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Robert Fontaine Talks Art Basel Celebrity Sightings and Wallpapered Bathrooms

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​In honor of our 10th Anniversary Basel Issue, Cultist introduces "Baselphrenia," where Miami art scenesters discuss the Swiss art fair's impact on our cultural landscape over the past decade.

Robert Fontaine is the owner of an eponymous candy-striped gallery in Wynwood where he traffics in the work of emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, as well as big-name masters.

Collectors looking to purchase a Jim Dine, Barbara Kruger, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Francesco Clemente, Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Shepard Fairey, or Bansky can roll up to his modest, one-stop art annex and fill their shopping cart with their choice of works by these top-drawer names. "High Artmageddon," is Fontaine's pet name for Basel Week.

Fontaine got his start in the art business as an apprentice at a small Naples gallery while studying psychology and art history at Florida Gulf Coast University back in 1998.

The 35-year-old dealer moved here in 2002 working as an assistant at the now defunct Ashmore Gallery on Miami Beach, before opening his own digs, the Modern Art Gallery in SoBe in 2007.

Since inaugurating his Wynwood locale in January of this year, the unassuming Fontaine has been hanging a string of shows with a keen eye that have made his space popular with Second Saturday throngs and has done so without resorting to the hoopla and boozy party hook typical of other spaces in the hood.

Cultist: What's the most memorable exhibit or artwork you've seen during Art Basel Week over the past decade? Do you remember the year?

Robert Fontaine: Artist OLEK's crochet room at SCOPE last year, absolutely amazing, truly new and unlike anything I have seen, that's what it's all about right?!

What's your funniest Art Basel memory? What's the weirdest art work you recall seeing during the fair?

Living artists Eva & Adele both strolling around in full drag, hot pink colors, bald heads and all, weird, interesting, and certainly art.

What's your favorite Art Basel celeb sighting?
Adrien Brody, walking to the Miami Beach Convention Center. I heard he bought a Rothko. Wow.

What's the best Art Basel party you remember?
I didn't get to party, too busy selling art. Maybe this year.

Can you name a defining breakthrough moment for a local artist during Art Basel you were impressed by?
Not for a local artist... Hopefully this year there will be much more of a spotlight for talent here--we have so many--and Miami artists lend a different ideology.

What do you think Art Basel's greatest impact has been on Miami and what would you most like to see showcased during the fair this year?
Basel showcased a more historic and sophisticated brand which Miami needs to balance its reputation as a party town. I think we would be naked without Basel...

In your opinion, what's the most annoying thing about Art Basel Week?
I'm not sure there are too many annoying features. I love that its undefined and still has a new feeling each year. The event has no center location and no hours, no boundaries, it's not one thing or another. Each year is different from the last... Art Basel has a life of its own and a very young one. It's nice to be a part of that.

Do you have a project planned for Basel this year? If so what is it?
We will be showing at SCOPE Booth A39, with a focus on truly fresh ideas, including an artist named C. Finley who wallpapers everything including dumpsters and bathrooms, tables and chairs, it's more than it sounds...really amazing project I'm happy to be showcasing along with other artists like Nick Gentry, Tina La Porta, Scott Snyder and local Miami artist Troy Abbott.

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