real Fine Arts, which opened in Brooklyn in December 2008, is an artist-run gallery. Both Dobson and his business partner, Ben Morgan-Cleveland, are practising artists. “The gallery is our job,” Dobson says. “Art is another job that has to be separated, but they also feed each other.”

ABMB finds Dobson and McDonald switching gears. At last year’s New Art Dealers Alliance (Nada) fair, they packed their small booth with 99 works. Art Positions forced them to pare things down.

The gallery strikes a balance between younger artists such as Malouf, 29, and mid-career figures such as Yuji Agematsu, 57, whose show last year was his first in New York since the early 90s.

Dobson describes connecting with Yuji as “a bit more casual than a commercial gallery seeking out an artist to create a market. A more established gallery would have approached that exhibition in a different way. The whole point of doing that show was to expose the art world to something that’s been going on for more than 25 years but no one has had a chance to see in person.”

Over the summer, the gallery revived the films of writer and theorist Chris Kraus, best known for her book I Love Dick. It is a testimony to the environment Real Fine Arts has created that its stable now includes two artists from Manhattan galleries: Jon Pestoni, formerly with Lisa Cooley; and Ned Vena from Clifton Benevento.

But while Real Fine Arts has what Dobson calls an “unspoken” and “unpublicised” roster of artists—one that includes Jana Euler, who just had a two-person show at the Whitney Museum of American Art with Stewart Uoo—you will not find an artist list on the gallery’s website. “We want to resist this idea of being a brand,” he says. Having an official artist list “creates an environment where political forces can take hold more than we necessarily want them to. The power structures of working with a certain artist can affect the way your gallery is perceived.” Listing the gallery’s artists, he says, runs the risk of creating “much more space for speculation”.

At the moment, they don’t feel the need to expand, beyond taking on new artists, though Dobson acknowledges that “in the future it is possible that expansion would take place. We love our space, we love our position outside of any sort of art gallery neighbourhood—we feel a certain pride in that. It’s working for us at the moment.”

The most significant form of expansion for the gallery is doing fairs, which, he says, has changed the gallery “in terms of visibility, and also income. I think you can’t let yourself get lost in some of the more seductive things that happen in the art world. Money and popularity, market success, things like that. While they can happen and are happening to some of our artists, you can’t get caught up in that and then stop trying to keep things fresh.”

Keeping it fresh was one of the reasons Gabrielle Giattino and Howie Chen started Dispatch on New York’s Lower East Side in 2007. They were both curators, Giattino at the Swiss Institute and Chen at the Whitney’s now-defunct midtown Altria space. There, he showed Tom Holmes, the artist Giattino is bringing to Art Positions under the banner of Bureau, which she formed in 2010 after separating from Chen.

For Giattino, becoming a gallerist was about working with artists over the long haul. “I felt that, as a curator, the only way you can do several projects with the same artist is to change jobs.” She now represents eight artists, most of them around the age of 40.

Her gallery’s business, she says, has been growing steadily. Because she started Dispatch on the cusp of a recession, “I never really saw a crazy boom. I had the benefit of starting at rock-bottom.” Having recently moved Bureau into a space on Norfolk Street, she says she feels confident.

“I definitely feel that the market is very hot for the very new, but I also feel that I have a number of dedicated collectors and that my programme is serious. I have a long view. I’m in a place where I can still take some risks.”

The current culture of speculating on young artists (see the $389,000 recently paid at Phillips for a work by 24-year-old Lucien Smith), has made it more important to be vigilant about who one sells to, Giattino says. “What’s great about the Lower East Side and a lot of its younger dealers is that we are very transparent with each other. If there’s a new collector who comes along who I’m not sure about, I have a number of people I’ll email to ask: ‘Who is this person? What is their reputation?’”

