Whitehot Magazine

Expo Director Alex Mitow on New Developments of the Superfine Art Fair

Todd Koelmel, Reservoir Sunset 3, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.


By STEPHEN WOZNIAK April 5, 2024 

If you scrolled down and stopped here to read this review, it’s likely you’re an art lover and, perhaps, an art buyer. Or, equally important, you’re an artist who seeks to sell the great art you make. With that, I bring you—buyers and sellers—the Superfine Art Fair (SAF)! Now in its tenth year of operation, this direct-to-consumer aesthete expo continues to set up shop in major markets—from San Francisco and Washington, D.C. (one of their best!) to Savannah and, of course, Manhattan, the reigning center of the commercial western art world. Running from May 2–5 of this year, the Superfine Art Fair in New York is a collector’s paradise, which pairs art-making purveyors with proud and caring flesh-and-blood purchasers, cutting out the middleperson, so that artists reap all of the earnings in order to keep their practice, well, in practice. At the SAF, the price is right—many of the works on sale rarely reach above the ten-thousand-dollar mark and most cost a reasonable $500 to $3,500. Print editions? They’ve got ‘em—high-quality limited works at bargain prices. Among the alternative art fairs emerging in the United States, Superfine is creating a niche right between the biggies and the locals—positioning itself to be the best accessible art event coming to a city near you. 

I spoke with the innovative and diligent Superfine Art Fair director Alex Mitow about the hits, misses and exciting new developments of the fair, as well as how it’s changing to meet the needs of the wildly expanding American art market today—and the artists that drive it. “Well, we’ve entered our tenth year of the Superfine Art Fair, which is exciting, of course. We’ve put on several dozen great fairs since 2014—in major U.S. cities like Seattle, Los Angeles and the nation’s capital. At the start of the pandemic, a few quality-of-life issues and regulations that choked downtown location access directly affected turnout,” explains Mitow. But homebound as they were, artists started making, posting and selling sensibly priced art online, while collectors started looking at and buying more of it than previously. The market started to expand in unexpected ways. After the shut-down, Mitow says, “we started back full-swing,” and Superfine has expanded its reach to include interesting new locations, like Savannah, Georgia. “Yeah, it's cool. It's a small city, but it's also the home of the Savannah College of Art and Design. A lot of the people who’ve moved there since the pandemic, either affiliated with SCAD or not, are the kind of affluent folk that lived in New York, L.A. or European cities before. Savannah offers a very high quality of life and some of the friends I knew in New York for years in the art world who moved down there are actually happy for the first time—instead of hustling in the big city. Savannah’s got all the same things, but it's calmer. It's cool. So, it's been really fun. It's a very small show—like 40 artists, compared to 100 or more in San Francisco or New York.”

Alejandro Aboli, Unique, Vol.1, digital photo collage, size variable

Mitow also talked about the surprising success with their Washington, D.C., show. “You know, initially, we heard nothing but negatives about the possibilities—even from local D.C. art people! They were like, ‘You're not gonna’ succeed here. We've tried it. Other people have tried it. Even the Rubells tried it. Everyone tried it. This is where art fairs go to die.’” But Mitow didn’t believe it, the way I don’t believe it, having grown up in that rich metropolitan cultural epicenter. With so many important art museums—from the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to the National Gallery of Art—and so many top educational centers, to me it’s apparent that a buying art crowd resides there. Mitow agrees. Today, he explains, “It's our top market—far and away the highest sales. It's fantastic. I mean, we could do three art fairs if we wanted to. It's really a robust market for us, and I still don't get why our competitors haven't gone in, but we do really, really well there. And we’re going to keep it going.”

But let’s talk about the magnificent motherload of the SAF expos. The one in Manhattan is among the organization’s biggest shows. Featuring 125 individual artist booths, Superfine always picks a dynamic, attractive spot for the four-day event. I ask him about venue selection compared to those of blockbuster fairs. “Well, convention centers are boring. It's hard to create a brand within the typically bland convention center spaces. The bigger art fair spaces in Manhattan are reused over and over. New York is interesting because we don't have many mid-sized spaces. We have retail spaces that are 4,000 square feet or smaller and then we've got the gargantuan Javits Center and others like it.” Superfine typically requires 20,000–30,000 square feet for their larger shows. Mitow explains how it helps to work with good people in the various locations. In New York, SAF joined forces with ChaShaMa, a noted nonprofit artist space organization led by Anita Durst who turned them on to her family’s powerhouse real estate giant Durst Organization that codeveloped the One World Trade Center. From there, Durst rented the SAF team space in a building simply called “One Five One” (the H&M building) in the heart of the theatre district that’s located near the key Times-Square & 42nd Street subway stop, which includes just about every train in the city. The Superfine ad campaign took advantage of that convenient centralizing effect and created a hilarious but eye-catching graphic featuring the colorful circled subway line letters and a title that that reads “No Excuses”—as in no excuses for not attending the fair. And in New York City, of course, access is everything.

Anika Ignozzi, OHH BABY wear, acrylic on jacket, size large.

Besides a fantastic location, the other key component to running a successful art show is timing. The New York Superfine Art Fair this year is coincidentally taking place on the same dates as the major-headlining art event Frieze New York, which in the past was intended to take advantage of a robust art-buying market. Mitow tells me that now SAF primarily schedules its events weeks ahead of the majors, with the exception of this year’s Frieze New York, to give prospective buyers ample breathing room to enjoy and buy the work, as well as to boost advertising and media coverage. 

Some recognized artists will be in SAF’s New York display this year. While many are independent, others have been represented by top galleries around the country. But in the age of self-possessed arts entrepreneurs and the proliferation of remote online sales, it seems the new standard for many artists to drive their own ship, especially in this kind of living, breathing, one-on-one, weekend art market. At the Superfine Art Fair, artists like Anthony Rondinone will feature his wildly twisted and funny impasto portraiture work that deals with mental health concerns. Also on hand will be the artist Alejandro Aboli with his shiny surrealistic dreamscapes. Many of his works look like still images wrenched directly from the best cosmic art pop music videos. Buyers can also get a gander and hopefully purchase the work of the playful cartoonish collage paintings and street ware of Anika Ignozzi. When you tour the show, be sure to check out the hard-edge minimalist landscape oil paintings of Todd Koemel and art by dozens of other great makers with works for sale at the show. 

Anthony Rondinone, Who’s Eating Who?, acrylic on canvas, 32 x 32 in.

Artists please note that Superfine has only a few slots still available, so reserve today, they say. And New York collectors and fine art aficionados, be aware that the Superfine Art Fair is coming your way in just another month. Gather your friends and family, pile into the train or hoof it to midtown and enjoy every big and little bit of the more-than-fairly superfine artwork in this divine fine art fair (say that ten times in a row fast)! Superfine Art Fair runs May 2 through 5, 2024. WM

Stephen Wozniak

Stephen Wozniak is a visual artist, writer, and actor based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited in the Bradbury Art Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, and Lincoln Center. He has performed principal roles on Star Trek: EnterpriseNCIS: Los Angeles, and the double Emmy Award-nominated Time Machine: Beyond the Da Vinci Code. He co-hosted the performing arts series Center Stage on KXLU radio in Los Angeles and guest hosts Art World: The Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art podcast in New York City. He earned a B.F.A. from Maryland Institute College of Art and attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. To learn more, go to: www.stephenwozniakart.com and www.stephenwozniak.com. Follow Stephen on Instagram at @stephenwozniakart and @thestephenwozniak.

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