MEXICO CITY'S ZONA MACO IS THE ONE ART FAIR EVERYONE SHOULD ATTEND
Mexico City has always been one of my favorite cities in the world. The vibrant energy, culture, art, and history of its people never fail to excite me. As I, and much of the art world, head to Zona Maco, one of the most prestigious and highest-attended international art fairs worldwide, it prompts me to reflect on the importance of this event, in this place.
I attend not only the contemporary art iteration of Zona Maco in February, but also the photo edition in September. With each trip, I make sure to find time to visit the studios and homes of Mexican art collectors and artists. And I always carve out some room to explore many of the unique cultural and artistic happenings around Mexico City. This is a place filled with indigenous, European and Asian cultures meshing together and bringing to life what is best in all of us: social commentaries on what ails us and makes us human; discourses on personal and civil ethics; and the bubbling of ideas rooted in resistance from around the world.
So much of the world sometimes seems to be held hostage by politics surrounding nationalism, migration, economics and the environment. As developed countries find new ways to adapt to a changing world, we can take refuge in the idea that art has always been an agent of change. The art world is not immune from these issues. Indeed, it can serve as a medium for connection, healing and self-realization by creating potential solutions to many of the things that hurt us.
Zona Maco moves me. This is in part because it brings together the art and people of this ancient country, situated at the heart of the Aztec pyramids and empire, and also because it creates a nexus of old and modern art not seen anywhere else in North America.
Well before Europeans even knew about the existence of the North American continent or before our national experiment in democracy ever began, the empires of the Maya, Aztec, and Olmec’s thrived. We see this in the faces and ways of modern Mexico—with 69 recognized languages spoken at any given time. It is a rich and vibrant culture. Because of politics or oversimplified negative perceptions, too often we forget how much our neighbors to the south have to offer—a powerhouse of culture and dynamism, already known throughout Latin America but still elusive within the consciousness of our American psyche. Every six months Zona Maco offers us the opportunity to edge a bit closer to a consciousness that I hope will help create a unifying vision of a North American region that is vibrant, inclusive and open to a future that embraces and respects its people and its past.
When I see a portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, I see beautiful art but also the faces of the Mexican women who have touched my life both personally and through their artwork. Today we celebrate Frida Kahlo as a modern feminist of sorts, but her life and paintings were a celebration of Mexican culture down to its indigenous roots. When I see Frida, I see resistance. I see strength. I see my mother. I see my sister’s face. I see countless of indigenous female faces. I see women who have made it their mission to create a modern Mexico and a forward-thinking world. There is an electric energy that takes hold in Mexico City in the shadows of its pyramids and its high-rises during the fair. In Zona Maco you can see and feel art history in its totality—both old and new art—and art yet to be discovered and embraced.
As I get ready to visit Mexico City, I prepare to make my annual pilgrimage to the pyramids in Teotihuacan. This pilgrimage serves as an exercise in becoming grounded and reflective about things that matter in my life and a way of connecting with the universal aspects of our humanity and heritage. Ancient, old, and contemporary art have a common stream that influences each of us on a daily basis and that is deeply rooted within us. Mexico and the United States have a complex relationship, but yet we have more positive things that bring us together than negative things that divide us. I envision a unified people in which old and current conflicts are buried and where we look to art and culture to create a better vision of our future selves. We are, after all, destined to live side by side until the end of time. When I come to Zona Maco, I see the seeds of a better and united future being planted.
This piece originally appeared on Observer.com.
THE SECRET TO SUCCESS COULD LIE IN
THE TYPE OF ART YOU COLLECT
Autumn has always been one of my favorite seasons of the year, especially in New York City. The holidays are on the horizon and the crisp days remind me that all things are renewed in the fall. This is always one of the busiest times in the art world: fairs are bustling in Europe while in the United States and Mexico people gear-up for their upcoming spring arts events. During this time of the year, I often reflect not just about the general trajectory of the art world but also about life in general. Art, after all, provides us with chronological records of periods in human history and contemplative windows into how broader humanity has been experienced and lived in different lifetimes. Certain seasons speak to us more than others because they complement the rhythms of our lives—the music compositions we make of our ourselves just by the mere act of living and the narratives we create, tell, and communicate from how we see and define ourselves. Art plays a role because it gives us permission to daydream about the future, envisioning the person we’re striving to be.
