A view inside the busy opening day of NADA Miami 2018. Photo by Tim Schneider.
It’s undeniable that the gallery sector is a different place in December 2018 than it was in January. Throughout this year, galleries worldwide have shuttered, dealers have vocalized their mounting discontent with the hamster-wheel art-fair system, and a small number of top-tier galleries have continued to hoover up a growing number of prominent artists and estates.
Art Basel Miami Beach’s heavy hitters ended the year with a largely status-quo vibe—but then they also happen to represent the extreme top end of the market. Do their emerging-market counterparts at NADA Miami share the general sense of stability? Day one of the fair was a natural opportunity to find out.
At first blush, the stresses of the so-called “gallery crisis” seemed remote during NADA Miami’s opening hours. The aisles were packed with fairgoers, and early sales came in at a fast clip for many of the 106 dealers.
By the end of the day, for example, Chicago gallery Shane Campbell had sold six drawings by Elliott Hundley ($2,700 each) and a sleek blue abstract painting by Anthony Pearson ($30,000), among other works. New York dealer Rachel Uffner sold a number of charming, unvarnished ceramics by Joanne Greenbaum priced between $5,000 and $8,000, as well as several photo-on-glass works by Sara Greenberger Rafferty for $7,000 each.
But after consulting with about a dozen dealers at the fair, it became clear that the veneer of positivity inside the booths came either despite, or perhaps because, the shifting sands of the industry had compelled several sellers to make major changes to their business models in the preceding 12 months.
Those changes took a variety of forms. Yet individually and collectively, the actions speak to the fact that many smaller dealers have given up on the idea that art fairs and short-term gallery-share initiatives like Condo would be enough to keep them ahead of the hurricane for much longer. Something bigger is afoot.
And since one of the primary factors separating NADA members from their blue-chip cousins is simply the size of their prices (and associated profit margins), it’s possible that we can use NADA Miami to apply sci-fi author William Gibson’s famous adage to the gallery sector as a whole: The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed. If so, then you can find some of the key business trends of that future below.
Closing… But Persisting
Asked to articulate how his business had changed in the past year, dealer Simon Preston barely missed a beat. “Well, I don’t have a space anymore,” the British-born, New York-based dealer replied. After 10 years on the Lower East Side, Preston opted not to renew his lease when it ended in May. Instead, he rented a small office and viewing room month-to-mont