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Platform Art Fair Director Terrence Sanders on How His New Fair is a Must-See

Terrence Sanders as Monsieur Bertin by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, painting by Michael Reynolds

By NOAH BECKER, AUG. 2017

On September 29th 2017 PLATFORM NYC Art Fair will open its inaugural edition featuring emerging and mid-career artists, an art book fair and film festival in Greenpoint BKLYN at the Brooklyn Expo. In his interview with Noah Becker Platform Director and Curator, Terrence Sanders talks about the current art market and how PLATFORM will be the catalyst to bridge the gap between collector and artist.

Noah Becker: For those of us that don’t know you and your contributions to the landscape of contemporary art, please tell us a little about yourself.

Terrence Sanders: I am practicing artist (33 bodies of work and counting), ex-club promoter (MK, BigHaus, Club Sonic where I booked Nine Inch Nails 1st showcase for TVT records in NYC) musician (Kingstone & Kilroy that played CBGB’s and the Knitting Factory) ex-hip-hop record producer with a deal with (Universal Music Group) founding member of art group (Citizen X), published poet (The Duality of the Human Condition), filmmaker (Spare Change), curator (60 Americans), ex-gallerist (Terrence Sanders Gallery, Sanders Smith & Stokes, Jupiter Art Projects and Untitled Projects in New Orleans and Los Angeles), CEO of clothing lines (Art Thug & Artists 101) Director of the (Makeshift Museum), Publisher & Editor-In-Chief (Artvoices Magazine established in 2008 featuring Frank Stella, Spike Lee and Frank Gehry on the covers to name a few) Publisher (Artvoices Art Books) Director (Platform Contemporary Art, Art Book Fair & Film Festival) and the upcoming go to app for all things art related Art 24/7.

Terrence Sanders at the burial site of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Becker: You were a teenager in the 80’s hanging with Basquiat, Haring and Warhol at Club Area and you’re best friends with Alexander Venet the son of sculpture Bernar Venet. What did you learn from them and how has the scene changed?

Sanders: Club Area was my higher education. It’s where the Yuppies and creatives went to have sex, dance and get high. It was there that I met Basquiat and Warhol. Haring, I met through a friend at the Pop Shop. Basquiat showed me that I could make a living with my art. I didn’t have to conform or compromise my integrity. With Haring it was to never lose the sense of community or the common touch and the work should be accessible to every class. From Warhol it was all about perception. My advance education came from Bernar Venet’s Canal street studio in the 90’s. On the walls in the studio were Warhol and Kline to name a couple. Bernar’s son Alex and I would discuss the academic and not the aesthetic; that the artist job was not to imitate but to re-define the medium to have a singular voice. That when you viewed an artist work you could tell whom the artist was without seeing his signature.

The scene has changed tremendously since the 80”s. The protocol used to be ‘real’ life experiences and practice, practice, practice until you’re around 40 and then you were considered. You had to earn the privilege of being an artist. No speculation, just hard work. Now it appears to be all about youth, celebrity and image. Art as a way to diversify your portfolio or as a quick flip investment scheme. To give you an example, a so-called artist once said to me that he could care less about being an artist all he wanted was to be ‘famous’. How offensive and demoralizing is that?

Becker: Fame can be a strange thing, I agree. What are your thoughts on the current trend of collecting contemporary African American artists?

Sanders: I asked a collector once why is everyone all of the sudden buying African American artists? He once owned multiple originals from Basquiat and has been collecting for decades. He replied: “African Americans are just creating very exciting works”. I agreed. Artist like Hank Willis Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, DJ Spooky, Kara Walker, Jefferson Pinder, Carrie Mae Weems, and Mickalene Thomas are in my opinion the greatest living contemporary artists. 

African Americans have been contributing to the landscape of contemporary art with very little recognition in the past. I believe the admiration in monetary and the academic are valid and necessary. We as a collective are society’s mirrored reflection. All voices will be seen and heard no mater what race, gender, sexual preference or religious beliefs.

I would also like to mention to support and nurture mid-career and emerging artists. Artists that come to mind are Keith Duncan, Titus Kaphur, Mario Moore and Tameka Norris.

Becker: What’s the age, ethnic and gender breakdown of Platform?

Sanders: Platform participating artists are from 22 to 77 years of age, 28 male, 16 female from every nationality.

Becker: How would you describe the current atmosphere of the art market and fairs?

Sanders: Unhealthy and not sustainable. For auction houses, flipper collectors and secondary galleries and dealers it’s mostly about ‘acquiring greater wealth’ and ‘unbridled greed’. We, the other 99% celebrate the decadence of the ‘highest bids’ dreaming that one day we will have greater value and a sense of undeniable self worth. 

The fair model is successful because it sells ‘hope’ and ‘optimism’. They also display a vast number of artworks to the public-at-large not to mention placing the work in front of potential collectors and art enthusiasts. It has become the go to place to do business and where dealers and collectors want to be seen doing business.