It is important to ask ourselves about the art we choose to live and surround ourselves with: Is the art you live with a reflection who you are today or does it best reflect the person you were yesterday or a long time ago? Does the art you currently live with represent the person you aspire to be? If it is who you are today—then it will reinforce your current situation and will help to keep you there. If it is who you were, but no longer want to be, it will weigh you down and become another heavy bag of a past long gone that you have not let go. And finally, if the art that you surround yourself with reflects who you aspire to be, then the art you are living with will help to reinforce that person you desire to become and in the process elevate you to that better vision of yourself.
A reason why F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby resonates so much in the American psyche is because it represents a piece of cultural narrative of what it means to be an American, that is, the idea that we can reinvent ourselves again and again and again. Similar to this literary masterpiece, other American Art, particularly Contemporary American Art, is a raw representation of what we project personally and socially onto the idea of America, and which moves us to imagine something more for ourselves. Art gives us permission to strive for and achieve something higher. It allows us to imagine that there is something unique, special, and powerful in each of us. For example, when Ralph Lauren was asked to share his thoughts about his fashion label, he simply replied by saying that he does design clothes, but that he designed dreams. In other words, he sells wearable art pieces that are aspirational, that is, pieces that allow the persons wearing it to experience being the person they aspire to be. The tweed jacket and the linen dress, just like a Picasso, represent much more than the canvas or material that make up the pieces. If done right, this wearable art represents your potential, the vision of who you are or can become. The first step to reaching a higher self is to attain a sincere and true belief that it is possible—it is arguably this same belief of the American Dream that has allowed so many to succeed. There is power in that simple and profound truth—mountains and feats at unimaginable levels suddenly become attainable realities.
Ideals drive much of what we do in business and our own personal lives. It is ultimately these ideals that come to define and enable us to reach our goals both materially and spiritually. These ideals allow us to continue on despite the forces around us that seek to consume us. The key to success, happiness, and living a fulfilling life is to nurture the idealistic part within us. That part that so much of modern life has relegated to second-class status. Art has always been an expression of these ideals, of who we are or would like to be as individuals and collectively as people. Art is also a tool and marker to be used for our benefit when dealing with blessings and challenges in life: births, heartaches, unions, breakups, losses, illnesses, deaths, mortality, and even long-lasting legacies of ourselves and for our loved ones. Throughout life, we are confronted with situations and stages that serve to prepare us for the bigger challenges we are all destined to face. This is why I choose to surround myself with art that helps me understand my place in the world and to cope with the existential reality many of us have been taught to avoid in our modern life. Art has power and it seeks to transform. If art is incorporated well into your life, then it can serve to enrich your life’s journey.
As I bundle up to walk out and start daily life, the coldness of fall reminds me of the existential journey that life confronts us all with. I believe part of the mission in life is to create spaces that authentically reflect who each of us is or who we aim to be. This is why incorporating art into all aspects of life—in the office, classroom, and home—is an opportunity to turn seemingly mundane experiences into enriching and empowering moments—ones that can elevate us both materially and spiritually. Joseph Campbell says it best when he writes, “the goal in life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.” Art in all its melodious mysteries gets us there both personally and collectively.
This piece originally appeared on Observer.com.
IN DEFENSE OF FASHION AS A TRUE ART FORM
Fashion is a perfect marriage of creativity,
communication, and utility
Alexander McQueen’s 2011 Savage Beauty show galvanized and highlighted the often forgotten conception of fashion as legitimate art. McQueen was an artist and an icon in every sense of the word. His works touched parts of the human soul only previously reached by master painters. He integrated spirit and energy in his creations in such a way that the persons wearing his pieces became living expressions of art.
Vogue editor in chief and fashion icon Anna Wintour has also blended art and fashion in recent years. She helped integrate costume design as part of the permanent art collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through her involvement at the museum, Wintour is contributing to the legitimization of fashion as fine art—museum quality art.
Historically, fashion has rarely been elevated to the same stature as painting, music, sculpture or architecture. But fashion is one of the purest expressions of art because it is art lived on a daily basis. One needs only to think about pioneer performer Marina Abramović and the way in which she engages the viewer to become part of her work to realize the connection. In her 2010 The Artist is PresentMoMa exhibit, Abramović asked the viewer to sit silently across from her and stare at each other for as long as the viewer wanted to look and be looked at.
