The first thing you may notice walking into Untitled, the new fair that set up this year right on the beach at 12th Street in Miami Beach, is the abundant natural light streaming through the tent’s roof. The second: it smells heavenly, of succulent grilled chicken, of pizza baking.
“Great food!” artist Conrad Ventur said early on Saturday afternoon, of the Lyon+Lyon pop-up cafe on site. “We’ve all been eating there. It’s so delicious.” Mr. Ventur was manning the booth of Lower East Side nonprofit Participant Inc, where his work was on view. He showed us a beautiful photo print by Luther Price, little portraits by Vaginal Davis on the back of slices of cereal boxes and other works, many which are being sold to fund future projects at the space, which is making a rare art-fair appearance.
Untitled is the smaller of the two new major Miami fairs, with about 45 exhibitors to the 65 at Miami Project, which is located in a tent in Miami proper, right next to the long-running Art Miami. It’s a comfortable number to spend time with, all the more so since New York–based curator Omar Lopez-Chahoud, who organized Untitled, worked with galleries to select artists for the fair and, in some cases, hang work. There were no hulking, mismatched group shows here, as at many fairs—most of the exhibitors showed just four or less artists, which lent the whole fair a crisp, clean look.
We caught up with Mr. Lopez-Chahoud in an aisle of the fair as he bounced from gallery to gallery, checking in on everyone, and he walked us over to the booth of the Lower East Side’s Blackston gallery, which was showing a geometric wood totem by Rachel Beach and two abstract paintings by Amy Feldman with messily painted shapes. “I’m really keen about their work!” he said. “I saw a relationship between these artists’ work.” (Not typical fair organizer behavior, to be sure.) Two bulging, curvaceous paintings by Justin Adian—canvas wrapped around hunks of carved foam—rounded the booth out nicely, sensual counterpoints to Ms. Beach’s sharp–edged beauty.
“I like that there’s a small number of galleries,” Blackston director Rhiannon Kubicka told us. “Everyone is very friendly. I get a chance to really be one-to-one.”
Mr. Lopez-Chahoud began planning the fair back in March—a remarkably short turnaround for a project of this scale. “Miami is extremely competitive, because there are too many fairs, and a lot of people I have long-term relationships have moved onto the main fair, in the little time we had, but we really managed to pull it off,” he said, strolling through fair, which looks out on one side to the water.
But while the fair is beautifully conceived and the booth displays generally well presented, the quality of galleries and work on offer has some ways to go if it is to compete with the other satellites. To his credit, Mr. Lopez-Chahoud had lined up some unusual exhibitors, like Partcipant and also Soho’s Third Streaming, which was participating in its first-ever art fair.
“He’s put his heart and soul into this,” Yona Backer, of Third Streaming, told us. She was showing photographs of the Hudson River docks, once a popular meeting location for gay men, by the late Alvin Baltrop. “For me it’s been fantastic,” she said. “I’ve been talking about 90 percent of the time. There’s the lighting, the spaciousness. It’s a very curated show. And I have a view of the ocean. I can’t complain.”