The Millennial-Minded Fair Superfine! Aims to Bring Art for Everyone This Year in Miami

This week, the upstart fair opens its fourth Miami edition—and its first on the beach.

Heidi Horowitz, Gainers and Losers (2018). Courtesy of Superfine!

When Superfine! held its first-ever fair in downtown Miami, its founders (and real-life partners) Alex Mitow and James Miille hung a sign near the entrance that read “This is not South Beach.” A symbol of their chip-on-their-shoulder attitude, the sign conveyed to visitors that Superfine! wasn’t Art Basel or any of the other “big box fairs” on the beach. It was its own thing.

Four years and a tremendous amount of growth later, Superfine! is returning to Miami for its fourth edition. And this time—ironically—they’re on South Beach themselves.

“We know what Miami has become,” Mitow tells artnet. “On one hand, it’s a high-end event with investment art and million-dollar pieces. On the other hand, it’s a bunch of people going out to party because there’s an excuse for it. I have friends on Instagram who are like, ‘Look at all my VIP passes.’ I think, ‘Okay, you’ve gone for five years, but you’ve never purchased anything.’”

An onlooker at Superfine! DC, 2018. Courtesy of Superfine!

“That’s where we come in,” he says. “We’re trying to drive a wedge into the middle of those two hands. By moving to the beach, we’re really going to the belly of the beast. We’re taking this model that we’ve spread to New York and D.C. and we’re going straight to the center of the action in our hometown.”

This year’s edition of Superfine! Miami, held at the island’s Art Deco Welcome Center, features 45 booths from galleries and artists around the country, as well as a robust program of social events, panel discussions, and tours. The fair has also partnered up with Art Gaysel, “the gayest fair” in Miami, for a special presentation of work by LGBT artists.

In true Superfine! fashion, this month’s fair kicks off with a Twilight vernissage preview on December 5, where artists and musicians will be performing, and champagne topped with cotton-candy will be served.

Leah Guzman, Enlightened by the Storm (2018). Courtesy of Superfine!

One needn’t look past the cotton-candy-lined chutes of champagne to realize that Superfine! is much different from the Art Basels of the world, and the fair has gained a great deal of traction in that identity alone. But it has also seen particular success in the millennial market, an area that many of the big box fairs are still trying to harness.

The art market has long struggled to win the attention of millennials, a generation that has less money at this point in their careers than previous generations, that prefers to buy experiences over objects, and that generates more traffic on websites than in galleries.

Superfine!, with its transparent approach to money and lack of pretension, counts this generation as one of the biggest sections of its audience. Unabashed about their goal to build collectors out of people who think they can’t afford art, Mitow and Miille have struck a chord with younger fair goers, meeting them on their own financial terms.

“Most young people just look at a price tag and they’re like, ‘Can’t do it,’” says Mitow. “But there are so many ways to pay that money.”

Paul Becker, CEO and founder of Art Money, speaking at the “Art Over Avocado Toast: How to Build a Great Collection on a Millennial’s Budget” panel discussion in Washington, D.C., 2018.

At its inaugural fair in Washington, D.C. earlier this year—which proved to be the most successful Superfine! venture yet—Mitow moderated a panel called “Art Over Avocado Toast: How to Build a Great Collection on a Millennial’s Budget.” The idea was born from a simple anecdote: “An Avocado Toast costs $15,” Mitow says. “If you forgo 10 of those a month or a year, you have $150 dollars. That’s enough to buy an amazing painting.”

On the panel with Mitow was Paul Becker, CEO and founder of Art Money, an Australian company that offers interest-free payment plans for buying art. Superfine! has been working with Art Money for several events now.

“I see an art ‘market’ that is broken and inefficient—especially at the foundation level where most buyers, artists, and galleries live,” said Becker in a recent interview with Superfine! “I believe we can increase demand and bring on the next generation of collectors by making it easier for people to engage and buy art on the one hand, and for artists and galleries to sell it on the other. A win-win.”

Brianne Lanigan, Where We Go To Lose All Meaning And Begin Again (2017). Courtesy of Superfine!

So far, the Superfine! methods are working. While major fairs draw much larger attendance numbers, the number of transactions is often very low—maybe as few as 1 percent of visitors actually make a purchase. Superfine! sees 15-20 percent of its attendees come away with art for their homes.

Now, as the upstart fair settles among its competitors on the beach, we’ll see if it can continue cornering this coveted sector of the art world.

This year, when you walk into Superfine! Miami, you’ll see a new sign. It reads: “Make art yours.”

Superfine! Miami opens Wednesday, December 5 at 1001 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, and will be on view through December 9, 2018.

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