Cristina Salmastrelli has been with PULSE Art Fair since 2011, and in the interim years has seen all manner of shifting circumstances change both the art market and fair circuit for good. Traditional collectors and art world heavyweights may once have completely dominated industry events, but especially as fairs have become more walkable and accessible, this is no longer the case.
On November 12, Salmastrelli will be one of the distinguished speakers present at Observer’s second Business of Art Observed event, where she, alongside industry leaders such as Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s Americas, and Nanne Dekking, the founder and CEO of Artory, will examine some of the art world’s most pressing issues in 2019. Observer caught up with Salmastrelli to talk about this year’s upcoming PULSE Art Fair in Miami (the event’s 15th anniversary), the importance of giving back to one’s community and the rise of buyers leading with their hearts.
Observer: What programming coming up in December are you particularly excited about?
Cristina Salmastrelli: This is our 15th anniversary, and so that kind of made me dive into a reflection on our connection to the community. I wanted to be a little more inclusive of the community and to reach for local audiences in addition to art audiences. So, for our daily programing this year, we are calling it PULSE Perspectivos, and we will be having conversations in English and in Spanish daily. There’ll be one conversation in English, and then one in Spanish on a variety of topics obviously connected to art, but in different ways so that we’re attracting and satisfying a lot of the different tastes that come to PULSE. We’ve done some Spanish language interviews and newsletters and also advertising, which we’re pretty excited about.
Sustainability must be coming up a lot more recently, due to all the news about climate change and how that will affect coastal cities like Miami. Has that factored into your planning discussions at all?
One of the things that we are trying to do is to digitize more and more of our informational materials. We know we’re going to be making our guides and maps digitally again in order to produce less waste. And since we are in a park and we’re up against the dunes, we always make sure that we leave the location better than we found it in terms of issues like beach erosion and stuff like that.
One of the things that we are trying to finalize right now is actually a beach cleanup. Again, the city of Miami has given us so much in the past 15 years—we were one of the starters. We need to thank the city, we need to take care of this city and that is how we’re going to try to do our part.
What’s the biggest way that art fairs have changed over the past 15 years?
Number one, internally, is competition. When I started in 2011 on PULSE, I think there were maybe seven satellite fairs. We’ve seen that internal competition grow, and I’m of the mind that art fairs are a community, and the fact that more and more people love the community that we’ve built is a positive thing. That being said, the communities that are coming to the art fairs have changed. It has become more and more of a cultural audience, a cultural public that is curious in one way or another. We used to just see art collectors, museum curators, people who live and breathe art. But now you’re seeing more of: “This is a fun event to go to.” That’s a really interesting change, and that has shifted our presentation, what art we’re showing, and our communication with our galleries.
Do you see the practice of collecting adapting to fit this new generation, or do you see this new generation becoming collectors in the traditional sense?
No, I think we have gone away from the traditional realm since the birth of the Internet. You will always have those tried and true collectors that are brought up in that traditional realm where you focus on emerging art or black and white mediums and things like that, but you’re going to see more collectors buying on an emotional level.
Why do you think that is?
It’s really interesting. We found statistically that 50 percent of the buyers that come to PULSE are purchasing on an emotional level, which is kind of shocking because it brings me back to my graduate thesis at NYU. This expat couple that lived in Italy, all they did was buy for emotional reasons, and their house that’s in Florence had some really, really poor quality pieces of art next to really amazing pieces of work because they bought emotionally. I’m definitely seeing the heart leading a little bit more than the mind these days, which is refreshing. It excites me.
Observer’s Fall 2019 Business of Art Observed on November 12 in New York is the premier event for art industry professionals. Join us for an afternoon of talks, live debates and networking sessions with key industry players. The world’s leading art firms, galleries, museums and auction houses will converge to share what’s disrupting the industry today. Don’t miss out, register now.