I believe in ‘liking’ the work above all else. To live with this piece everyday that it evokes something inside of me. It has nothing to do with status. The only criteria I have are that the work be the ‘truthful’ and ‘significant’.

Becker: What was the driving motivation behind wanting to start your own art fair/show?

 Terrence Sanders at ‘60 Americans’ Chelsea Photo Credit: Leon Williams

Sanders: We would all like to believe that the art world is free of bias, favoritism and nepotism; it’s not so and I personally learned this the hard way. I was once a victim of racist discrimination by a prominent art fair. An art fair that will go unnamed (settlement conditions), once sent an interoffice memo stating ‘ENTER THE NEW NEGRO’ without being aware that the insensitive racial slur was visible to me. You have no idea how this negatively affected me, but it also served to illuminate my outlook on reality-all my fears and paranoia that there is a ‘status quo’ were confirmed. While this unfortunate incident may have been isolated, I immediately began to conceptualize an art fair that was free of discrimination-no matter your age, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. An art fair that supports real artists, and real work.

Becker: What makes Platform different from other artist only fairs like the ‘Other Art Fair’ and ‘StartUp Art Fair’?

Sanders: They are 2 of the worst fairs I have ever experienced. They appear to be fairs run by businessmen and women with a flair for business, gimmick and catch phrases. One of the fairs had the audacity to advertise ‘Buy art from tomorrow’s leading artists”! Who are these artists? Who are these curators? What’s the criteria? MONEY!? Arguably these two fairs in particular are offering us the ‘worst’ in contemporary art.


Dan Tague ‘Bedtime For Democracy’

Becker: What’s your goal and or desired end result for Platform?

Sanders: Platform is a game changer in bridging the gap between artist, critic and collector. I decided to launch Platform as a stand alone in New York City because New York is the home of serious collectors, critics, art professionals and enthusiasts. I want to celebrate the work of emerging, mid-career and older artists offering them a platform to create a greater awareness and build a collector base. In the very near future I’d like to see a ‘Platform Week’ with various satellite fairs hosted by artists for artists come to fruition. That would be beautiful.

Becker: What do you see is the problem with gallery focused art fairs?

Sanders: Too many mainstream art fairs have lost and or abandoned their ‘curatorial focus’. They are in the real estate business selling space to a never-ending pool of galleries selling mostly decorative art. A minority of them are living off ‘yesterdays’ reputation and it appears no one cares because attendance is up. The upstart galleries new focus is sell, sell, sell, not nurture. In addition artist that are activist, educational and or political are routinely left out of the conversation.

Becker: What’s your critique of the current owners and directors of the leading art fairs?

Sanders: That the majority of Director and Curators don’t care about the artists or the art. They just perpetrate the status quo. It’s a successful business model. To tell the truth most of them don’t posses an original thought or piece of art. My ideas have been borrowed (stolen) from the top to the bottom of the food chain. It’s ironic that they are in the business of concepts and ideas.

Becker: Why launch a contemporary art show, art book fair and film festival in Greenpoint Brooklyn and not Manhattan?

Sanders: I have 5 loves in my life; art, books, films, family and humanity. All five will be present during Platform. As far as location Manhattan is my heart and Brooklyn is my soul! I think every creative person who was priced out of Manhattan relocated to Brooklyn. I hope to one-day to buy a brownstone!! The architecture, the people, the neighborhoods, Jay-Z, BAM, Brooklyn, Heights, Greenpoint, Bedstuy, Park Slope, and Carroll Gardens. I always say it's the new and improved Manhattan.

Becker: What can you tell me about Platform’s curatorial focus and some of the artists chosen to display their work?

Sanders: Platform is an ‘invite only’ show. A strong and relevant connective tissue serves as the Platform’s criteria. The inaugural edition consists of artists I have worked with in the past. Artists I believe in and champion. We have a great line-up featuring Jamel Shabazz, Stephanie Keith, Mark Harris, Ruben Natal-San Miguel, Miru Kim, Johan Wahlstrom, & Dan Tague to name a few. 

Platform artists ‘solo exhibition’ space consists of 3 walls with 3 pieces of work (one piece per wall) from one series. We’re creating an aesthetic of a museum exhibition or a biennale. Platform’s design and layout will be a first of its kind. No cookie cutter layout at Platform. I promise you, Platform will be a work creating a lasting feeling that resonates and penetrates.

Becker: Do you believe the art fair market is oversaturated and jaded?

Sanders: Yes, but I believe it’s here to stay. We have to embrace change but we don't have to dumb down the market. Art Fairs have to bring the curatorial focus back to the table and be more selective. Seek to acquire work from galleries and artists that challenge you that you are not 100% comfortable with.

