He's discussing why he joined the Black Lives Matter demonstration that took over the streets of Wynwood and shut down the Julia Tuttle Causeway during last year's Art Basel. The art world's elite is sometimes tone-deaf to real-world issues, he says. Isn't art supposed to be more than something pretty to look at?
"You know," he says, his voice breaking, "I was happy I could be there. There was no place I would have rather been at that point. I was with my friend from Amsterdam, and I said, 'Let's go.'"
Spinello is sensitive to topics such as racism, immigration, climate change, women's issues, and gay rights. And though most local gallerists seem to enjoy the strictly aesthetic ethos, Spinello and the cavalcade of artists represented by his gallery, Spinello Projects, are eager to tackle those issues head-on.
However, for ten years, Spinello Projects has been doing more than just saying things through art. The 32-year-old gallerist inspires his artists to deliver museum-quality work, the kind that gets the attention of art institutions looking to bulk up their permanent collections and serious art collectors with deep pockets.
"I think I have a sensibility that is a bit signature," Spinello says. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I've always strived to do museum-quality exhibitions. I look at my gallery as a museum, not a boutique to buy objects. I'm in a commercial business, but the last thing I'm interested in is the selling — the irony."
That kind of attitude set Spinello apart the moment he arrived in Miami from Brooklyn in 2003. After working for Majestic Properties CEO Jeff Morr as director of Liquid Blue Gallery, Spinello began building his own space a year later. He started his roster of artists by posting an ad on Craigslist. That's how he found Agustina Woodgate, whom he showed at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012.
"By the time we got into Art Basel, it was like, 'Fuck yeah.'" he recalls. "It somehow legitimized my understanding of what we were doing and really helped me get to the next phase of this ride we are on."
After a decade, Spinello has succeeded in lifting up some of Miami's most respected artists, including Woodgate, Antonia Wright, Farley Aguilar, Typoe, and Manny Prieres, as well as out-of-towners such as Naama Tsabar and Kris Knight. And with a new space set to debut in time for this year's Art Basel at 7221 NW Second Ave. in Miami's Little River neighborhood, Spinello is excited to reflect on the past ten years with an exhibition titled "Full Moon."
"For me, it's about putting this decade to bed and looking forward to the decade to come."