In many ways, Scope was the original satellite art fair. Founded by a Lower East Side artist looking to bring recognition to the work he and his fellow art-world ruffians were making, the fair has gradually taken its place as an Art Basel Miami Beach fixture. Last year, Scope Miami Beach was not just one of the biggest exhibit on South Beach, with 30 percent more galleries and exhibitors than previous years, but they outdid their competition with innovative booth designs, collaborations with forward-thinking art publications like Juxtapoz, and outstanding artists from all over the world. In just over a decade what started out as a commercial experiment at the fringes of the market, is now the heart of the art world. This year, founder and curator Alexis Hubshman is planning to out-do last year's fair as they celebrate their 15th anniversary.
After studying fine art at Bard College and architecture at the Glasgow School of Art, Hubshman moved to New York were he started his first business. The creative entrepreneur quickly realized there was a gap in the burgeoning art market he could fill. Today, Scope exceeds over $300 million in sales to date, and 250,000 visitors across three fairs, according to their website. Here's what he told New Times about what he has planned for this year's much anticipated exhibition.
New Times: You started out as an artist on the Lower East Side, what were some of the things you learned then that inform your directing and curating?
Alexis Hubsman: In 1992, there really wasn’t much in the way of an infrastructure for emerging artists at that time. Blue-chip galleries showed younger artists in back rooms. I would take my collectors to these back rooms and they started collecting it. Organically, opening a gallery presenting emerging contemporary art was the next step. Within minutes, it also became clear I wanted to create an art fair dedicated to emerging contemporary art. The first Scope was in a hotel at the time of the New York May auctions. The rooms were cheap, it was sexy and intimate, and the first emerging art fair was born. The collectors loved it.
Knowing how to broaden the base of the collector pyramid by creating an experience, while being an artist with an architects eye and an entrepreneurs sense of showmanship sharply informs my directing and curating.
I loved how you designed Scope last year, breaking up the cubicle monotony. What are some of the new design elements you have planned this year?
Miami is the first place where we started breaking open the booth grid. It's also where we started letting the viewer know that they're not in Kansas anymore. This year the visitor experience starts at Ocean and Eighth walking towards the ocean As the viewer approaches the dunes, a monumental cantilevered structure greets them, beyond which lays a 6,000-square-foot, 35-foot high atrium framing ocean and sky in the distance. Think Lawrence of Arabia on steroids.
Inside the atrium the breakdown of the grid begins with hundreds of feet of glass wall separating the formal exhibition space from the atrium; the ocean side corner of the tent becomes a mirage. As you enter into the show, large booths with open plans allow the viewer to see curated moments at distant points deeper within the fair. Immediately the supermarket sensibility of most other art shows is squashed.
Our open plan allows the viewer to drift between isles, to follow their eyes and gut, and not be exhausted visually by an onslaught of rabbit warrens and horse stables stuffed with art.
What are some of the things that set Scope Miami Beach apart from the New York or Basel offshoots?
Scope Miami is the end of the year culmination of all the best galleries, curators, and institutions we work with throughout the year. Each city has its own personality but Miami truly harmonizes with our sense of celebration and allows us to showcase our unique take on what a creative culture event is. We host an incredible amount of VIP events including what the Huffington Post has referred to as the hardest party to be invited to; already the crush has started.
Photo by Ian Witlen
Do you feel a need to especially highlight Miami galleries and artist?
We often make a point to show galleries, artists, and curators from the cities we present our show. In the past, when Miami was particularly ripe with new galleries like Anthony Spinello, we made a point of it. This year we are proud to welcome quite a few, however, after 15 years in Miami and having cultivated our collectors population, featuring the best new galleries representing over 24 countries from around the world is our focus.
Scope started out as the original satellite fair, but now they’re a dime a dozen. How does Scope plan to standout from the pack?
This year we are celebrating our 15th anniversary, and truly, we set the industry standard for the emerging art fair, being the model by which others have drawn. Scope is always the fair to take a chance before others — this is the hallmark of a true visionary brand. We were the first cultural art fair, and in many ways also the original satellite fair. Even though there are more satellite fairs then I can count, we’ve established a reputation as having a true passion for emerging art, and have stuck to our original mission: new talent.
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What are the biggest changes you’ve seen at Art Basel Miami Beach over the years?
I suppose you mean the phenomenon of Miami's Olympics of the art world. It has been extraordinary from the first year. I have watched a city on its heels become culturally engineered into one of the most creative capitals of the world during the month of December. With tons of new museums, shows hosted by internationally renowned galleries and collectors, to a revitalized hospitality industry, Miami has benefited and contributed to being an outstanding platform for us all.
Last year, Scope really grew in size, almost by a third, how did you handle that process? What were some of the ways you raise quantity without sacrificing quality?
We handle growth by remaining selective through curated sections within the fair. Our longest standing section is the Breeder Program which features new galleries to the fair. Juxtapoz Presents, in its second year, is a curated section that has become a force to reckon with in art media, both in print and online. Juxtapoz Presents is focused on about 20 galleries that represent what is being called “The New Contemporary.” It will be a highlight of our ongoing feature programming. Additionally, our Feature | Photography galleries will be presenting artists who expand upon and challenge the traditional definition of photography. With ten participating international exhibitors, Feature will showcase innovative photo-based work from around the globe.