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Maria Brito Talks “Fair Fatigue” and the Run-up to Art Basel Miami Beach

Maria Brito with work by Derrick Adams.

By EMMA HOWCROFT, NOV. 2017

Miami Art Week is known for transcending the art world and attracting people of all walks: from international partygoers to celebrities, younger galleries to heavyweight dealers, and fledgling art enthusiasts to serious collectors. No one knows the scene better than art advisor to the stars, Maria Brito. A veteran of Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach, Maria agreed to give me some insight into her thoughts on the fairs this year, as well as the institution of art fairs as a whole. With a deluge of fairs springing up around the world and the advent of a year-round fair season, there’s plenty to discuss. 

Emma Howcroft: How important are art fairs, specifically the fairs in Miami, to your business? 

Maria Brito: The ones in Miami are the most important ones, and I think every gallery and most art advisors agree. Art fairs are great, but now that there is one every two weeks somewhere in the world it’s becoming repetitive and exhausting.

Emma: Do you find art fairs to be an essential facet of the contemporary art world? Is it important for galleries that show early and mid-career artists to make a point of exhibiting at fairs each year?

Maria: A few art fairs are very good for exposure, for galleries to meet new people, and for collectors, curators and advisors to get to see new talent. But “fair fatigue” is what we are all experiencing, and the whole thing feels like a corporate treadmill where people have to keep running and going faster and more intense, and there’s no end in sight, so what’s the point? You kill all an artist’s creativity because they have to be churning out work like crazy to meet the demands of the fair schedule, while everyone has seen that artist’s work over and over again and now it’s in a booth with 20 other things, so you don’t really get to understand what that artist wanted to say unless you’ve seen a lot of solo shows by that artist. The demands are way too high on everyone, even on the galleries. They have to do all fairs, and if they don’t, they feel they are missing out.

Emma: How soon before Art Week do you meet with your clients to discuss a game plan of what they’re interested in? 

Maria: Everyone is different. I’ve been in this business for almost 10 years and I’ve collected for 17 years, so all that madness, game plans and strategies really aren’t for me or my clients anymore. We do make a plan of what we want to see within a schedule of time, but it’s not as if we are in a bunker planning how to get this or that before someone else. The problem is that when there are so many fairs, auctions, art websites, galleries and shows, it’s even harder to make collectors jump on an opportunity. There’s too much out there, and an abundance of choices sometimes has the opposite effect on people. They just stop caring at some point. 

Maria and P. Diddy at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Emma: Does your experience of the fairs change depending on which client you are accompanying? 

Maria: Yes, every client is different, but I’ve learned not to get stressed. This is art, not neurosurgery. In general I try to make them have a lot of fun. We aren’t saving lives, we aren’t bailing out the banks and we aren’t negotiating peace treatises, you know? 

Emma: Do you take around younger, greener clients?

Maria: Sure. Each one of my clients, when I decide take them to work with me, are with me for the long run and deserve the best attention.

Emma: Do you find that dealers are resistant to selling works to celebrity clients? Or is the opposite more often true?

Maria: Actually, they all want to sell to celebrities. The more high profile the better.

Emma: Do you ever meet new clients while at the fair?

Maria: No. I’m not running around soliciting people. I’m very busy as is.

Emma: Do you find that you end up getting better deals for your clients at art fairs?

Maria: Well, this is hard to answer because deals are negotiated on a case-by-case basis, so because fairs are temporary events and everyone wants to sell everything, there’s that bargaining chip. But, you know, some big galleries don’t care about that. There’s no black and white answer for this.

Emma: Are there any fairs that tend to be more popular among your clients?

Maria: Art Basel Miami Beach without a doubt.

Maria at an exhibition of Eric Shaw paintings at The Hole, NYC.

Emma: Have you ever been caught off-guard by something you ended up buying? Either by an artist you didn’t know prior, or work that just clicked in-person?

Maria: Yes, sure. That’s the beauty of the fairs. If I’m not discovering anything new, I better stay home.

Emma: Which fairs are you most excited about this year?

Maria: ABMB is always great but I love Untitled and Nada for the emerging talents.

Emma: Which interesting young artists are you focused on this year?

Maria: I’m never “focused” on one artist because that takes away from the overall growth experience and from serving my clients with as much covered ground as possible, but I’ve seen excellent work this year by Nina Chanel Abney, Allison Zuckerman, Robin F. Williams, Monica Kim Garza, Raúl de Nieves, Austin Lee, Aliza Nisenbaum, Caitlin Keogh... too many to name.

Emma: As of November 9th, while I’m writing this article, have you received many offers from galleries yet? 

Maria: Just a few. They really start pouring in two weeks before the fair. WM

 

Emma Howcroft

Emma Howcroft is a writer and arts administrator who lives and works in New York. She graduated from New York University with a degree in writing and critical theory.
 

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