Just like in Abramović’s performance art, the fashion designer creates artwork that needs another person for its completion. Fashion only exists as long as there is an actor to incarnate it. In that way, it is performance art. The person wearing the designed piece is having a conversation with the designer and an audience. He or she becomes an artist and a full participant. Fashion is a manifestation of human art and communication. It helps us artistically communicate who we are, who we want to be, where we are going, and where we have been.
The convergence of art and fashion is symbiotic. Everything that exists and surrounds us is a product of the society we live in. Who we are, what we see, and what we experience is interconnected and interrelated. There is no place we can point to and say that this or that object does not belong to the sphere of art. One can tell as much about a culture by the paintings it produces as by the dresses and articles of clothing it uses for individual and collective expression. We now buy canvases and textiles to paint and create. By combining different mediums to make art, we are better able to transcend our lives and in the process connect to the essence and universality of who we are.
Art should not be seen as a luxury. It is an essential element to a fulfilling life. When any of my collectors goes through a major life change, such as a divorce or embarking on a new career, I often suggest changing their art and clothing. Oftentimes we overlook this critical piece in our own self-development. The art we choose for ourselves and our physical living environment can serve as an important tool to re-imagine and rebuild our sense of being.
All art is imbued with the energy and passion an artist breathes into it. A painting has power. A properly-made tweed jacket has power. Their energy can help us realize our physical and emotional goals and desires. Many of my collectors have found that the art they wear and surround themselves with affects not just their bottom line in business or work but also their own sense of wellness and happiness.
The art we wear and live with is the art we become. Art—fashion and otherwise—reflects who we are and who we aspire to be.
This piece originally appeared on Observer.com.
WHAT DOES BUYING ART HAVE TO DO
WITH ORGANIC PRODUCE? A LOT.
We've created a market in which simple
acts are now experiences
For decades, art galleries brought visitors exhibits and artists that riveted and radically transformed the trajectory of our cultural and national narratives. While we would generally go to museums to see historical art, galleries offered the new, interesting and avant-garde. They were the places where we connected with artists and like-minded people.
A lot has changed. Adult overnight sleepovers are taking place at museums like The Rubin and American Museum of Natural History. MoMA, Guggenheim and Brooklyn Museum have late-night parties with DJs and are attracting new artists and collectors through collaborative art projects. Ironically, as if in a reversal of roles, many art galleries now act like museums did in the past. Their spaces now feel sterile and out of touch. For a time now, galleries have abided by the corporate business model, creating a corporatized art-buying experience.
But the real issue facing art galleries today is this: Does the corporate model that has satisfied cultured people for decades still provide fulfillment? How can the art industry adapt to a consumer society in which everything is being turned into an event?
I often think about organic health food stores and how these places have convinced us to purchase what I personally consider to be overpriced produce. They are able to do this because they have transformed the simple and uneventful act of purchasing, for example, an apple into an experience. When I go to a health food store, the architecture and manufactured environment reaffirm my view of myself as someone who is healthy and supports the organic movement, sustainability and fair trade—despite the fact that, based on my level of consumption and overall choices outside of food, the reality is most likely the opposite. We have created a situation in which the simple act of buying an apple is an experience. How much more different should the act of buying art be?
This is to say nothing of the digital and virtual experience. We are seeing this in retail. Today more and more people don’t have the time or need to physically go to a store. Online shopping is competing with brick and mortar, causing headaches to many in commercial real estate. Galleries are trying to adapt and understand how this new reality will affect the buying and selling of art. Social media is certainly dominating today’s art world and online sites like Artnet and Artsy have become leaders in marketing and moving art. The reality is that galleries as we know them are rapidly changing. People are demanding not just a place to see art, but a place to experience and to be art. They want a heightened connection with new and old friends. Ironically, much of the way galleries were decades ago is what’s needed now. And this is not about nostalgia. It’s about something new. Too many people have consumed for the sake of consumption and are now looking for something more. Health food grocers and other merchants caught onto this, and gallerists are catching on now as well.
