Miami art show helps spotlight New Orleans artists and galleries

“If you are a serious gallery, you need to be there. It’s a place where you can take the pulse of the international art market and be recognized.” Arthur Roger, gallery owner

If you’re an art aficionado, you know that the place to be in early December is Miami, where the international art show “Art Basel — Miami Beach” fills dozens of pavilions with works by artists from nearly every continent. The event and its satellite shows, ending today, attract nearly 60,000 people over six days.

It’s the only annual art show that the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans takes part in.

“If you are a serious gallery, you need to be there,” owner Arthur Roger said by phone from Miami. “It’s a place where you can take the pulse of the international art market and be recognized. It’s a tremendously important event for promoting your artists, especially local artists, to private collectors, museum curators, corporate buyers and anyone who has disposable income.”

Jonathan Ferrara Gallery also participates in the event, and owner Jonathan Ferrara said the broad exposure the show offers is important for cultivating interest in New Orleans artists and galleries.

“We sold a piece to the president of the board of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and she was a little reluctant to confess she had never been to New Orleans,” Ferrara said. “That’s what makes this event good for the city’s cultural economy. It introduces people like her to what New Orleans has to offer. Maybe she’ll come visit now, or maybe she’ll tell her colleagues about it. And the other important aspect is that all of the dollars from sales go right back to New Orleans.”

Museums nationwide organize trips to the Miami event so that their members can see works by thousands of artists on display in one venue.

“Instead of them traveling all over the country and world to see galleries and art works, we all gather here so they can visit us all in one place,” Roger said. “There are a dozen or more shows that are satellites to the central ‘Art Basel — Miami Beach’ show. I’m part of Art Miami, and each satellite show has its own pavilion.”

Art Miami alone exhibits works from 124 galleries in 17 nations.

Many visitors attend the cluster of shows simply to take notes and study the art, but most come ready to buy.

“We’ve been incredibly successful,” Ferrara said. “We sold 10 major pieces in the first three days, and that was before the weekend.”

Ferrara’s gallery is one of 65 U.S. galleries participating in the Miami Project.

A third New Orleans gallery, Callan Contemporary, is one of 100 galleries exhibiting in the 70,000-square-foot SCOPE Miami Beach pavilion.

Participating in the show involves a huge amount of time, effort and money. A gallery owner must transport art works to the show, style and set up a booth, greet visitors all day and night, then break things down and return to New Orleans.

For Roger, only the Miami show merits the investment, but Ferrara said he attends several shows a year.

“This event is the crown jewel of art fairs, followed by Armory Week in New York,” Ferrara said. “But we do others because we want to build the gallery and export New Orleans culture as broadly as we can.”

Roger said he took about 50 pieces with him this year, but a computer in his booth lets him show works by many more artists represented by his gallery. Among those he exhibited are Luis Cruz Azaceta, David Bates, Jacqueline Bishop, Douglas Bourgeois, Stephen Paul Day, Troy Dugas, George Dureau, Courtney Egan, Lin Emery, Deborah Luster and Francis X. Pavy. The artists’ works have enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive reception, he said.

“We sold a $75,000 work by David Bates the first night and a major piece by Courtney Egan the same night,” Roger said. “We also sold one of Deborah Luster’s photographs, a major piece by Troy Dugas, and a number of small works by Stephen Paul Day, all in the first few days. We’re thrilled our artists are getting the exposure.”

Ferrara reported sales of significant works by Dan Tague, Brian Borrello and Michael Pajon, among the total of 10 works sold in the first few days of the show.

“The sales are important, but when I leave here, I take home with me a book with 50 names in it of people interested in the gallery and our artists,” Ferrara said. “Over the years, these people can become clients, and they can help spread the word about our city and what we have to offer.”