State of the art in Miami. Interview with Ilana Vardy.

By Steve Mayo


A list of movers and shakers in Miami’s art community would likely be topped with names of private collectors and art dealers. One name to start looking for on such a list is Ilana Vardy.

Art + Auction included her among its Power List 2004 for the work she’s done directing Art Miami and launching Chicago’s Navy Pier, Chicago Contemporary & Classic art fair, which was no small feat in a highly-competitive market there.
Last year she moved to Miami, where she’s watched the phenomena unfold in the city’s art community. As Art Miami director, she’s also making a shift from running the only contemporary art fair in town to following Art Basel Miami Beach.

But her quest doesn’t appear to be sleigh the giant with a few smooth stones.
Instead, hers is a mission that includes, not only producing an annual art fair but to harness some of the energy from the four-day explosion that takes place during Art Basel Miami Beach, and carry it throughout the rest of the year into Miami’s art community.

Vardy recently spoke with Miami Art Guide about her take on the state of the art in Miami

Steve Mayo: What’s your impression of the general well-being of art in Miami?

Ilana Vardy: Art in Miami is getting more deserved attention on a national and international level, but I’m sure there is always an element of struggle for local artists to get the kind of representation they need from galleries and museums. The development of a strong local market is key for the future success of our local artists.

SM: What pitfalls need to be avoided to continue the city’s success?

IV: I believe the city’s success is measured on two levels; one from a local perspective and one from an external perspective. The city’s cultural community needs to be united in its local activities and goals so that it continues to build a strong core of galleries, museums and cultural centers with important local support. Only then, in my opinion, can we sustain a positive and solid reputation to the outside world.

SM: How do you see Art Miami contributing to the city’s art community?

IV: Art Miami is contributing in a bigger way now by supporting events in the community year-round. For example, Art Miami sponsored the New World School of the Art’s Rising Start Showcase last March; we’re sponsoring and participating in an upcoming seminar at the ArtCenter/South Florida; we organized a lecture in October at a local gallery on the topic of collecting art, etc. In addition, we’re making a big effort to ensure that Art Miami is home to our important local galleries and that they feel Art Miami, regardless of what other shows they participate in, is a viable component to their gallery’s work. We hope that we can always continue to bring a valuable and continually evolving market to our local institutions.

SM: What criteria gauge the success or failure of Art Miami? Sales? Attendance? Exhibitors?

IV: All of the above. From our participants’ perspective, success is measured by sales and networking abilities. From our perspective as organizers, we gauge the quality of the attendance and the responses we get from the galleries. Sometimes a gallery is quite happy with a fair even if sales are less than expected, because they see a fair’s potential for growth. I’m always looking to improve the quality, and that takes a lot of time.

SM: It would appear that Art Miami refers more to location than art created in Miami. How much of a role or influence does art in Miami play in Art Miami?

IV: Certainly Art Miami is an international event, but I am very much interested in supporting local artists. This is why we want to work as much as possible with the local galleries, and why we believe that the local artists can find representation with non-local galleries by networking with our exhibitors.

SM: Anything new for the 2006 show?

IV: A lot is new for 2006. In addition to a great list of new participants from around the world, special features will include a photography exhibit by local artists called Meet Me in Miami, curated by Carol Jazzar; a series of fascinating panel discussions on a variety of topics, including Caribbean art, contemporary photography, and how to collect art. The Currents section and the Project Spaces will again be a strong component to Art Miami 2006. Outside of the fair will be a great list of exciting events as well.

Art Miami
The Moore Building
4040 NE Second Ave., Suite 304
Miami, FL 33137

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