George Sanchez Calderon’s studio is beneath 395 in the historic Overtown area of Miami. When I stopped by on November 27th, he was busy shuffling things around in preparation for a series of studio visits.
How long have you been in Miami?
Oh, since I was a kid. I moved here from New York when I 5-6 years old. I got my graduate degree at RISD, 93-95.
What was it like before Basel?
Before Basel came…Rosa collected and had things at her house. The Rubells had bought the warehouse. An old DEA warehouse. Oh God, I met them at Fred Snitzer’s Gallery, when José Bedia I believe had a show. Fred’s gallery was still on Ponce [de Leon Boulevard, in Coral Gables]; he hadn’t even moved to Wynwood yet.
When I moved here, the first thing I did was go on the Coral Gables art walk. It was scary man. Then I realized that all those galleries stayed in business by selling stuff for living rooms in the Gables.
…For houses in the Gables. It’s interesting that, through its growth and development, pre-Basel, the beach was growing as a place of tourism. The creative influence there was strongest with the gay community, but not necessarily contemporary art. They influenced street fair kind of things. Coral Gables really developed the system of people buying and selling work, with a strong association with the Latin American auctions, with Sotheby’s and Christie’s. It was also when Gary Nader started cataloging and creating a database of the prices of all these artists. Gary’s knowledge of the matter is incredible. Cricket Taplin used to have a gallery in the Gables. Now she owns the Sagamore. Very cool.
What about the week before the first Basel? What were people’s expectations?
Art Miami had been coming for ten years, so people were very acclimated to that. It’s important to remember that they didn’t come that first year because of 9-11. This is the 10 year anniversary of the cancellation. The only thing that happened, that was amazing, was that when they cancelled, all of the locals went forward with the projects. Basel printed the catalogues. There was a great sense of unity that year…because they didn’t show up.
It goes without saying that over the past decade, with all of the fairs showing up, Miami has become an international art destination.
What do the local artists think? The ones who have been here since before these changes occurred? I know Ruben Ochoa got a little bit of hostility from some artists in the Design district…
It’s local politics. They just destroyed their studio…Ten years ago, Bhakti and the guys from the house came out on the cover of the New York Times art section. Now, Miami is a leading example of mortgage fraud and the things that happened. Development is still occurring. The Design District is a completely different neighborhood. These artists are part of it, but they’re being displaced because they don’t paid for studios, they get hooked up. It’s the reality of what happens after ten years. Everyone is dealing with it. Shit happens.
This is a pretty classic example of the clash between an organic art scene and one that is connected to international capital. Can you think of other good and bad examples of artists that have been really changed?
Mark Handforth’s probably the best example, that’s why he’s got the show up at MOCA. He lives here; he doesn’t work with Fred. He has no local representation. But from working with Gavin Brown and Eva Presenhuber, and whoever else, he’s got representation throughout the world.
Robert Chambers has been down here a long time. Ten years ago he did “globe>miami>island” at the Bass. That’s one of the best examples of a community show down here. From Luis Gispert to Teresita Fernandez, Brandon Opalka…pretty much everybody was in that show. I wasn’t, but a lot of other people were.
The connectivity of globalization is just part of our evolution. Miami has a large number of benefits, but there are going to be negative consequences as well. Some people don’t feel like they’re part of it.
There was a boom a few years back, but a lot of people have fizzled out, right?
At the height of the market, you had people making work for sale, but you have to think about what kind of work that was. People were jumping on the economic bandwagon. Now they have this gripe, but weren’t interested six years ago. Six years ago, these problems were very real. As a matter of fact, they’ve existed for more than thirty years.
You keep bringing up the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. How has the gallery representation scene changed since you had these big players move in? The Perrotin space, which looks pretty vacant, for instance…
That’s one of the biggest differences, because a lot of people have had the courage to open up galleries and try to sustain them. From Gallery Diet to Spinello, David Castillo, Kevin Bruk had a big presence, Rocket Projects was open for a while. All of the places that have been open during the past ten years, you can see their mark later. Christina Lei Rodriguez sold her first pieces to the Rubell’s from Rocket Projects. Now she has a show at Fred’s and at Team Gallery. There it is. You see the direct influence.
There were no galleries in Wynwood ten years ago. There were zero. Zero. There was Marty’s collection and the Rubells’. That was it. When I did the circus in ‘03 with David Lombardi and Nina Arias, we created the Wynwood art district.
To kick off the development of Midtown, I did a huge circus installation where I made paintings of collectors on banners. There was a ferris wheel. Performers. I was alluding to the carnivalesque place that we were headed to.
Which fairs are you going to this year?
I dunno. Basel? I’ll go to Pulse because it’s down the street. I’ll be showing at Primary Projects, at Grey Area on the beach, at the Bass Museum with my buddy Shelter [Serra]. Also, Shelter will install a neon sign at Tomorrowland. It’ll be the last thing we do there.
I’m really anxious…
It’s not the end of the world, it’s mercantilism. People show up, they get off a plane, they put a price tag on whatever, and they look for somebody to buy it. It’s not part of the discourse of Gardner’s. Art Through the Ages doesn’t touch upon this stuff.