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Director Katelijne de Backer on The Launch of Art Miami New York

By Katy Donoghue

May 13, 2015

This week will see the launch of Art Miami New York, a fair taking place on Pier 94 to coincide with Frieze New York. Katelijne de Backer, no stranger to the art fair world, is the fair’s director, and earlier this spring we got the chance to ask her a few questions about the first edition of the new fair which opens tomorrow.

WHITEWALL: You were the director of The Armory Show for 12 years, have worked as director of exhibitor relations at SCOPE, and now are the director of Art Miami New York. So you’ve been involved with art fairs for quite some time! How have you seen the role of the art fair director evolve since you first started working around art fairs?

KATELIJNE DE BACKER: When I started working for The Armory Show, there were not that many art fairs and there was definitely no textbook on how to run an art fair. Together with the founders, Pat Hearn, Collin de Land, Paul Morris & Matthew Marks; who were all art dealers. We produced a fair that was fun and bohemian. The organization improved over the years and many components were added (collaborations with local collectors, art institutions, artist studios, foreign consulates, etc.) Currently the art fair director will also help with the curation of the fair, making sure that the fair stays true to its mission.

WW: You brought the Armory Show to the piers in 2001. Why do you think Pier 94 will be a good location for Art Miami New York?

KdB: There are not that many venues that are big enough and suitable for an art fair in New York City, and it was our goal to stay in Manhattan. One could opt for a convention center like the Javits Center, but I always felt it looks sterile and not “typical New York.” The Piers on the Hudson River have a New York industrial feel that many visitors, and especially the out-of-towners, appreciate. To bring contemporary art inside makes sense to me. Of course Art Miami New York will feel different than The Armory Show. We will use a different layout and bring a fresh alternative to acquire important never-before-exhibited works from both the primary and secondary markets in an intimate light. And yes, the sun will shine!

WW: In a recent piece about the launch of Art Miami New York during the timing of Frieze New York in May, you said that it was good for the city to offer different sorts of fairs. How would you describe Art Miami New York in relation to other fairs taking place around the same time?

KdB: Art Miami New York will stay true to its identity and continue the rich tradition of what it does in Miami. We want to continue for New York City to be the cultural destination, and the art fairs taking place during that May weekend should not compete but complement. Art Miami New York will have a strong focus and representation of emergent talent, as well as mid-career cutting-edge artists, anchored by a fresh selection of blue-chip secondary market works by top name artists from the Modern & Post-War eras.

WW: Institutional relationships are always an important part of establishing a fair, especially around the launch of a new one. Does Art Miami New York have any partnerships with New York cultural institutions?

KdB: Yes, we are working with a number of institutions, and for the first year we really wanted to focus on producing an excellent fair. For example at this inaugural edition, Children’s Museum Of The Arts will provide hands-on art programming on-site for children ages 4-14. Young artists will be introduced to various art-making techniques while their parents visit Art Miami New York. No Longer Empty presents The Everywhere Exotic, curated by Tam Gryn and Alejandra Esayag. This installation features a selection of recent work by artists based in New York City and deals with the outstanding impact immigration has on an individual’s nationalist identity. One Art Nation Art Symposium will bring together leading opinion leaders and industry experts to speak on a range of topics, covering everything from the current structure of the art market to talks on succession planning, integrated art education programs and art appraisal.

WW: In terms of galleries represented at the fair – what was the selection process? How many galleries will be a part of that fair? Were you looking for a particular number of galleries to create a particular atmosphere?

KdB: Together with an Advisory Committee we selected around 100 galleries. This is the perfect number for Pier 94. We did not want the fair to be over-crowded, but give breathing room and space so our visitors could have a comfortable experience. It was also encouraging—but not surprising—to see that more than half of the selected galleries participate in the Miami edition. To get the support of these galleries shows that they know our organization delivers.

Art Miami New York is on view tomorrow through Sunday, May 17.

Art Miami New YorkFrieze New YorkKatelijne de BackerKaty DonoghueThe Armory ShowWhitewallWhitewaller


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