If you’ve always wanted to dabble in art collecting, but never thought it was quite within your budget, the Superfine! Art Fair, which comes to LA from Feb. 14-17, might be just what you’ve been waiting for.
The curated contemporary art fair was created by partners – in business and in life – James Miille and Alex Mitow, in 2015.
“James is a photographer,” explains Mitow. “He was navigating the art world as an emerging artist, and I was sort of an outsider who had been around art for a long time but was never really in it from a business perspective, and I started to see what was going on. The market wasn’t really accessible to the people who could be buying art.”
To answer the growing divide between the insular world of art and a public that appreciated art but couldn’t afford to buy it, the couple made it their mission to “empower collectors at all stages of their journey” and provide “the ability to take home work that they love, within their budget,” as well as to bring “joy and excitement into the art of collecting art.”
Superfine!, as a result, is a brisk, fun sales atmosphere for exhibitors and collectors to come together. Begun as part of Miami Art week four years ago, the festival has evolved as Miille and Mitow built a team of driven arts professionals to make the magic happen year-round in New York, Miami, Washington D.C., and now Los Angeles, and more cities each year.
“We’re kind of the inclusive, accessible art fair,” says Mitow. “That’s where we’ve positioned ourselves.”
He goes on to explain, “There’s a lot of discrimination in the art world – about who is an art collector. We’re about redefining the profile of who loves art and wants to put it in their homes.”
Part of that is about money – something the festival addresses by focusing on “an accessible pricing bracket.” With 90 percent of the artwork on offer ranging from $100-$5000, Superfine! makes for a truly approachable art experience where fledgling collectors can find something amazing on a budget that’s comfortable to them.
Mitow says that diversity is also a big factor. Sellers often see people who don’t fit a narrow demographic – essentially affluent, older white people – as not being interested in purchasing art. Changing that perception, he says, “means including an outsized proportion of female artists, LGBTQ artists, artists of color – that’s kind of our M.O.”
“We do curate,” he continues, defining their style as “accessible yet challenging,” but he says their “diverse exhibitor base” is really because they reach out for a diverse audience. As he puts it, “We create programming that’s geared toward the audiences that we serve.”
For the LA debut of Superfine!, the festival will include a roster of more than 250 artists. Mitow says there will be a lot of highlights for audiences looking to connect with “really incredible” LGBTQ artists.
“David Jester, for instance, does these kind of precious paintings of men in pools, swimming – but they’re not sexual, they’re emotional paintings. They’re very beautiful.”
“John Waiblinger, who’s based here in LA, does these portraits that redefine masculinity – photographs superimposed on backgrounds, almost seventies-ish but also really contemporary.”
“Pansy Ass Ceramics – they’re these two guys from Toronto who are very quiet and shy, lovely guys. They make these amazing ceramics that are, like, very erotic. But cheeky. Not dirty, but really funny. I think everyone I know has a piece of theirs.”
“They’re building a 600-square-foot-lounge area in the fair called ‘Pansyland.’”
“And of course there’s my partner, James Miille. The series he’s showing is a new body of work for him, mostly dealing with the male body – he has some that are posed against lighted backgrounds, some that are more “high-conceptual.”
The festival also features panel discussions, such as one called “Challenging Masculinity Stereotypes Through Art.” Set against the backdrop of the Pansyland installation, artists will tackle the difficult topic of how typical masculinity norms should be represented and re-evaluated through visual art.
Says Mitow, “That one will be moderated by Zack Stafford, new editor-in-chief at the Advocate – one of Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30.’ He’s 28 and he used to be the editorial head of Grindr before he moved to the Advocate. It includes three artists from the fair, two who are gay men and one is a woman who does these incredible portraits of male couples.”
Following that discussion will be a series of film shorts curated by the Miami-based OUTshine Film Festival. “They did a special one for L.A.,” Mitow says. “I gave them the directive of finding films that had a basis in Latin American queer identity – so we have a series of five short films all dealing with that concept, that will screen right after the panel.”
Other highlights of the four-day event include the director-curated “This is America!” exhibition of diverse political art, the fair’s always-popular Young Collectors’ Ice Cream Social (Friday 2/15), and a Valentine’s Day Vernissage opening complete with cotton candy-topped champagne alongside live sax and DJ sets. The fair’s educational panels will feature artists, art luminaries and Hollywood notables, and a robust A/V program will be deployed throughout the fair.
With all this diverse, accessible art, the Superfine! Art Fair seems like a must-do event for any art-loving Angeleno, queer or not. It’s a place where collectors, whether new or experienced, are bound “to discover the next masterpiece for the walls of their DTLA loft or bungalow in the Hills.”
The Superfine! Art Fair takes place at DTLA’s Magic Box at The Reef (1933 South Broadway) from Feb. 14-17. Tickets range from $10 – $75. For more information and a complete list of artists and events, visit the festival’s Eventbrite page.