Becker: What art fairs do you believe to be important and relevant?  

Sanders: Frieze, Art Basel, Untitled, the Armory, and Paris Photo.

Becker: What do you think of the trend of mid-size to small gallery closings and ‘blue chip’ galleries expanding?

Sanders: Mid-Size galleries are burning the candle at both ends. They are operating a brick and mortar exhibition space and participating in every art fair they can afford. This outdated business model is not cost effective and or sustainable. The 1% with unlimited ‘trust’ funds can afford to stay in business. My advice focuses on one or the other because there is no right or wrong way.

Blue chip galleries have the best of both worlds. They have a thriving secondary market and they are the go to gallery for artists coming out of the elite MFA and graduate programs. Trajectory and speculation is the modus operandi.

Becker: Why are you a champion of emerging, mid-career and older artists? There is little to no market value to place on artists in these categories? Why support them if there is no audience?

Sanders: Great artists have a voice and that voice deserves to be heard. I don’t measure an artist’s accomplishments and success in monetary terms. I measure an artist by an entirely different set of values like the work, character, importance, relevance, innovativeness, vision, passion, integrity, genius, generosity, and humanity.

As artists we have to create our own opportunities and revenue streams as a collective in hopes of building a collector base for what we deem ‘important’ and ‘relevant’ not the mainstream culture or popular culture taste and trends. We are the avant-garde, the ‘truth’, and the ‘real’.

Becker: Is there a selection committee for Platform or how does it work?

Sanders: I pretty much have a list of artists that I believe in 110%. Coupled with a few trusted fellow artists and art administrators in my ‘think tank’ we come up with a final list. To be transparent I don’t need anyone to tell me what artist should or shouldn’t be in the exhibition. I know art and artists like I know myself. Like my mother used to say, too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil a good meal. In keeping with the food metaphor, I’m a chef that is going after 3 Michelin stars!

Becker: What should we expect to see in regards to programming at Platform?

Sanders: Platform’s 3-day cycle will host 44 artist exhibitors in solo exhibitions, 2 video programming rooms, a children’s art studio, art book fair exhibitors, a film festival, food trucks (focus on farm to table), 60 Americans 2 group exhibition, curated group exhibitions representing New York City and Miami, 101 Contemporary Artists group exhibition, The Viewing Room group exhibition, on-site installations and performances, poetry readings, book signings, musical guests and round table panel discussions.

Becker: Do you collect? What is your advice for collectors?

Sanders: Yes, I collect mostly emerging and mid-career artists. My preference is documentary photography. Every wall in my loft has a piece on it even in the bathroom. It’s an integral necessity of my daily conscious and subconscious routine. Everyone should be so lucky and blessed. Surrounded by a collection of art of their choosing.

You don’t have to be wealthy to be a contemporary an art collector. The criteria for collecting is love the artwork! I have curated various collections including my own on a tight budget and payment plans. Make a short list of artists, art schools, art programs, exhibition spaces, galleries, art periodicals, Internet blogs and websites and do your research.

My advice for collectors is to not be influenced by speculation or follow the herd mentality. Collecting is an art form. You are an important piece of the process. This isn’t about decorative but importance. This isn’t about status but relevance. You are the benefactor of that emerging, mid-career and or mature artist growth, development and success. Listen to your gut feeling and take a chance.

Becker: Art fairs are expensive. How are you paying for all of this?

Sanders: Out of pocket. I’m upbeat about securing sponsorship but to tell the truth it’s extremely difficult. I believe you should seek sponsorship from products you already support. In my case it would be Air BNB, Hotwire, Facebook, Tom’s of Maine, WeTransfer, Dick Blick, Aaron Brothers, Stoli, Sierra Nevada, Fosters, Yerbamate, Mountain Valley, American Spirit and the New York Times. I would be proud if they supported something as necessary as Platform but it’s so hard to reach them when so many causes are clogging up their channels, time and funding.

I’d like to personally thank my woman Jessica Barroso-Gomez, Alex Venet, Sherri Littlefield, Sol Sax, Musa Hixson, Michael Schur, Clayton Campbell, Kelly Hanlin, Asia Rainey, Damon Martin, Juri Kroll, Joe Heaps Nelson, Noah Becker, Wil Phearson, Travis Branch, Chris Rechner and all the visual artists, filmmakers, curators, and art book publishers for taking the time to be a part of this special journey.

Thank you Whitehot Magazine readership for taking the time and I hope to see you all at Platform September 29 - 0ctober 1st 2017.

‘Without artists there is no art and a world without art would make life not worth living.’ 

- Terrence Sanders

Becker: Thank you. WM

 

Noah Becker

A New York based painter and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Noah Becker shows his art internationally. He has also written freelance articles for Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post and contributed texts to major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker also directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube. 

Follow Noah Becker on Instagram: @noahbeckerstudio

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