NADA Report: Young Talent and Savvy Collectors Keep the Cool Fair Ticking Over
MIAMI BEACH, Florida — If business at Art Basel Miami Beach is fueled by billionaires, the New Art Dealers Alliance relies on collectors whose pockets aren’t quite so deep. While dealers at the main fair were reeling from the absence of embattled hedge funder Steve Cohen, NADA didn’t notice. Gallerists were busy entertaining collectors with a reputation for scouting young talent at reasonable prices. Don and Mera Rubell, Susan and Michael Hort, Nancy Magoon, and Beth Rudin DeWoody were all spotted strolling the halls at the Deauville Beach Resort on Thursday morning.
“This fair has a lot of energy,” said collector Jean Pigozzi, who had just purchased a work by a Japanese artist whose name he could not recall. “It’s more fun than the main fair. How do you find the next genius here? I don’t know. Same as anywhere — close your eyes and hope to bump into one.
The non-profit-run fair — which features more than 70 exhibitors, half of whom were new to the fair or returning after an absence — has become known for offering an alternative to the shiny, large-scale, brand-name artwork on view at Art Basel Miami Beach.
“NADA has been evolving in an interesting way,” said Matthew Higgs, founder of White Columns and a member of the organization’s board. For the second year in a row, NADA hosted a group of invitation-only micro-booths devoted to young galleries. Some are quite young: CourtneyBlades Gallery, which presented a strong booth of work from recent graduates of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is run by a pair of 23- and 24-year-old curators. One gallery in the main section, Miami’s Michael Jon, has been open just 11 months.
If sales at NADA are a barometer of the kind of work that is appealing to collectors of emerging art today, there are some common threads. Art that toys with digital processes seems to be having a moment. (Call it the Wade Guyton effect.) New York’s On Stellar Rays presented the work of John Houck, a new addition to the gallery, whose intricate striped compositions produced by a one-of-a-kind computer algorithm sold briskly at prices ranging from $4,200 to $9,000. A painting of tiny pinprick-size dots based on a strict code by Xylor Jane sold for $20,000 at CANADA, while Invisible Exports offloaded all five editions of Matt Porter’s photograph of a flying car for between $6,000 and $9,000. (The image looks as if it has been created using Photoshop, but was actually produced in the darkroom.)
On the other end of the spectrum, traditional craft and design found an appreciative audience at NADA. The floor of CANADA’s booth was covered with vibrant Moroccan rugs, which were being sold independently of the gallery by the husband of one of its artists, Katherine Bernhardt. (She wasn’t doing so bad herself — two of her painted portraits of rugs sold for $18,000 and $22,000). While Columns nearly sold out of haunting ceramics painted with images of animals by Karin Gulbran, priced at $500 to $800, which have previously only been exhibited alongside other craft or ceramic work in the artist’s hometown of Los Angeles.
Wonky personal abstraction was also a popular aesthetic at the fair. Collectors snapped up Sadie Benning’s soft-edged, candy-colored wall pieces at every booth she was shown. Vogt Gallery sold four multi-panel works for a combined total of $128,000, while Callicoon Fine Arts sold a suite of her gently geometric drawings for between $36,000 and $45,000. Newly minted Whitney Biennial curator Michelle Grabner’s gingham and needlepoint paintings sold out at Chicago’s Shane Campbell and Milwaukee’s Green Gallery for prices ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.
At Mihai Nicodim of Los Angeles, a solo booth of textural abstractions by the young Belgian painter Michiel Ceulers sold out early, at prices ranging from $4,500 to $15,000. “They’re all gone. Sold. Within half an hour,” said the gallery’s Suzana Vasilescu. “Only the furniture” — a highlighter-yellow plexi-topped table and accompanying chairs, a collaboration between Ceulers and Anthony Salvador — “is left.”
Despite its successes, observers differ on whether NADA is more effective as a feeder for the larger Art Basel Miami Beach or as an alternative institution in its own right. This year, ABMB’s Marc Speigler trumpeted the fact that more than eight galleries had “graduated” from NADA to the “main fair.” Yet some dealers, like James Fuentes, have returned to the Deauville after a stint at the Convention Center.
“The timing has to work for Basel — there needs to be a synchronicity with what you apply with,” said Fuentes, who sold at least one work by every artist he represents, including a $30,000 multi-panel silkscreen of Madonna’s famous 1992 “Sex” book by Kamau Patton. “Here, we can bring things fresh from the studio. You can’t have your booth set a year in advance when you’re dealing with young artists.” Still, young galleries are equally eager not to be locked in. As Fuentes said, “It might be different next year.”
—Additional reporting by Sarah Hanson