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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013 - 131 days ago Canvassed | Art & culture

Seeing San Diego in Miami

Ben Strauss-Malcolm of Quint Contemporary on what it's like to show, sell and see art at Miami Art Week

By Susan Myrland
dsc06751 Ben Strauss-Malcolm (right) inside the Quint Contemporary booth at Project Miami
- Photo by Susan Myrland

Early December is a big date in art-collecting circles, the juggernaut known as Miami Art Week. Anchored by the nation’s largest and most prestigious art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, the event also features more than 20 satellite fairs, 18 museum exhibitions, outdoor concerts, parties and countless gallery openings and pop-up events. It takes over Miami, with everyone from City Hall to the corner deli showing support. 

Three San Diego galleries participated in satellite fairs this year: Scott White Contemporary at Art Miami, Quint Contemporary at Miami Project and Rancho Santa Fe’s Sergott Contemporary at Red Dot Art Fair

CityBeat caught up with Ben Strauss-Malcolm, Quint's director, last Wednesday for a quick Q&A. Strauss-Malcolm said Quint sold eight pieces opening night, with Mel Bochner and Peter Alexander being "the big favorites." By the time of our interview, he said they'd sold all the Bochner works and placed one of Alexander's pieces with a trustee of MOCA in Los Angeles.  

CityBeat: How do you decide what to bring? 

Ben Strauss-Malcolm: This being the second year of the fair, I had a better understanding of price point, of comfort level, of wanting to present the California Light and Space artists we work with, so we've given them focus in the center of our booth. On our outside walls, we’re doing a presentation of Ryan McGinness, Mel Bochner [and] Kelsey Brookes—bright, bold, colorful works. That was a very conscious decision and something we figured out about four or five months ago. 

We have Gisela Colón, who is our current show at the gallery. We have Adam Belt’s rainbow piece which has been extremely well-received. We have Joey Huppert. I think we brought seven artists total. It’s pretty much on par for what most galleries do when they’re bringing a survey of artists that they represent. 

We like to do our best to bring back some of the same artists we've shown in the past, but also bring a new fresh voice, being that we now represent close to 20 artists. We can’t bring them all at one time. This year we were much more honed in to how we presented them in the booth, which has paid off immensely. 

Ryan McGinness' "Untitled" at the Quint Contemporary booth at Miami Project
Photo by Susan Myrland

Adam Belt's "You Deceived Me and I was Deceived," Quint Contemporary's booth at Miami Project Art
Photo by Susan Myrland

How much does it cost to be here?

A fair this size ranges between $30,000 and $40,000. That’s including staff time, hotel, expenses, dinners—all that jazz. 

Go to any good parties? 

The party I missed last night was FAILE, a collective out of Brooklyn. They did a pop-up arcade where they programmed all the video games. Unfortunately I was so burned out from our opening. I think Lady Gaga is doing something tonight, which I’ll skip. I’ll probably go to the W—they throw a good party—on Saturday night. The cars show—Piston Head: Artists Engage the Automobile—opened last night. Tom Sachs and a number of other artists did custom cars in a parking garage. I’ll make a point to get by and see that. 

Have you seen any local people? 

Yes, [Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Director] Hugh Davies is here with the whole museum group. A number of our collectors are here. I've seen collectors I work with that are in New York, Florida, Mexico City. Pretty much anyone and everyone seems to be here this week, if they have some sort of fascination with art. 

Are there people that you only see at this fair?

Absolutely. A number of collectors in Florida, I’ll never see at the gallery in California. But they make a point to come visit us here. If you do a fair more than one time, you establish yourself in a certain location. We go above and beyond to present the best booth we could possibly present. We often hear really good feedback for it. People know that when they come to the fair they can expect to see a strong presentation from the gallery.

Noticed any trends?

Miami Project seems to be a nice survey of mid-career to well-established artists. The Untitled Fair seems to be much younger, emerging artists. Scope seems to be the youngest emerging. Basel, of course, is your upper, upper tier, blue-chip artists. Pulse is a mix somewhere between Miami Project and Scope, and then Art Miami is a lot of secondary market work. NADA is really good, young, emerging galleries that are putting forth very talented artists. 

People are paying more attention to the Latin American market. It’s becoming less of an emerging market and more of an established market. A good amount of wealth is down there. So certainly more art fairs are happening in Latin America and so the galleries are only getting stronger, presenting better and better work. 

What about trends within Miami Project?

A little heavier on photography than last year. That’s probably the only trend I've noticed.

Anything else interesting that you've seen so far?

At Untitled, there was an Asian artist who was showing with Marc Straus Gallery, Jong Oh. He just got out of graduate school. It had a beautiful kind of Fred Sandback, Robert Irwin-esque feel to it but clearly his own voice and done in a very strong installation. 

Would it help Quint Contemporary if more San Diegans came to Basel?

No. There’s already so many people here. It’s always nice to see familiar faces, but it’s more important, in my mind, for San Diegans to get out and support local galleries than come to Basel. 

Interview edited for length and clarity. The original post was also edited to more accurately reflect Quint Contemporary's sales during the first two days of Miami Project Art Fair.