Even the definition of “art gallery” is evolving. Traditionally, art galleries are stationed in one location all year around. Now, some are starting to embrace a nomadic existence, becoming digitally-based while running pop-up exhibitions and doing annual art fairs throughout the world. Small galleries can still survive by capitalizing on their niche and by providing unique, personalized experiences for artists and sophisticated art collectors by daring to be playful, innovative and authentic.
The art world is transforming. Market forces and lifestyle changes are fundamentally reshaping what consumers expect. In many ways, artists are leading the movement, but many gallerists are slow to catch on. Perhaps it’s because the changes are happening too fast and change doesn’t come naturally to those who have thrived on a rigid corporate business model. Gallerists today have to be as creative as the artists they represent. Many contemporary artists are creating works of art that are experiential and that reflect the daily reality of people as individuals and a society. In the process they are also creating transformation through words—the spoken and unspoken commentaries of their art. I see gallerists and art dealers working in the same fashion: They create art-buying experiences through curation, innovative use of technology, and the incorporation of performance art. If in today’s world we have turned the simple act of buying produce into an experience, then surely the ultimate experience should come from buying something as important and personal as art.
One thing is certain: Art galleries as we know them will change. The personality of the gallerist, the gallery’s artistic community, and curatorial experiences will help govern the trajectory of the small to midsize gallery. The old saying “nothing is certain in life but change” is certainly true for the modern art gallery.
This piece originally appeared on Observer.com.
THE ART OF INVESTING IN ART:
HOW TO KNOW WORK WILL BLOSSOM OR FLOP
An artist’s representation greatly impacts your ROI
Collectors often wonder how to differentiate between an emerging artist that holds long-term promise as an investment and an emerging artist that may fade away. In the art market, there is no silver bullet that guarantees an artist is going to be a good investment. However, here are a few practical measures that will increase the probability that pieces you buy at a premium don’t end up in a garage sale selling for cents on the dollar.
Pick art you love—every piece you purchase should pass this fundamental test. Once you decide on a style or piece that appeals to you, examine a few key factors to determine if it will appeal to your investment portfolio as well.
Exclusive or Open Relationship
Is the artist showing in multiple galleries or venues throughout the city or does the artist have exclusive representation? Does the artist have an agent or someone who is fully committed to his or her development? Ideally, although not always necessary, the artist should have obtained exclusive representation.
Art galleries generally will only dedicate time and resources to artists who have exclusive representation with them. If there is exclusive representation, then you know there’s a two-way commitment between the gallery and the artist. This increases the chances that the gallery is actually devoted to growing and selling the artist's work.
Type of Exclusive Relationship
What type of gallery represents the artist? Is the gallery more focused on selling inventory or in working hand-in-hand with the artist? You can discern this by learning how many artists a gallery has. Art galleries can’t feasibly provide individualized attention to many artists simultaneously. There will be an obvious detachment from the artist and a greater focus on inventory if a small gallery is working with 30 or 40 artists.
Who else does the gallery represent and where does the artist fall within that list? Is it mainly emerging artists? If so, what’s the gallery’s track record for nurturing and growing winners? If the gallery represents a mix of artists, does the gallery pair its emerging artists with more established ones? When a gallery actively engages with its artists and creates and promotes a community, the emerging artist benefits from having his or her name associated with more recognizable ones. This will also enable them to network and receive support from more established artists. Finally, is the gallery more focused on local happenings or does it have a global reach? You want a gallery that’s committed to the development of the artist and that puts emphasis on expanding relationships critical to the artist’s development and success.
Have any pieces by the artist been acquired by museums or noteworthy private collections? Major successes like these solidify the artist’s standing and stabilize the price of his or her artwork. Many variables play into this, but there is something to be said about purchasing art from an artist that has gone through the acquisition process.
The age of the artist helps to determine a piece’s investment value. There is a lot of worth in the aging emerging artist, including quality of the work, individual artistic development, sociocultural relevance and aesthetic power. However, an artist in his 70s or 80s who isn’t in a major museum or lacks representation by a gallery may not have the time or resources to fully exploit the shifting trends of the current art market to his or her advantage. Although, thankfully, there are always exceptions to this.
Investigate a gallery or agent and see if they are genuinely committed to the development of the artist. Throughout history, art dealers and gallerists have been instrumental in bringing into prominence artists that may have otherwise stayed in relative obscurity. Without this important component, all bets are off.
This piece originally appeared on Observer.com.