Although the rise of the mega-galleries has created a culture where expansion is expected, she is resisting. “Somebody asked me a couple weeks ago in Paris: ‘When you open your next gallery, what city will it be in?’ but I’m really not thinking about that.” She points to mid-level galleries such as Greene Naftali and Miguel Abreu, and their focus on “the connection between the artist and the gallery”.

At the other end of the spectrum from the mega-galleries, Dispatch’s shoebox of a space on Henry Street gave Giattino an object lesson in less is more.

“I think it was important that we had that space for so long because the artists actually had to edit from their studios. The gallery was smaller than the studios they worked in. So it meant that you could make a body of work and then make decisions about quality. If you have to expand out of the studio space and start with production and fabrication, it’s a less organic way of producing, and the work suffers.”

In its own modestly sized space on Canal Street on the Lower East Side, two-year-old 47 Canal had one of the most talked-about shows of the autumn with Josh Kline. The gallery, which represents 14 artists, is showing new paintings by John Finneran and sculptures by Alisa Baremboym in ABMB’s Nova section. Oliver Newton, who runs the gallery with artist Margaret Lee—both in their early 30s—says 47 Canal is doing “pretty well” in terms of business. He gauges this, however, based on “way more than, or maybe in spite of, our financials. The top end of the market moves at a speed and scale I’m unfamiliar with on the day to day. As a new gallery representing artists at the start of their careers, I watch the top end of the market with a mixture of bemusement and terror.”

In a recent exchange with Interview magazine, Newton was asked how he thought the New York art scene has changed in the past ten years. He answered: “Unfortunately, it’s more professional.”

“I think that over the past 15 years, numerous galleries figured out a formula for financial success,” he tells The Art Newspaper. “This formula was turned into a business plan that was easily reproducible in application and has been widely accepted as the mode for which all galleries, big and small, should adhere. This is super boring.”

A ten-year plan for 47 Canal doesn’t interest him. “I only look as far ahead as our exhibition scheduling, which is usually about two-and-a-half years in advance.” But he doesn’t discount the possibility of expansion. “Eventually, we will have to move and/or expand, but I’m hoping we can keep the same spirit of the gallery. Our goal is not to simply get bigger and upgrade. We will only be able to commit to new artists when we feel we can give the proper energy and support.”

In the current climate, it is significant that another first- timer to ABMB, in the Galleries section, is Elizabeth Dee. She opened her Chelsea gallery in 2000 and now represents both younger artists, such as Ryan McNamara, and mid-career figures, such as Miriam Cahn. Hers is the sole gallery in the Americas for artists including Cahn, Mark Barrow, Philippe Decrauzat, Julie Wachtel and Renaud Regnery. Dee spoke about the challenges faced by mid-level galleries in a Salon talk at Art Basel in June with fellow dealer Edward Winkleman. “I’d love to see the discussion shift from the newness of the conglomerates and dominant brands to questioning our collective responsibility to artists and the system,” she tells The Art Newspaper. “Representation needs to be defined and perhaps potentially contracted with artists for mutual benefit. The responsibility of galleries to artists and artists to galleries is critical for everyone committed to the field.”

Dee says that, in the current market, her gallery has “committed to certain geographies in terms of artists, museums and fairs. We are working primarily in Europe, the US and South America, taking on more programming and activity as part of the gallery’s growth.”

Although she and Winkleman focused on mid-career galleries in their June talk, Dee circled back to the dilemmas facing emerging galleries in today’s accelerated market. “If they are successful as an emerging gallery, they are invited to be in all the top art fairs and, as a result, they are running from one city to the other producing four-day exhibitions in this event culture that is driving their business, and they don’t have time to go to the artists’ studios anymore,” she said. “So already you are operating like some kind of mini-CEO and you have no staff to assist you and you have artists who need your time in the studio and you need the time for reflection and critique and time to work on your programme, and that is being compromised by the demands of the event culture system which is driving the economics of the gallery’s evolution. Those dilemmas happen now earlier than they used to.”

Food for thought for all Miami’s newbies.

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