Miami's arts scene has changed much in recent history, as local artists are finding more funding and larger audiences for their work. But one aspect of the arts in Miami has remained stubbornly unchanged: local buyers' lagging interest and lack of ability to purchase art for their own collections.
Commissioner, a program by Carrington Projects launching today, sets out to close that gap. Blending elements of subscription boxes, crowdfunding campaigns, and VIP memberships, Commissioner reimagines art buying for the average Miamian.
"A lot of people are already contributing to Miami's creative economy," explains Dejha Carrington, who dreamed up the Commissioner concept with partner Rebekah Monson, "but there are all these perceived barriers of what you have to be to become an arts patron... We're hoping to create a more connected city by giving more people an opportunity to be an active part."
Commissioner works like this: A small group of "commissioners," up to 40 people, pay a quarterly or annual fee. In return, once every three months, they receive a limited-edition work by a respected local artist. These aren't prints — each work is individually created by the artist, giving locals the opportunity to own a piece of contemporary art for a fraction of the usual cost. Commissioner's quarterly rates for buyers start at $300 and run $900 for a full-year subscription.
These aren't just any artists either. Commissioner has partnered with renowned Miami gallery Primary Projects to select its participating creatives. Its first artist will be Typoe, a Primary cofounder whose work has shown across the globe.
Using this model, Commissioner's participants can pool their funds to support the creation of new works by talented local artists — with a guarantee of receiving a return on that investment. But there's more to Commissioner than merely shelling out cash for some sweet art. Carrington says its broader mission is to educate and involve participants in Miami's broader creative culture.
"It's not only about receiving something in the mail," she explains. "No, we want you to go to the artist's studio or the installation they're producing or the arts event so you can be around your peers and have this network of learning. There's something important about the collective experience of discovery — about being fully immersed and understanding what it is that you're receiving. Artwork isn't all about the final output; it's about understanding the [artist] and buying into this vision."
To achieve that goal, Commissioner is launching a series of events, ranging from artists' studio visits to touring homes of established collectors and other VIP experiences, designed to offer participants a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating and collecting. Members can sign up as "patrons" for $50 per year to attend Commissioner events without shelling out hundreds to receive a work of their own.
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"The idea is, you might not be in the financial position to pay the quarterly payment, but in learning about art collecting and all of the different models, you might be able to do something for yourself independently or join [Commissioner] the following year."
Either way, Carrington says, you'll be making friends, feeling like a VIP, learning a ton, and helping make Miami a sustainable place for artists to grow their careers.
"What artists need is support and local collectors," she says. "[Commissioner] is building a market... and perhaps a more important piece about it is that we want people to get to know each other on a more fundamental and deeper level."