Susan Eley Fine Art () is set to show four artists in 2016 at Miami's premiere fair for Contemporary art in Miami, Context Art Miami.
This year four artists are coming along: Francie Hester, Amber George, Kathy Osborn and Charles Buckley. Their work is a mix of abstract and representative work.
Hester's pieces are aluminum wall sculptures in a variety of sizes. Eley says they are always a big draw because of their eye catching colors, patterns and textures that sit slightly off of the wall.
George is an encaustic artist whose work is a reflection of her passion for the patterns of nature and textile design. She also teaches encaustic, an ancient medium. She only works in encaustic and she teaches it. "She talks about using encaustic and keeping the windows open," says Eley. "The smell of honey floats out and bees come into the studio."
Osborn works in oil paintings that come from staged miniature scenes evoking the "complexities of domestic life in the mid-20th Century." Osborn's background is as an illustrator. She worked for Rolling Stone and many others before moving on to painting. According to Eley Osborn is "sort of" self-taught as a painter.
Buckley's work is a marriage of Pop Art and 50s iconography. The pieces, like Osborn's, tell stories across several panels in flat swaths of vivid colors.
The gallery opened in 2006 in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Their focus was on contemporary art and they aimed for a different sort of interaction with their audience. Eley hosts artist and collector panel discussions, artist workshops, non-profit fundraisers, literary salons and other events in an intimate salon-style gallery. They Change shows every six weeks. There is no particular region, style or medium. Artists range from photographers to sculptors, from prints to paintings and from U.S. or artists from around the world. Their location has few galleries but the area is home to many artists and collectors.
"People have always welcomed that they can pass by to see good contemporary art without going downtown to Chelsea, SoHo or Brooklyn." she says.
"In 2007 WE started at Bridge Art Fair at the Catalina. That's when I met a lot of people and met dealers, collectors and artists." says Eley.
Then the gallery exhibited at Art Miami. Eley has praise for the fair but looking back wonders if her gallery was a fit given the large amount of secondary art (and collectors looking for such art) at the fair. After two years at Art Miami they moved to Aqua for one year.
"I love the idea of the hotel art fair." she says.
Then came Context where they have been for the past four years. Context is one of the fairs where they regularly participate.
"Part of the problem for a small gallery is that for me to do Toronto and Miami? That is as much as I can handle. I find I am like Goldilocks looking for the right fit." says Eley.
"I'm a little apprehensive but having a separate identity for Context is important. We are earliest to open, Tuesday." she says.
Art Week, of course, is ever changing and expanding. To Eley there is good and bad in this.
"It;s become too much of a big party and less about interesting conversations you have about art--which is what I love," she says. "It is frantic. People are rushing so they can go home and get into their cocktail dresses."
She adds that Miami still has a different and interesting crowd. At the time of this interview Eley was in Toronto.
"I am in Toronto, meeting a lot of Torontonians and Canadians," says Eley. "In Miami I sell to people from Latin America, Europe and Asia. Miami art week is where you go if you are collector"
She notes that the breakfasts, such as the one held by the Rubell Collection, are great places to meet people and discuss art and also-- "it is a hell of a lot of fun."
Sales, she says, are generally good but last year was terrible. There was heavy, unseasonable rain and the Venetian Causeway was closed (great planning!). This year she is concerned so many fairs have moved to Miami Beach. For those not familiar with the area Miami and Miami Beach are different cities, separated by a bay.
Other cities could learn a great deal from Miami, in part because of what Eley referred to as "the Bloomingdale lesson; something her mom taught her when she was a child.
"There were all these little shops around Bloomingdales and I said to my mom; 'Won't Bloomingdales take all the business," she says. "My mother told me that, no, Bloomingdales brought the people and business to all those little shops. I always think of this lesson when I think of Miami (Art Week)."
The popularity, the growing crush, can be a problem for exhibitors though.
"If there are too many people. The one person who wants to buy doesn't want to be there but you need a healthy number of people. The true buyers don't care. they find you."
While there may come a point where collectors might be turned off and say "screw it." That time hasn't come yet. You will see lots of dire warnings about the doom of the art world? Don't bet on it.