“We’re not a store, we’re a full-service gallery that works with our clients,” she said.
Snitzer was first attracted to Wynwood, now the hub of Miami’s gallery scene, by its proximity to Art Basel and the major collections and its inexpensive warehouse spaces. He moved into a 7,000-square-foot warehouse about eight years ago — and watched the masses follow over time.
“I didn’t imagine the food trucks and drunken kids and circus-like atmosphere selling art out of the back of station wagons,” he said. “It’s just not conducive to the business that I’m in. If we have an opening on gallery night, our collectors can’t park. If they get to the gallery, there are hordes of people.”
So Snitzer is leaving; he’ll be out by March. He doesn’t yet know where he’ll end up, but he said it will still be in Miami. The Design District is too expensive, he said, and the new prices in Wynwood are beyond what he wants to pay, too: $20-$30 per square foot, compared to $4-$8 when he first arrived.
“There are all sorts of creative options: warehouse space, potentially an old house, a complex idea, maybe other kinds of art venues,” he said. “I’m very excited about what’s happening with YoungArts,” which moved into the Bacardi complex at 2100 Biscayne Blvd.
While his client base used to be completely local, only about 10-20 of his business comes from Miami now. He has picked up international clients by doing fairs in New York, Hong Kong, Berlin and elsewhere.
Art Basel Miami Beach has been good to Snitzer, who has participated in the fair every year. He said the gallery sold “astronomically better” than expected in the first few years, though business did drop off as the economy weakened.
During the recession, he said, demand for work by hot artists grew while potential buyers were reluctant to speculate on younger artists.
He believes the scene in Miami could be improved by greater academic rigor in gallery programming and a more culturally educated community.
“It’s a big long-term job and I think lots of different other parts of the community need to address it and be aware of it,” he said. “It will change. I may be dead, but it will. It’s moving in the right direction, but it’s got a long way to go.”
Castillo has been an art dealer since he was in his early 20s, but first he had to realize that pre-med wasn’t his calling at Yale University. After studying history and art history for undergrad, he spent a year at the Vatican studying Latin with a Carmelite monk.
That year of Latin, he said, helped with the other languages he speaks (Spanish, Italian, French and some German), which has come in handy for socializing with clients around the world.
“It’s a whole social personality-driven business; it’s not like selling a million T-shirts,” he said. “It’s very different from that because people have to not only like the artwork, they have to like the gallery and the person they’re buying it from.”
Valedictorian of the class of 1992 at Hialeah High, Castillo grew up going to photo exhibits and the Center for the Fine Arts, the precursor to the Miami Art Museum. His gallery represents several South Florida artists; everything Castillo shows deals with the theme of identity. About 30 percent of his clientele is local, and the rest are mostly from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Texas.
Castillo has been selected to participate in the main Art Basel Miami Beach fair twice so far, including last year, when he sold out.
“By the end, you’re exhausted, but it feels good because you have this really wide, wide audience that is looking at what you’re doing and deciding not only to have faith in you and the artists, but to put money behind it,” he said.
He’s not part of the fair this year, but Castillo said he understands how competitive it is. He doesn’t do satellite fairs, but he will hold a reception Saturday for the large group show that runs through the end of the year.
“Not every gallery gets in every year to every fair, but when you’re operating at a certain level you understand that this year I didn’t get in, but so didn’t 40 other great galleries in other cities,” he said. “It’s nothing personal as people sometimes want to make it seem.”
The show he opened in late November is already half sold, and he knows there are more opportunities waiting. He has sold at fairs in Berlin and New York and will be at the LA Art Show in January.
“You accumulate new audiences and that is the reality of a gallery today,” he said. “It’s not like you just sit waiting for people to show up.”
Every year since he established his own gallery in 2005, Anthony Spinello has applied to be part of Art Basel Miami Beach.
This year, he finally made it. The gallery will present New Landscapes, an exhibition from Miami artists Agustina Woodgate, in the fair’s Art Positions sector.
“It’s really exciting; it’s a bit surreal,” said Spinello, who just turned 30. “I understand with these things it takes time and respect and you have to really work to be able to be featured in such a prestigious show.”
He moved to Miami from Brooklyn in 2003 because, he said, “I needed a little light in my life.” After first working for another gallery, he opened his own out of his apartment in 2005. The following years brought several moves, first to a storefront in Wynwood, then to the Design District and finally to the 3,000-square-foot space he occupies now, described on his website as “West of Wynwood.”
“I think it’s Allapattah,” he said of the location just west of Interstate 95.
While he didn’t make the Art Basel fair in recent years, “I’ve done all sorts of crazy s---,” during the week surrounding the fair, Spinello said.
Last year, he said, he found an abandoned preschool center in the Design District and did a site-specific three-show project there. Other years, he put on a miniature version of Art Basel that he called “Littlest Sister,” actually an art show that invited artists (not galleries) to exhibit in scaled-down booths.
“The idea originally was when Basel first came to town, all these people were coming to Miami and they weren’t necessarily coming to the galleries,” Spinello said. “The solution was to create an art fair in my gallery.”
He has also participated in satellite fairs including Pulse and Scope, and in other fairs around the country and elsewhere in the world. That’s where Spinello has created most of his collector base, he said, estimating that maybe 10 percent of his business is local.
“Miami has an incredible thriving arts community and is very supportive in that we’re trying to get something going, but the truth is, Miami is till an emerging city, it’s a young city,” he said. “With art comes culture. It’s just about educating.”
After decades working as an executive for media companies and as a wealth management advisor, Williams realized a longtime dream and opened her latest venture, Williams McCall Gallery, earlier this year.
Though she traveled frequently for business, she has owned a home in the South of Fifth neighborhood of Miami Beach for more than 12 years. When a space on Washington Avenue became available to buy, she knew the stars had aligned.
“I just thought an art gallery would make a wonderful addition to the community from a business perspective,” she said. “I witnessed the transformation of this area. It’s been explosive.”
Although Wynwood is the center of the gallery universe for now, Williams said she wanted to break new ground.
“Instead of being one of many, we’re pioneers,” she said. “People are finding us. And I enjoy being part of the community. I see our clients in the park, on the street walking my dog, in the restaurants.”
Since opening, Williams said, business at the 1,000-square-foot gallery has been better than she anticipated. About 40 percent of her clients are local; others come from the Eastern seaboard as well as the West Coast and Brazil.
Events and openings are key to driving business; the next is Friday, a reception for the installation, Post-Millenial Jonah, timed to coincide with Art Basel. The focus of the installation is on the rare North Atlantic right whale, which like the gallery has a connection to Cape Cod.
Several of the gallery’s artists have connections to Provincetown, Mass., where Williams also owns a home and serves on the board of directors of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.
“We try to be different and our art is not $250,000 and million-dollar pieces,” she said. “We’re really trying to provide an amazing opportunity for art lovers and collectors to collect artists that are creating high-quality art that are at really reasonable prices.”