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Collector and patron Kamiar Maleki appointed director of Volta and Pulse art fairs

The two events have recently come under the same ownership although there are no plans to merge them—yet

Kamiar Maleki has been appointed director of both Volta and Pulse art fairs © Richard Höglund

Kamiar Maleki, the London-based collector and patron who directed the Contemporary Istanbul art fair between 2016 and 2018, has been appointed the director of both Volta and Pulse art fairs.

Last month Volta was acquired by Ramsay Fairs, the group that also owns Pulse, although there are no plans to merge the two businesses at this stage. Maleki does not rule out the possibility, however. “There are plans to make Volta and Pulse into a strong fair for emerging art and artists,” he says.

Volta has editions in Basel in June and New York in March, while Pulse is held in Miami every December. Both fairs have been running for 15 years.

Maleki’s appointment follows the decision by Volta’s founding director Amanda Coulson “to take more of a back seat”, according to a statement. She remains on the fair’s board in a non-executive capacity. Meanwhile, Maleki will replace Pulse’s interim director Cristina Salmastrelli, who continues in her role as managing director of Ramsay Fairs in the US.

Although he starts immediately, Maleki officially takes over in January; until then he will shadow Coulson and Salmastrelli. “The first real impact will be felt in New York or Basel,” Maleki says.

Volta’s New York edition, which has taken place alongside The Armory on Chelsea’s Westside Piers for the past four years, ran into trouble in March when it was cancelled at the last minute. One of the Armory’s piers was deemed structurally unsound, so the decision was taken to transfer some of the larger fair’s exhibitors to Volta’s venue, squeezing out the smaller event. Next year, Volta is relocating to Metropolitan West, near the piers.

Maleki announced he was stepping down from the embattled Contemporary Istanbul in December 2018. Ali Gureli, the founder and chairman of the Turkish art fair came under fire last month for a controversial letter he sent to dealers and collectors. In it, he accused the foreign media of spreading “black propaganda” in its reports of Turkey’s military action against Syrian Kurds.

Gureli later apologised for his outburst, conceding it was “entirely inappropriate”, but not before the fair’s artistic director, Anissa Touati, and its entire selection committee had resigned.

Maleki’s network, established both during his time at Contemporary Istanbul and as a longstanding patron, “will be a great asset to Volta and Pulse fairs”, Salmastrelli says.