artnet Asks: Nick Korniloff, Art Miami New York Founder

Thoughts on the New York art scene and tips on how to survive an art fair.

Nick Korniloff attends Art Miami. Photo by Dylan Rives/Getty Images for Art Miami.

Nick Korniloff, the mastermind behind Art Miami and other major fairs, will next introduce Art Miami New York (see Art Miami Adds Another New Fair to New York Spring Calendar), an ambitious attempt to definitively break into the New York art fair scene. (Last year, Korniloff tested the waters with the Downtown Fair—see Nick Korniloff Expects Big Returns from Debut of Downtown Fair.)

The inaugural edition will take place on Pier 94 (where the Armory Show Contemporary section usually sets up shop) from May 14—17, concurrent with Frieze New York. It features 100 international contemporary galleries. The group has also hired former Armory Show director Katelijne de Backer as head of its operations (see Former Armory Show Director Will Run New Art Miami New York).

Along with Art Miami New York, Korniloff also presides over Art Miami, Art Wynwood, Art Southampton (see Art Southampton Changes Its Summer 2015 Dates and Location), Aqua Art Miami (see Aqua Offers a Friendlier, Kinder Take on the Art Fair), Art Silicon Valley San Francisco (see Art Silicon Valley Tries, Once More, to Crack the Techie Code), CONTEXT Art Miami, as well as CONTEXT New York, which will debut next Armory Week at Pier 36 on Manhattan’s East Side (see Nick Korniloff Reveals Plans for New Manhattan Art Fair).

artnet News spoke to Korniloff ahead of the new May event, about the art fair market in New York, how he manages eight different fairs, and his tips for navigating an art fair.

As the Art Miami empire expands, what are your goals for the inaugural New York edition?
The goals of Art Miami New York, like all our fairs, are to provide a viable platform for our exhibitors, and to continue to support, preserve, and promote the acquisition of blue chip contemporary and modern art through the gallery system. As an art fair organization our main responsibility is to represent galleries and their artists first. There will also be a very strong B-to-B component for participating galleries with colleagues in the art dealing profession from around the globe.

We want to utilize the international equity that we have built with the collector and art professional community to complement the major contemporary and postwar spring auctions and other art fairs in New York this May. Our goal is for Art Miami New York to develop internationally as a must-attend destination fair for those interested in acquiring the best works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries.

What can we expect at the fair?
Unlike the major auctions, where important works seem unobtainable and are scheduled during the same time period, our collectors have the distinct advantage to be able to carefully study the works they are interested in. There isn’t the pressure of split-second upward bidding by dozens of other aggressively hopeful buyers willing to pay a commission on top of the selling price at the same time. At the fair, one does have the advantage of being able to make careful decisions, be educated, develop long-term relations with an art dealer and artist without the pressure of the hammer preempting the sale. That’s not to say that distinctive works don’t sell in the first hour of the VIP opening, but it’s clearly less stressful!

We are proud that we are still the only major art fair in the marketplace during the month of May that has a strong mix of fresh secondary market works by artists, integrated alongside previously unseen primary works by emergent to mid-career cutting-edge talent from leading galleries from around the globe. It’s a formula that works very well for us.  Now that our location is so close to the newly opened Whitney Museum, and many of our dealers are showing works by artists in the permanent collection of the Whitney, it will be an interesting opportunity to compare and examine similarities of panache and evolution of style.

At the helm of Art Miami, Aqua, CONTEXT, and others, how do you manage fairs with such different aesthetics and characters?
We have directors for each of the eight fairs that we operate. Each director is the creative force behind their show. I oversee the strategy and vision for all our fairs, dedicating a large part of my time to developing the look and feel and purpose for each show. Every fair that we organize has its own distinct personality and strategy that matches that particular communities social and cultural interests. We’re a bit like matchmakers—it is our responsibility to drive the correct audience, and create the ambiance and amenities that is reflective of our intended audience at each fair.

Which artists are you most excited about for Art Miami New York?
We are particularly excited about works by Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud, Gerhard Richter, and Cy Twombly, and over two dozen galleries are showing distinctive works by Warhol. In addition, we have some pretty extraordinary pieces by artists who just opened at the nearby inaugural Whitney show, such as Elizabeth Murray, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder, John Chamberlain, Willem de Kooning, Yayoi Kusama, Sol LeWitt, Nam June Paik, Claes Oldenburg, Frank Stella (the subject of the Whitney’s upcoming first solo show in their new building), along with the late, great Robert Rauschenberg.

How would you describe the market in New York for art fairs
As the art fair calendar has become much more saturated with important international fairs, New York remains a top choice. The fairs in March offer international galleries with regional attendance. May’s fairs really have a great opportunity to be the most important week for the arts in New York when you consider the critical mass of international people descending on the city for the fairs, major auctions, gallery and museum openings. The weather pattern and mood in May is clearly better, and internationally the time frame offers a better buying cycle as we enter the second fiscal quarter and tax season has ended. This piques the attention of collectors.

In what ways do you feel Art Miami NY complements the Frieze Art Fair?
We are two distinct fairs, and in that way we really do complement each other. Frieze is clearly more international and often saturated with conceptual works with a distinctively European flavor. We seem to offer more homegrown works by American artists and that of blue chip secondary market works from around the world.  I think that each fair has its own turf and distinct personality, which also logically promotes and emphasizes our differences.

Can you offer tips for navigating an art fair?
Do not be afraid to ask questions to the gallerists; they are very approachable and want to service all attendees. The art market can be intimidating as it is fast changing and global. Questions are important as are a good pair of comfortable shoes!

What does your art schedule look like for the summer?
When you are managing eight separate art fairs around the country, coast to coast and north and south, you need to keep substantially ahead of an ambitious schedule by six months or more.

I constantly travel during the summer from one planned venue to another, meeting and greeting future participants and keeping my ear to the ground and nose to the grindstone. Believe it or not, it’s a very exciting and satisfying occupation, full of discovery and hard work that keeps one on their toes while you keep your eyes open for opportunities that match your master plan.

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