Funding wasn’t going to come from the struggling government, though they did “donate a few cardboard trash cans,” laughed Karlo Andrei Ibarra, the co-founder of the San Juan-based artist-run space Km 0.2, which exhibited at the fair. Several independent collectors whom Báez and Rodriguez asked for financial support were skeptical, too.
Hard up for cash, the two instead “created a secret formula,” said Báez, one that sounds suspiciously like a recipe for bankruptcy: Start producing the fair on a shoestring budget, and as booth payments come in from galleries, pay the most urgent bills first. Total production costs came to $65,000—much less than the production costs of comparable fairs that also highlight emerging art and galleries.
One reason for doing it on the cheap was to keep booth costs and public entry fees low. Galleries paid $3,500 for booths, and visitors paid around $20 for a fair ticket. By contrast, first-year galleries at Basel’s emerging art fair, LISTE, pay between $7,000 and $8,000 for a booth.
The “secret formula” worked: On June 1st, the fair opened in the arched corridors of the city’s music school, Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico.
Fifteen galleries and three special projects set up shop in the main section, along with eight galleries and four performances in a curated section called Mecanismos. They came from San Juan, Santo Domingo, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee. Some were regulars on the international fair circuit, like Gavin Brown’s enterprise and 47 Canal; others, like Km 0.2, were showing at an art fair for the first time.