My Night with Fredric Snitzer
Last night I went to this uber-cool artist space called Locust Projects in Miami’s Winwood Art District. They hosted a lecture, “Art Collecting 101” with an impressive enough group of panelists that I was willing to drive the hour down to Miami during rush hour on a work night – and believe me, that takes a lot.
The main reason I went was an insatiable curiosity about gallery owner Fredric Snitzer. He’s sort of notorious down here in the art world as being an either-you-love-him-or-you-hate-him kinda guy. I think most of the jeers are driven by jealousy, as the Fredric Snitzer Gallery is world renowned and he’s on the Art Basel Miami selection committee. And, even though the fair is located in Miami, there are only four South Florida galleries participating (And by participating I mean selected to participate. Galleries don’t choose Basel, Basel chooses them). So unselected local gallerists need someone to vent their misdirected anger at.
I grew up in the New York art world and there were so many legendary gallerist-characters – Mary Boone, Richard Feigen, Gracie Mansion, Leo Castelli (before he passed, I’d see him walking on the NYC street every now and then. He was sooooo elegant). I miss that scene and its icons. I was sort of hoping to find the same here and, you know, it’s different, but I think it’s equally exciting. I was really impressed by the crowd last nite. It felt like home.
And Fredric Snitzer didn’t disappoint. He was a straightforward, assured guy who made a lot of sense with his comments – mostly that although there are terrific smaller shows surrounding Art Basel, don’t be intimidated by – or miss -the main attraction. The other panelists were pretty good, too. My second favorite was the woman who represents Christie’s in South Florida, Vivian Pfeiffer. Then there was Art Adviser, Lisa Austin, and a pretty interesting big-time collector who moderated, Dennis Scholl.
Scholl really reinforced the mentality that drives art as a commodity, especially when he said he doesn’t like dealing with artists directly because they’re “crazy.” That was sort of funny because the room was full of artists, many of whom had donated work to Locust Projects for their upcoming fundraising gala with a super-funky name, Smash and Grab. I kinda thought back to my own experiences in the art world and remembered that everyone is crazy in the art world and artists are actually, in my experience, the least crazy of the bunch. I love artists. Give me a crazy artist any day of the week. They’re much less cuthroat then the rest of the mafioso-like Art World.
In anticipation of Smash and Grab, the walls were full of original artwork by some pretty renowned artists. One by Jen Stark caught my eye. But my favorite was a large set of side-by-side photos by Zachary Balber of an elderly couple in a diner staring blankly at each other alongside a Corona ad with a tagline about “separation anxiety.” (Update: by sheer coincidence I found myself talking to Balber on the phone the other day and asked if he’d send me this image to include here).
The Smash and Grab fundraiser sounds really cool, too. I like the concept, which I’ve never heard of before. I’ve attended events where donated artwork of a pretty decent value is auctioned. They did this a lot at my college, Purchase, and there’d be great deals on works by pretty significant artists. But at the Smash and Grab everyone pays something like $500 and they pull names out of a hat (actually Dennis Scholl said he’ll be the one doing this) and the first people chosen get their picks and so on until everything is gone.
Alright, so admittedly, this wasn’t an actual night with Fredric Snitzer, but this title was less obtrusive than my original thought, which was to call it my “My One Night Stand with Fredric Snitzer.” If it got your attention enough to plug Locust Projects, which is just a terrific organization devoted to artists, then I’ve succeeded without shame.