From Chicago to Miami. A gallerist journal to an international art fair (Part 1)

This year, my gallery (33 Contemporary Gallery) is returning to Miami to participate in an international art fair during Art Basel Week. Therefore, I have decided to document my experience in order to give a behind the scenes look to those who may be curious or may one day join in the art fair business. It would have been helpful for me to have a better idea the first time around. So here is my first of a few posts. I will be happy to take you along. Enjoy!!!

Well, before I start my daily report, here is the process of how I got to here, three days before I take my plane from Chicago to Miami.

The very first thing to do is decide to participate and then spend time finding the right art fair for you as an artist or gallery. This year, I counted 22 art fairs taking place in Miami during December’s Art Basel Week. That means that there are many options. Each fair is different and they all have a particular focus and booth price. Finding the one that fits your needs takes time. Most applications are due in May of the current art fair year (for Art Basel week).

Once you find what seems to be a good fit, you need to apply. Most fairs have a selection committee. Although I found that art fair directors and curators also may invite you to participate if they like what you show in your gallery. That is a good position to be in because it makes it a whole lot easier to get in a particular fair. However, you have to be careful. Not every fair may be as good as it says it will be in the website. Do your homework and ask around. Before I participated in Miami art fairs, I took the time to go as an observer and visit all the fairs. I spent time making connections. Networking goes a long way. Also, keep in mind that applications cost money. Around $200+ per application fee. Most of the time non-refundable.

Once you have been accepted in a particular Miami fair, it is time to set up a timeline. Deadlines will be coming and going. You need to be organized or you will miss important deadlines from the art fair. In most cases, the fair will send you an Exhibitor Kit with all their deadlines and important info. Mark them in your calendar and be ready to deliver.

After the fair selection comes the artists and artworks selection. Looking at your artists and figuring out which ones are ready for an art fair is part of the process. It is very difficult to predict what is going to sell in the fair. At some point you have to come up with a list of artists or maybe a single artist presentation may be the choice.

In early June, I started working with my selection of artists. It took me the entire summer time to have a final list. Once that was settled, it was time to start working on a press release announcement. The press lets my current gallery followers and collectors know we are going to Miami and also which artists are coming along. You can read my press release for this year right here. We also send our Press Release to a number of Miami media outlets.

33 Contemporary Gallery at ArtSpot Miami International Art Fair 2013
33 Contemporary Gallery at ArtSpot Miami International Art Fair 2013

Some of the artists I am working with this year, were doing fresh new work for the fair. We met a few times to plan ahead and talk about sizes of work and logistics. Before you know it, you have a pretty good view of what is coming along with you.

Next comes the booth layout. You have to figure out the layout of the booth depending on the size of booth you have purchased. Things to consider are the expected flow of the crowd as they pass along your booth. Are you at a corner or middle isle? I personally enjoy thinking about the layout and configuration of the walls. Most booths come with only one or two walls depending on location within the fair. Everything else, comes at a juicy cost. Expect to pay about $75 to $100 per liner foot of wall that you add to your booth. About $100 for each electrical outlet, should you require one and about $300 for a door if you have a closet. Each booth comes with a minimum number of lights. Each additional light comes to about a $100 a pop. Yea, by the time you create your dream booth you end up with a few thousand dollars over the booth price you were expecting to pay. Plan ahead for that.

And don’t leave transportation of the artwork to the end. Start early thinking about how you are going to get your artwork over to the fair. I personally recommend using a professional transportation service. It puts the liability in the hands of the professionals. I have been using Aaron’s Reliable Movers. They are an art moving company based in Chicago. They come a couple weeks before the fair to get the work and deliver it to my art fair at the set delivery time. They will load and unload the truck and have it all ready for me to unpack inside the booth. It’s a great door to door service that I don’t have to worry about once it is in their hands.

Make your hotel accommodations way ahead of time if you want the best rates. When it comes to Miami Art Basel Week, things get filled up really fast. I personally enjoy So far, nothing but great things wherever we travel.

Along the way, there will be a number of forms to fill out such as insurance forms, badges, signage, delivery, taxes, booth layout, etc. You have to keep up with the deadlines as they come. If you have questions, contact the fair right away. With all the money you are paying, you deserve good customer care.

A couple weeks before the fair, I push another press release. This time, it is more complete with current information on each artist and their works. I also increase my coverage of social media and send eblasts to my list. Since I have been in Miami before, I send an updated eblast to all the contacts we made the previous year.

In my next post, I will talk about the last minute preparations before taking off to Miami. Then, I will report each day about my daily experience. Cheers and see you in my next post…

Installing our booth, 2013
Installing our booth, 2013




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