Art Basel in Miami Beach 2015
Art Basel in Miami Beach 2015
Art Basel in Miami Beach 2015

Galleries go off the beaten track

At the fair, dealers reveal the special appeal of St Barth, Somerset, Ibiza and Havana

by Gareth Harris  |  4 December 2015
Galleries go off the beaten track
Fergus McCaffrey in St Barth. Photo: © Michael Gramm; Courtesy Fergus McCaffrey, New York / St Barth
Visitors to Art Basel in Miami Beach navigate their way around the fair helped by the gallery signs displayed above every stand, with New York, London, Paris, Berlin and Los Angeles dominating the geographical spread. But this year, Havana is name-checked (Galleria Continua’s Cuban space opened there last week), as are other branches in unexpected locations, from St Barth to Somerset in rural England.
 
Why St Barth, a small Caribbean island best known for its beaches? The New York-based dealer Fergus McCaffrey (L2) set up an artist residency programme there in 2005, followed by an 800 sq. ft gallery in 2014.
 
“Tavares Strachan is the latest member of a remarkable group of artists who have made groundbreaking work on the island,” says Alexandra von Stumberg McCaffrey, adding that “an important group of collectors have also chosen to make St Barth their winter home, so the island is a rather remarkable confluence of great artists and collectors”.
 
Art dealers who seek out more obscure locales are tapping into established and emerging communities of collectors and artists. In 2014, Pace gallery (B5) founded a pop-up space in a former car dealership in Menlo Park, California. "We’ve been going after Silicon Valley for ten years now, and we have a lot of really dedicated collectors out there,” says Marc Glimcher, the president of Pace.
 
Global means go-go
 
“It’s a global market now—we operate everywhere,” says Iwan Wirth, the co-founder of Hauser & Wirth (L17). His empire spans spaces in London and New York, with a new outpost called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel due to open in downtown Los Angeles in March 2016.
 
But he seems most excited about his gallery in Bruton, Somerset, in the west of England. The “multi-purpose arts centre”, which is housed in converted historic farm buildings, also incorporates a bar and restaurant. The chef uses produce from local farms.
 
Wirth, who lives locally, says that community concerns, rather than commercial considerations, drive the project. “The creative community in Somerset is my target audience but not my target client base. We want artists who exhibit there to connect with the community,” he says. The US artist Jenny Holzer, who spoke at the fair yesterday, showed works at the Somerset venue earlier this year. She says the experience “was Utopian; here’s to Utopia”.
 
Locations off the beaten track enable artists to pursue new aspects of their practice and to broaden their horizons. In 2014, the Zurich-based dealer Eva Presenhuber (L7) opened a 40 sq. m project space in Antiparos, a small Cycladic island in Greece, which has hosted exhibitions of work by Joe Bradley and Oscar Tuazon. “The shows are experimental, as the space is small and there is no pressure from the art world on this relaxed island,” she says.
 
In 2013, Guillermo Romero Parra, founder of the Madrid-based gallery Parra & Romero (N3), launched a gallery on Ibiza, in a former farm building in the centre of the island. He has shown works by artists such as Robert Barry, Stefan Brüggemann and Lawrence Weiner in the satellite, which is open from June to October.
 
“This is all about building a relationship with my artists. I like working with them in a different context. I aim to build relationships with new, interesting collectors there,” Romero Parra says. He also plans to open a small-scale sculpture park on Ibiza.
 
For the launch of a show dedicated to Brüggemann over the summer, Romero Parra brought 150 international art professionals to Ibiza; 80% were visiting the Balearic island for the first time, he says.
 
The idea that collectors and curators will make a “pilgrimage” to far-flung places also drives Galleria Continua (L6), which has galleries in San Gimignano in Tuscany, Les Moulins, a small village in the Seine-et-Marne region (around 70km east of Paris), and now Havana.
 
“All the people we meet at the fairs—collectors, curators, art critics, artists—then come to see our spaces in France, Italy and Cuba,” a spokeswoman for the gallery says.
 
Participating in art fairs—Galleria Continua exhibits at around 20 every year—is crucial for dealers based both in and beyond major art hubs. Alexandra von Stumberg McCaffrey of Fergus McCaffrey says: “As the art community continues to expand globally, art fairs represent the best vehicle for galleries like ourselves to make a case for our artists internationally.”

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