I spoke to Leah Steinhardt, the director of several art fairs including Art Palm Springs.
Noah Becker: So, tell me a bit about your background Leah?
Leah Steinhardt: I come from a diverse background. I really got involved with events when I was living in Las Vegas and trained in events with the company that I'm working for right now. And my previous background mostly was in marketing. I grew up in the fashion industry, so obviously a creative background, moved to gaming, but ultimately I was really raised with an appreciation for art, because my father was an art dealer.
Becker: Oh, I see.
Steinhardt: So I would say this job kind of culminates a lot of my work experience with my personal interests.
Becker: Good. And that's how you got connected with with art fairs?
Becker: I see. And do you find organizing all of the different parts challenging, or do you find it stressful?
Steinhardt: I would say that any job certainly has a level of stress. But you know I can use Art Palm Springs as an example, hopefully. I have a great team, the way we do things even when life throws you a crazy curve ball like almost a natural disaster. You're able to save the day of and still make it a great event for your gallery or whomever you are involved with. But I actually thrive, I would say, on the stress of it all. I love the multi-tasking aspect, and I really also love having a wide variety of different tasks. At the end of the day, yes, we plan an art fair, but there's so much that goes into that. What do the concessions look like? What does our marketing plan look like? Social media, web. There are just so many different layers that we touch.
Becker: How many galleries are in Art Palm Springs?
Steinhardt: So in Art Palm Springs, nearly 60 galleries.
Becker: Wow, that’s big. And you deal with the Palm Springs Art Museum as well?
Steinhardt: Yes, they are our opening night beneficiaries. So we have an extensive relationship with them. We work with them to honor a patron of the year every year. And the museum comes out on Thursday night and presents the piece of the year with the award. We offer all of their members complimentary access to the fair all weekend long.
Becker: And then you also have an artist of the year?
Steinhardt: Yes, artist of the year is something that we work with our galleries on. So for example, this year it was Joe Goode - Peter Blake represents him. And Peter Blake has been a long time supporter of Art Palm Springs, so it was great to honor one of his artists.
Becker: And then there's something called Modernism Week that you're also partnering with?
Steinhardt: Yeah, so essentially, Art Palm Springs happens in a really exciting time in the desert. It's the kickoff of Modernism Week, so Modernism Week starts earlier.
Becker: What is Modernism Week?
Steinhardt: So, it's a celebration of everything mid-century modern, an environment that really brought Palm Springs to the map. So, in our convention center, there is a fair in the fall that runs as called the Modernist Show, and in that show is furniture. There's artwork in there too but it's a little bit different. We're really more of a contemporary fine art fair. We have a great relationship between the two shows and we share a lot of the same attendees.
Becker: And there was some issue with the weather this year?
Steinhardt: Thursday night Palm Springs saw the third worst rainfall ever. As I'm sure you know, in the desert rain is extremely problematic. And so essentially we were working to resolve issues. With the building, making sure the people could get to the fair that evening with the roads in safe condition.
Becker: How many visitors came through this time?
Steinhardt: We were actually up by twenty five percent! Overall, we definitely took a hit on Thursday but made up for it on Saturday and Sunday with our visitors increasing on both of those days.
Becker: Oh, great. Does a gallery go through an application process during the fall?
Steinhardt: Yes, exactly. Either our sales team will reach out to galleries or a lot of times we have galleries reaching out to us asking to participate. So in their application process they tell us a little bit about their gallery as well as share the program they'd like to present at the fair. And then we have a committee that basically reviews the program to make sure it's up to the fair standards.
Becker: And this is the eighth year for the fair, is that correct?
Steinhardt: That's correct.
Becker: That's quite a while. Art Basel's been going for over a decade, so it's a long-term fair for sure.
Steinhardt: It is a long-term fair and I think the fact that it IS a long-term fair is why we've got that type of support for the fair today. Clearly, the community wants and appreciates our fair and shows up to support, which is really a nice thing.
Becker: So it's international galleries?
Steinhardt: Yes, we've had galleries everywhere from China, Korea, Europe, London, et cetera, participate this year.
Becker: And how many local galleries would you say?
Steinhardt: For Palm Springs -- one, two, three -- I would say ... five, I believe.
Becker: Five. Okay. So there is a strong number of galleries in Palm Springs?
Steinhardt: I mean, Jorge Mendez would be one, Melissa Morgan's Fine Art, they've all been long-time supporters of the fair and are locally-based. I think which also shows you the importance of the fair because they have brick and mortar places and they still think it's important to participate.
Becker: What are your future goals with Art Palm Springs?
Steinhardt: I would really like to see us grow the fair in size. We tend to be generally a locally attended show, meaning California and the surrounding states. But we saw an uptake in people who were flying in from the other side of the country, Europe and Asia who also wanted to attend the fair. I've worked very closely with LACMA this year, so we are standing on those relationships to bring that type of collector to the fair. We have a great network in the community but I always feel like it could be stronger so, we're working on our community outreach for the fair as well.
Becker: Thank you for talking with us! WM
Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023.
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