If you've been to one art fair, you've been to them all—or so it seems, after spending a week in Miami. As always, the big show offered little in the way of flavor, but lots in the way of recognizability. Terra blue chips, if you will. But one satellite fair stood out from the pack, not least because of new dealers and new digs bringing new ideas to the beach. Once the only reason art tourists would venture beyond 41st St., New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) appeared this year at the storied Fontainebleau Miami Beach, bringing with it the fresh faces and high degree of personability that distinguishes it from other fairs, the kind of things that make it an annual favorite for beachgoers in the know.
At last week's opening, I had the chance to talk to talk to NADA Executive Director Heather Hubbs about this year's fair, collecting, and keeping the week's most refreshing event kicking.
The Creators Project: For this iteration, what were you looking for? Or were you looking at all?
Heather Hubbs: I was looking for change. It definitely felt like it was time for one and the Fontainebleau—there aren't a lot of options for space, other than doing something with a tent like Pulse or Untitled, so I was trying to figure out a way to continue what we'd done and take it to a place that might be a better fit. The good thing about the Fontainebleau for us is that it's owned by collectors, so they understand the world that we're working with and it seemed like a good fit—and it turned out that it is. I guess at the end of the day it was just time for a change. Sometimes you need to just change it up.
Was anything getting stale or not working out?
Not necessarily. We were beginning to outgrow the Deauville and, you know, certainly being closer to Art Basel Miami Beach is a good thing for us and was part of the decision factor. But it wasn't necessarily like anything happened or was bad. We were outgrowing it. It was like, we had done everything we were going to do there, and it was time to try something else.
So did that philosophy apply to the selection of galleries this year?
The selection of galleries is always a tough one because you always get more than you can accommodate and you always want to try to have a nice, healthy balance of people who come back, and new people, and people who are very young, and people who are more established. That's how we think about it. When the committee are reviewing applications, all those factors come into play. There are some new people here, and some not new. I think it's a mix.
In terms of the work itself, have you noticed any trends appearing?
I get that question a lot and it's a hard one to answer. I don't see trends, really. I mean, I feel like there's a lot of painting, but there's always a lot of painting; there's sculpture; there's photography; I guess there's not tons of video here; but in terms of trends in the artwork, I don't think I see much.
In terms of sales, is video, for instance, doing well this year?
I don't know, exactly! I haven't talked to anybody about it. I know, in past years, that video's done well. The people who have had it have sold it and have sold more than they thought they would. But I think, in general, it's the first day and people are pretty happy. I'm sure it's different for everybody in there—some people are sold out, some people are not; some people are having great conversations, some people are having too many conversations they can't even handle, and other people aren't having as many as they would like—it's a mix, but that's a case at any fair.
But different to this fair is a certain breathing space. You really can take a second to look at the works. Could you speak a bit about whether, overall, there's a feeling you try and achieve with the fair, or if it's something that just happens with what the committee puts together?
I think it's a combination of things; it's definitely due to the group of galleries the committee chooses, but I also like to think that we're a non-profit, member-based organization made up of art professionals. We do programming, and we do things for these people throughout the year. It's not just during the fair, it's not just during Miami, it's not just during New York. We're trying to do things year-round to help and fulfill the mission of NADA on another level. I'd like to think it comes from that. A lot of these people have known each other for a long time, and have known each other in different lives, so to speak. I definitely like the energy and try to preserve it, but it's not like I have a formula for it; I don't know what we're doing that makes it work, but somehow, it works.
It's consistent, which is great. So, are you a collector yourself?
I have been for a long time.
Anything this year that you're excited about?
I haven't bought anything this year but, well, Kerry Schuss has these ceramic pieces by Alice Mackler that are amazing. I would love to have one of those. I really like the—i believe the artist is Ryan Martin, at Bodega—they're really killer.
There's a lot of things I would like, but those things are what I've been—they're probably sold. I didn't want to take advantage of my early entry hour during all of install, like early access, so I waited. But I've bought from many of the galleries in the fair, not all of them, but many.
Any newcomer galleries you're especially excited to have present?
Well, 1857. There's people who are back that I'm really happy about, like [Altman Siegal] and Roster Gallery from Warsaw. They used to do the fair and took a break for awhile, and now they're back. Truth & Consequences; they had a project [booth] last year, but they came back and got a bigger booth, and I'm really happy they're here and they're back.
For upstart gallery, group of friends, or young dealers, what's your best advice for getting into NADA?
When making your proposal, think about the booth size that you're applying for, and if you're applying for a small booth, don't cram it with artists. A simpler presentation in a small booth is always a better thing. Simple and clear. It's amazing how unclear what somebody's doing can be. And it doesn't have to have a booth sketch—I think a booth sketch helps—but you don't have to have one. And not taking it for granted; that's advice for people who have been doing it for a long time. Really put some effort into it. And if you're sharing artists with other galleries who are applying, it's smart to talk to each other and find out what other people are applying with just so you know and the artist is aware… An artist may or may not want three galleries to be applying with their work. We don't want every gallery to have the same artist in the fair. I don't want to say that if two galleries apply with the same artist, they're not gonna get in—that's not what I'm saying. I just think it's good to talk to each other prior to applying. You can't always know what someone else is applying with, but if you think they might, it might be a good idea.
So, knowing yourself, but knowing the landscape as well?