Seven, Miami's Scrappy, Sporting Alternative Fair, Turns Two

Last week, just a few blocks south of the Art Miami fair, in the Wynwood section of Miami, seven galleries—New York’s P.P.O.W., BravinLee, Pierogi, Winkleman, Postmasters and Ronald Feldman, and London’s Hales Gallery—converted a 15,000-square-foot warehouse into the second edition of a fair that is called, appropriately, Seven.

Seven eschews booths, instead placing work by artists represented by different dealers throughout the space: wall labels identify the gallery to speak with about buying a work. “There is a wonderful breadth of possibilities” Pierogi’s Joe Amrhein told Gallerist by phone yesterday, two days after the closing of the fair. (He was still in Miami, finishing up business.) “Each gallery gets more or less 145 linear feet on the walls”—more space than even the roomiest fair booths typically provide.

Numerous signs by British artist Bob and Roberta Smith—also known as Patrick Brill (who shows with Hales and Pierogi)—held one wall in the front room, and on view in the next were large-scale paintings by David Diao of Postmasters and a sprawling canvas of a garbage-blanketed corner of Clinton and Delancey Streets, from 1983, by Martin Wong, courtesy of P.P.O.W., which represents the artist’s estate.

One section was devoted to an installation by Jonathan Schipper: a room of objects that were being slowly pulled into a wall by strings, its contents being destroyed at a glacial pace. Any one of those pieces would have taken up a good hunk of any typical art fair booth. And the two walls devoted to scores of small paintings and drawings, hung salon-style by Mr. Amrhein, would be unthinkable in that context.

Seven started last year, after Pierogi, which had previously participated in Art Basel, was denied entry, and spoke to other dealers that were frustrated with the state of contemporary fairs. “We drove around Wynwood, and we realized there was so much cheap real estate available,” Mr. Amrhein told us.

Setting up shop apart from the main fairs, the galleries trade spillover foot traffic for space and flexibility, Mr. Amrhein said. “We wanted to get rid of that booth context,” the dealer said. “But the word of mouth ended up spreading, and we had a lot of people who we didn’t know come to the fair.” Work sold, mostly in the under-$10,000 range, with some works going for well above that. The galleries hope to return to the same building next year.

“It costs half of what we would pay to do another fair,” Mr. Amrhein said. “Of course, we are very savvy about how this all works and we end up working a little harder. I was here two weeks. We do everything from renting refrigerators to building the walls to making the food every day. It’s like one big family, which makes it nice. By keeping it smaller, we can do this.” (“I’ve never met a harder working human in my life,” Mr. Winkleman wrote on his blog yesterday, referring to Mr. Amrhein.)

Gallerist asked Mr. Amrhein if Seven could work in New York, a city that is now glutted with two sets of fairs, in March and May. “The real estate is so much more expensive there,” the dealer said, though he acknowledged it might be possible in Brooklyn. There is also talk of staging a version in London in October during Frieze. For now, though, he is headed back to the gallery. “I really want to focus on the shows there, and focus on the artists,” he said.

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