For more than a decade, art dealer Anthony Spinello has presented some of the most groundbreaking and important artists that Miami's art scene has produced, several of whom have found global success. Performance artist Antonia Wright — one of ten artists who will be represented in Spinello's tenth-anniversary exhibition, "Full Moon," this Wednesday — calls working with Spinello "a fiery and fun ride." She has been working with him since 2010. "Spinello Projects is much more than just an art gallery," she says. "He has created a place for artists to experiment, to take risks, and to create large-scale, ambitious breadths of work. He knows how to work within the boundaries of the refined yet profound. His gallery and ethic are courageous and contagious.”
There is a collaborative sensibility between Spinello and his artists. "We always say we instigate each other," says mixed-media artist Agustina Woodgate, whose most recent work includes painting incredibly long hopscotch grids on sidewalks. (Her largest is in Tira, in the West Bank, and goes to 5,101.)
Woodgate met Spinello more than 11 years ago via Craigslist. They got along immediately, and like many of the other artists Spinello works with, she considers him "family." It is this sort of trust that pushes her creativity. "We never get enough,” she says. “We push each other to our limits, in the best way."
Farley Aguilar, a self-taught painter, credits his success as an internationally collected artist to Spinello, but he also appreciates the art dealer's personal interest in all of his artists' work. "Apart from just the professional aspects of the relationship with Anthony,” Aguilar says, “is the close, personal contact he keeps with me and the rest of the artists. He is constantly interested in what we are evolving toward and promotes a sense of freedom and growth."
Over the course of this past decade, Spinello has operated out of five permanent gallery locations. In between moves, he stayed busy with five other temporary pop-up spaces. As teams of painters and contractors sweat over noisy work preparing his latest location — a warehouse in the Little River neighborhood of Miami — for its opening, Spinello pauses to consider ten years. "This is the first time in my life that I can look back and really appreciate what a ten-year chunk of my life feels like," the 31-year-old gallerist says. His dedication to some of his artists, including Santiago Rubino and Woodgate, outlasts even his years as a gallerist. "Before I even opened up my space, I brought them onto the gallery I was working with before," he notes. "They're all very long relationships; most are over five years, six years."
Though he's renting the space that currently holds Spinello Projects and may have to move again in a few years, he affirms, "I have no intention of leaving Miami. I love Berlin, and New York is great, but Berlin doesn't need another gallery," he adds with a laugh. "New York doesn't need another gallery. Miami really could benefit from us staying here, from us continuing what we've been doing."
There's a sense of a practical benefit to nurturing the work he has done in Miami. But there's also a sense of a loyalty to a city he's indelibly connected with and a sincere gratitude for honoring those who have always been interested in his exhibitions. "I wouldn't be open if I didn't have such strong local support," Spinello says. "I don't need this much space, but for me, this is for Miami. It is for the community. This is their space."
His devotion to the city comes across most vividly in what his artists say about him. Sinisa Kukec, who creates in mixed media, has been working with Spinello for five years. Kukec says that meeting the then-26-year-old art maven gave him a second wind in his craft. "My daydreaming of being a farmer was over," he wrote in a message after being asked to ruminate on his relationship with Spinello. "Back to the stone I decided to be... at that time weighing in at the ripe biological age of 40."
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In a gesture to show the sort of relationship he has with Spinello, Kukec shared an entire essay written by Bill Beckley, who happened to have once been Spinello's professor at the School of Visual Arts, New York. The essay, titled "A Chattering of Starlings," was written to address the notion of beauty. Here's its concluding thought: "Giving thanks and friendship must be out there somewhere in the world, like a witch hazel tree is, for example, or a lazy brook in a sunny meadow, a toasty fire on a drafty night, a rising sun or waning moon, a casual flock of pigeons, fresh snow on an old volcano, a chattering of starlings, or a galaxy of stars."
Spinello Projects' Tenth Anniversary
Spinello Projects' new location, at 7221 NW Second Ave, Miami, will hold its inaugural opening reception with "Full Moon" and "Littlest Sister" Wednesday, November 25, at 6 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Visit spinelloprojects.com.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.