Q&A with photo MIAMI Director Tim Fleming

Maleonn Portrait of Mephisto No 5, 2006 / Courtesy Craig Scott Gallery

In three short years, photo MIAMI, a contemporary art fair for photo-based art, video and new media, has become one of the city's major satellite fairs thanks to its director Tim Fleming. Originally, based in Los Angeles Fleming jumped at the opportunity to take part in Art Basel Miami Beach, which consists lures enough potential buyers to support more than just one fair.

But photo MIAMI isn't just leeching on Basel's success. Last year, it made a bold statement when it erected a large white tent in Midtown, which could be the reason why Art Miami moved from its lot adjacent to Wynwood Lofts to one of Midtown's other empty parcels.

Riptide spoke with Fleming about the fair's quick success, what Basel means for Miami and what sets photo MIAMI apart from the other fairs.

New Times: Last year photo MIAMI made quite the impression when they set up the tents in the Midtown area -- you were actually the first one's to do that --

Tim Fleming: Yea, everyone and their brother is over here now.

NT: Well, it's not such a bad thing. You are going to get more foot traffic around the area.

TF: Yea, I would say it's an experiment for sure, we'll see how it goes. I'm not exactly thrilled, but I'm not unhappy either. I think it's a lot of crowding but we'll see how it plays out. It's definitely an experiment this year.

NT: How did you think Art Basel has change the city's clout in the art world?

TF: There are great galleries here. Fred Snitzer is here and Emmanuel Perrotin having his space here as well. I feel with Basel, and what we bring with all the other fairs, it's still a destination. It's a recipe that could be applied to all the other fairs. Everyone wants to be in Miami in December; it's a perfect time. And that Art Basel came and set up shop, and did it right from the get-go, laid the groundwork for all the expansion of these other fairs, some more interesting than others, is pretty amazing. I really don't know who to credit, but they certainly came and understood how to partner with the city and how to get things done.

NT: We are definitely going through hard economic times. What do expect in terms of sales and attendance? Are you setting your expectations high or are you being realistic?

TF: Well, we are always setting our expectations high, and we are always being realistic. We are not in show business, but we are in a business that the show must go on, and we are certain not being dire about it. Our recipe has stayed the same, we want to bring down to Miami, not just a niche situation with the photo, but we work photo galleries and also with galleries who see what's going on and have a full program but like the idea presenting themselves a very unique fashion with photo media or video and things like that. We work to get those galleries to come and be a part of it. We work hard with them to get people to come to the fair and have a strong VIP program.

In terms of sales, it's hard to comment on that. I know that based on the number of fairs that we are going to have crazy traffic. I think that's why we put an estimated 15,000 [attendees], which is a jump from last year, but that's simply based on our location and our fanbase, which I hope has been growing. In terms of you asking, "Will people be selling?" I think so. I think this is an interesting fair that offers something different. We didn't want to just come down here and be a another fair apart of the whole thing, we wanted to add to it, to add what was happening with the other fairs. With NADA being so strong, we didn't want to so much compete but add to the landscape of what the week is.

NT: We're sure already answered this question for us by saying you wanted to bring a unique approach to the art fair, but why solely focus on photography?

TF: It's a tough question to answer, but it's definitely the right one to ask. I mean, why seperate out a medium from all the others? What's the point in that? When photo LA started 18 years ago, a photo fair was almost like a new idea back in the early '90s. The answer, very short and sweet, is that we really like this kind of work, and we feel like there is enough of it out there that it warrants having a fair. We sort of rebelled against the title of a fair, which for photo MIAMI for the first two years we had that long-winded sub-caption, "The international fair for photo-based work, video and new medium," to show we were everything, not just photography.

NT: Are you excited about any particular gallery or artist exhibiting at this year's fair?

TF: There a lot of great galleries. The fair is split into three sections: the main gallery, then we have seven solo projects curated by Paco Barragán, and then we have three solo artists that we've commissioned to come and do installations. We are thrilled to work with Orlan this year, a famous French artist. I remember watching her videos in art school of her having plastic surgery done on her body while reading French philosophy on the table. There is also this young artist, John Neff, who does very interesting stuff from Chicago. In terms of galleries, we are really excited about Gallería Sanduga, from Spain, which is showing Carlos Aires.

photo MIAMI runs from Wednesday, December 3, through Sunday, December 7, at NW 31st Street and North Miami Avenue, Miami. Tickets $15 at the door.

-- Jose D. Duran

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