Superfine! aims to be a different sort of art fair if for no other reason than espousing the belief that original artwork is for everyone. While they obviously want people to buy they are as much focused on an engaging, exciting interaction between audience and art. The art is presented outside the usual "white box" most fairs favor. The fair takes place at 56 N.E. 29th Street in Miami. The fair is quite Miami-centric but last year's inaugural fair in Little Haiti featured art from Madrid, Los Angeles and Copenhagen as well.
James Miille and Alex Mitow are co-directors of the fair. Mitow says that Superfine!’s aims go beyond putting on a fair (an undertaking in itself). They aim to rebuild the fair model from the ground up, not just tweak and modernize the fair concept.
“To that end, some elements remain consistent. We have exhibition walls, we have lights, and we have a big open room. Beyond that, I think what we're doing will be next to unrecognizable from the typical fair. We're trimming the fat and removing all that makes a fair this unattainable holy grail-type thing for emerging artists and so incredibly expensive for galleries,” says Mitow. “At the same time, I think we're developing a very sexy look and feel to the fair that is not only absolutely integral to our business model but also fosters the kind of buying environment we need to create in order to give our exhibitors the value they deserve.”
by David Huggins (solo artist at Superfine!)
“At the end of the day, none of this is gratuitous. It's more in line with the environment that James and I like to collect in, and less in line with the standard issue fair that generally excludes young collectors from buying. We're creating an environment that's welcoming, dynamic, and still keeps the art at the central focus,” he says. “Everyone is afraid of adding anything on besides the usual--white lilies, rented tablecloths, and the other typical accoutrements--because they're afraid it will detract from the art. Aren't we supposed to be curators? It's our job to make it all work, and in the end make sure that it adds to the experience and fosters sales.”
The fair sells wall space by linear foot as opposed to square footage. An independent artist is more likely to be able to afford space but it allows a gallery or curator to buy a larger bit of wall space that can be configured as a booth. Placements for sculpture are a separate, but not exorbitant, cost.
Mitow believes the setup will make the fair a better experience for visitors and exhibitors. Part of the charm is that it isn't a gigantic fair.
"It's definitely a compact fair, but there will be a lot to look at. We really have no desire to become a 100,000 square foot behemoth any time in the future. That just gets overwhelming for attendees and everyone is on art overload, especially in the midst of a time like Miami Art Week," says Mitow. "The goal here is to create a welcoming environment where attendees can spend an hour or so browsing great, fresh, well-curated artwork, then catch some music and installation art in our outdoor areas, maybe have a drink or two and actually enjoy their time. We aren't making a spectacle out of this. It's not a contest to see who can book the best band or have the most shocking performance art."
It is a laid-back Miami fair but that is more about the attitude than the art.
"I like to say that the artwork we showcase represents the intersection of accessible and challenging. We want to make you think, but we also want you to like the work. I've personally been very into figurative work lately, especially interesting takes on portraiture, so by that measure I'd expect to see a good deal of that present at the fair," he says. "For the same reason that it's important for us to reinvent the décor and ambiance of the art fair, it's also important for us to start from the ground up with what we're showing. One of our core tenets is not to show typical art fair fodder, even if we respect and love the artist. Our brand is valuable to us, and in the long run to our exhibitors, so it's important that we remain distinct from the pack and true to our values."
"Work may be amazing but if it doesn't work with our core groups, we don't want to just take someone's money to show when we don't feel strongly about its chances of selling. That would be dishonest and in the end our honest and authentic approach is what really sets us apart."
They score work on a seven point scale. To be considered an artist's work must meet five of the seven criteria.
"Criteria range from originality (no Campbell's soup cans!) to whether we feel that the work plays to the general cultural zeitgeist. Galleries and artists that show with us should present work that's exciting, challenging, and stirs up emotion to the viewer, but also work that's not too esoteric to appeal to someone who may be just getting involved in collecting art." says Mitow.
The fair encourages emerging artists who lack a platform as well as progressive galleries and curators who focus on emerging artists. They also will feature a number of LGBT artists transcending stereotypes of what it means to be a LGBT artist today.
Another way this fair stands out is their focus on local artists that are usually relegated to the sidelines during Art Week.
"Being local and active in the community year round, we'll also have a strong mix of Miami artists that kill it year round but get de facto excluded from the big fairs during Art Week," says Mitow. "A lot of them are relegated to off the beaten path group shows during what is effectively the best time of year to get exposure to out-of-town collectors in their own home town, and we seek to correct that balance."
They also aim is to bring new faces and long-time collectors looking for something fresh together. Mitow says Superfine! views exhibitors as clients they are promoting. The Fair want people to attend the fair but they want more than just bodies;they unapologetically want potential collectors. Of course, they have a much broader view of who potential collectors are.
"On the attendee side, I'd say that we're a great alternative because we're a digestible fair. You won't get lost in mazes of booths but you'll have plenty to explore,” he says. “You'll find art you actually like and want to hang in your home, and will enjoy the actual discovery. We're big on environment so you'll enjoy yourself."
by Sofia del Rivero (solo artist at Superfine!)
"We'll also have a Print Shop program up and running for many of the artists' work which will provide even more accessible options." says Mitow.
There has been a recent movement from Miami to Miami Beach by larger fairs. This is regrettable for a variety of reasons one being that, as Mitow states;because Miami is amazing!
"The city and its art scene have some quirks, but it's a refreshing change of pace from more established art domiciles. We enjoy the up-and-coming nature of things. It's very dynamic and accessible and those are two traits that we bring into our fair and all of our projects so it's a good fit,” he says. "On top of that, you have an incredible amount of emerging wealth from all over the globe pouring into Miami (and not just for one week in December) so it's a great place to be based in for anyone in the art world."
Mitow also says that they are excited about Miami's neighborhoods: Little River, Little Haiti and Little Havana and the talent fostered in each.
"Last year we did the fair in Little River which was an absolute blast and despite the inclement weather we managed to get a solid turnout. While the majority of our programming the rest of the year still takes place in Little River and Little Haiti, to us it just made sense to move the fair itself to Midtown. It's not a matter of piggybacking off of other fairs' traffic, but of locating it centrally enough that everyone can access it. People make lists of fairs, parties and other events to attend during Art Week and being too far out of the way can be a killer."