Robert Fontaine on His Wynwood Gallery and Second Saturday Art Walks
The Robert Fontaine Gallery is one of the hippest and most internationally relevant art galleries in Miami. Relatively new to the block (since January 2011), formerly known as the Art Modern Gallery, this space houses emerging and mid-contemporary artists, as well as well-known masters. You want to find a Warhol and a Haring next to a Banksy? Welcome to the Robert Fontaine Gallery.
What you won't find is pretentiousness. The space, nestled along 23rd Street, provides a welcoming and comfortable vibe almost immediately upon entering its doors. With only two rooms, the gallery immediately whispers, "less is more, quality over quantity." Cultist caught up with the gallery's director about how he chooses artists, what he thinks of the crowded art walks, and what he has planned for Art Basel.
Director Robert Fontaine is the maestro of this orchestra. His
up-and-coming collection blends perfectly with the maelstrom occurring
in Wynnwood. In addition, Fontaine is affable, unpretentious, and
knowledgeable. Due to his humble and youthful demeanor, he may appear
more of a docent than an owner, but make no mistake, he's the boss, and
his collection is amazing. Fontaine has an incredible eye and he knows
how to sell the heck out of art. If you have a chance, if you haven't
already, drop by and see for yourself.
New Times: Why did you open a gallery in Wynwood?
Robert Fontaine: Wynwood
wasn't my first stop. I originally set up a gallery on South Beach, on
Purdy Avenue. Since I live on South Beach I wanted to keep with the
European idea of walking to work, walking home, stopping at a café on
But South Beach did not support such a gallery and soon I set
sail for Wynwood. I braced for it really. I felt like I was leaping into
the sea at night, not knowing if it was high tide or low tide, a
feeling I'm sure gallerists felt in Chelsea, NYC before the district
there was a fully matured art destination.
Were you welcomed with open arms and pocketbooks?
first week of unpacking in Wynwood was amazing. I had serious
collectors venturing in while I was still outfitting the space. I
quickly became acclimated to the energy of the area just by how brisk
the interest was in the work I was preparing for exhibition, perhaps it
was just good timing, almost serendipitous maybe. I have no regrets
being in Wynwood.
What do you think of Wynwood?
edgy, but not stuffy. Dealers can leave their black pointy shoes at
home. It's relaxed. Galleries are approachable and less intimidating,
this is a rare find. Truly devoted and warm gallerists welcome
collectors and well-wishers without hesitation. It's nice to be a part
of this, there is true excitement in Wynwood.
What is the aesthetic of your gallery?
gallery program is to exhibit fresh international contemporary artists
discovered and newly discovered...Urban/street artists are especially
of great interest to us. We focus on artists that have an idea which is
new, something that speaks of this very moment.
I come from the
philosophy that an artist has a responsibility to visually speak from
their own generation, their own footprint perhaps, without mimicking too
much the past ideas and attitudes. We are all linear, so should be the
direction of the artist.
have a handful of artists I really ran after to represent with the
belief they share a totally fresh idea worth exploring: Nick Gentry,
Troy Abbott, Tina La Porta, Scott Snyder, C. Finley. I only show artists
that move me, not necessarily artists who are moving in the market.
What has been your best exhibition so far?
& Candy," an exhibition which showcased works from the pop art
movement and the present street art movement, highlighting the
relationship between the two. It was highly successful.
Do you rep any Miami artists?
show a few Miami artists; I enjoy showcasing locals. I almost feel a
moral obligation to do so. We're always hopeful to find fresh thinkers
who offer groundbreaking viewpoints.
Talk about the business side of the art world.
like any other business I suppose, not everyone at the top deserves to
be there, not everything is vacant of politics, one needs a leap of
faith. I'm driven emotionally which may be different than most
businesses. Being surrounded by art all day makes it feel less like
business; it's much like being the last guy to lock up the museum at
Do you have future plans to expand?
rather like the size of the gallery and program of artists. It's
manageable and still intimate. Anything larger would be difficult and I
fear would kill the excitement for me.
What do you honestly think of Second Saturday Art Walks?
fairly new to Second Saturdays. I do like the idea of the Second
Saturday Art Walk, we do well that night, but we close at 9 p.m. now, after
9 p.m. it's just a party with less serious collectors swarming the
streets. Aside from the occasional viewers who feel the need to touch
every piece of art in front of them, I like it. It's a positive step in
showcasing that Miami is a serious platform in the art world.
What advice would you give an emerging artist?
It's a rough ride. Hang on to your dreams, be open to change, don't create things that have already been done.
What's the next few months have in store?
are preparing for Art Basel, our participation in Scope as well as a
show at the gallery during this time called: "Sex, Drugs & Profanity,"
an exhibition which showcases how art has been impacted by the change
in social norms.
The Robert Fontaine Gallery (175 NW
23rd Street) is open Monday through Saturday, 12 to 4:30 p.m. Visit robertfontainegallery.com.
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