I Bought This...But What Is It? Art Education in a Modern Age
Throughout every aspect of Superfine! we make no bones about it - our overreaching goal is to promote sustainable art sales for our exhibitors (and for artists and galleries around the world) by highlighting the intrinsic benefits of creating a personal art collection. Does this mean that we're simply a commerce-based platform aimed at commoditizing art in a way that places base-level aesthetics above the narrative, romantic, and emotional qualities of an artwork--not to mention the individual skills the artist has built over their career? Au contraire, my dear! Education is a huge part of what makes Superfine! the fair and the platform that it is, and as our core team's art education continues to grow (education should never cease!) we continue to develop programming aimed at sharing that knowledge, and providing perspective from those who know more than we, with our ever-growing base of collectors and art appreciators.
On a recent afternoon in Coconut Grove at the home gallery of respected veteran art dealer Bernice Steinbaum, over cups of espresso and biscotti, the art world maven shared insight into what initially drove her to become a dealer and how education plays into that role on a daily basis. I'm paraphrasing here (so don't kill me, Bernice!) but essentially the takeaway was that "without an educational component, you're better off being a used car dealer - it's less work and much more lucrative!" Education isn't just part of the job, it IS the job. I took this to heart - what makes art so special is that with each piece comes a story, and the storyteller is such an important piece of the puzzle. We've consistently bucked art world norms by creating space for both independent artists and galleries, dealers, and curatorial collectives within our fairs. One thing, however, remains consistent: we accept only those exhibitors who demonstrate a sense of professionalism and openness to discussing art with our attendees. The people who represent the art at our fair are every bit as much the product of the fair as the art on the walls, and whether they're the artists who've created the work or the dealers representing it, it's so incredibly vital that they provide context and education about the artwork for our attendees. We're creating an experience, not just a marketplace, and what sets us apart is that connection.
I'm not only bigging up Superfine! here - we're certainly an aggregator, but the talent and penchant for art education is all around us. In Miami, we love Laundromat Art Space and the Fountainhead Studio complex, both home to past and current Superfine! exhibitors (you've got to allow me one shameless plug here!) Take the time to visit your local collective art spaces whenever there are open studios (2x/year for Fountainhead and on a regular schedule for Laundromat - follow them on Facebook for more info.) For NYC locals, anything involving the chashama foundation is a good bet. Visit and support galleries that go above and beyond suave and smooth-talking dealers and incorporate an educational component into their program - it will mean all the difference when you buy that incredible piece that will be passed down and treasured throughout generations of your family. When you schedule out your art fair weeks like Armory, Frieze, and Art Basel Miami Beach, maybe skip a party or two, avoid the inevitable hangovers, and instead key in on a few well-positioned panel discussions that affect your outlook on art and its context. We discussed queer artists working within and outside of their comfort zones, starting out as an art collector, and the future of Miami at Superfine! 2016; Superfine! 2017 in NYC will bring conversations about education in art (so meta, no?) as well as panels that contextualize the growing international art scene in the face of Trumpism and a nationalist climate that seems to butt up against what we're all trying to accomplish. Whether it's at Superfine! or not, we want you to take the time to learn about not only the individual artworks you're interested in but about the world you're entering as an art collector. It's an incredibly rewarding journey that we want you to be a part of.
Last but not least, we strongly encourage you to join the Superfine! Collectors' Society. All it takes is a brief 2-3 minute long survey that helps us tailor our year-round programming to your tastes, and you'll be invited to a bevy of fun and educational opportunities to engage with artists and art professionals throughout the year. Our calendar stretches from New York to Miami to Mexico City and involves things like studio tours (we just had a great one with artist Michelle Weinberg in Miami), dinners that are both fun and educational (who knew that was possible?), and opportunities to access museums and institutions in an unconventional way. Simply visit www.superfine.world/collect to take the survey and be a part of something that will help you grow not only as an art collector but as a global citizen.
Happy learning and happy collecting to all of our Superfine! friends, and see you in New York this May!
--Alex Mitow, Director of Superfine! The Fairest Fair