Art Market
The Miami Artist-Run Galleries You Need to Know
By Demie Kim and Casey Lesser
Nov 27, 2016 9:00 am
Left to right: Oliver Sanchez of Swampspace; Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly of Dimensions Variable; Loriel Beltran, Domingo Castillo, and Aramis Gutierrez of Noguchi Breton.

Left to right: Oliver Sanchez of Swampspace; Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly of Dimensions Variable; Loriel Beltran, Domingo Castillo, and Aramis Gutierrez of Noguchi Breton.

Do artists make better gallerists? In our ongoing series exploring the inspirations and inner workings behind artist-run galleries around the world, we turn our focus to Miami.

While Miami’s art scene is best known for international events that arrive each December, the city is ripe with artists who have dedicated themselves to enriching the local art scene all year long. Given the city’s ample amount of space—compared to some cities, at least—many of these artists began by inviting friends to show in their studios, which, over time, led to building formal programs. From commercial galleries to nonprofits to project spaces, their wide-ranging programs stage high-quality shows to support Miami artists while also forging relationships between Miami and the global art scene. In North Miami, the Design District, and Little Haiti, Miami neighborhoods (plus one in Fort Lauderdale) are punctuated by these nine fresh and innovative artist-run spaces.


Dimensions Variable

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly

300 NE 2nd Avenue, Building 1, 3rd Floor

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly. Photo courtesy of Dimensions Variable.

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly. Photo courtesy of Dimensions Variable.

The origins of Dimensions Variable trace back to a vacant space on a quiet street in the Design District, which had been donated by collector and developer Craig Robins after Rodriguez-Casanova and Trombly agreed to exchange artworks for studio space. Soon, the two artists began inviting friends to show in the space and before long, in 2009, they officially opened Dimensions Variable. Working with local and international artists through submissions and invitations, they developed a program that revolves around innovative approaches to material, process, display, and concept, all while ensuring that exhibiting artists have complete freedom regarding what they show. After years of operating in a space downtown and, earlier, through a series of pop-ups, Dimensions Variable garnered the attention of Miami Dade College, who invited them to establish their premises on the downtown campus. Now, they’re moving on to an exciting new chapter as they begin an eight-year term in a 3,000-square-foot space, officially open to the public this December.


Artsy: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova: We feel it has come to complement our own practices rather well. In a way, DV has influenced our work through the amazing colleagues we invite to produce exhibitions and participate in projects. There is a different dynamic at work when you see an artist working out their ideas and when you allow them total freedom to do what they do best. We also balance DV with our practices through very careful schedules. We are always working, so we can dedicate time for both. And since our studios are part of DV, it all goes together nicely. Part of our compensation for running DV is that our studios come with it. Since we have been operating out of donated spaces the entire time, it’s worth the work. We also find that the interest of collectors, museums, curators, and other cultural institutions not only benefits the artists that participate in our projects, but also our own work.


Artsy: How do you decide which artists to work with?

LRC: The process is quite casual, really. Sometimes we get a great proposal or someone approaches us about doing something. We also seek out artists we’ve been following and invite them. What we always want is to be open to anyone who wants to get in touch and give us an idea. We have taken many chances and are always interested in taking more risks in the future. We feel lucky to come across a project or work we didn’t expect to see, so openness is important to us. The art world sometimes feels too opaque and closed to us—we try not to be.


Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?

LRC: I don’t think we would use that expression. I would say “different” gallerists instead. As artists, we feel connected to the process and existence of what it means to make art. We think this gives us a unique and very personal perspective on the work.   


Bridge Red Studios/Project Space

Kristen Thiele, Robert Thiele, Francesco Casale

12425 NE 13th Ave, North Miami

Robert and Kristen Thiele, courtesy of Bridge Red Studios.

Robert and Kristen Thiele, courtesy of Bridge Red Studios.

Located in a North Miami warehouse complex, Bridge Red Studios consists of 10 working artist studios as well as an exhibition and project space managed by painter Kristen Thiele, who, in 2011, co-founded the space with her father, the sculptor and painter Robert Thiele, and her husband, photographer and graphic designer Francesco Casale. According to Kristen, the project was born out of “sheer circumstance.” After renting one of their current studios in 2011, Robert had an idea to exhibit works by his friend Salvatore La Rosa, who, along with Robert, had been the only artist from South Florida to be included in the 1975 Whitney Biennial. Since then, the trio have made it their mission to exhibit works by underexposed artists, particularly local artists or those with ties to the community. This month, Bridge Red Studios will collaborate with the MDC Museum of Art +Design to show a site-specific installation by interdisciplinary artist Yanira Collado, who works at the confluence of constructivism, textiles, and literary texts.


Artsy: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?

Kristen Thiele: For the most part, the day-to-day of our experience here at Bridge Red comes down to working in the studio independently. When it comes to BRS/PS, we all have our separate roles: My father and I decide what and who we show and usually install the work together; my husband designs the invitations, photographs the works, and designed our catalog, BR1; and I put together the press releases and publicize our events.


Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?

KT: We don’t make selling work the reason for BRS/PS’s existence, so on that end, no. On the other hand, we prioritize the exposure of the local, long-standing artists in our community who do not show in local commercial galleries. Too often, it seems that younger artists get more attention from galleries here and elsewhere, and we think that may not be fair, either to them or to artists who have sustained a serious work ethic over time and have developed in their practice from this dedication to their work….We think there are many deserving artists who don’t often show work here, in our own backyard, and we try to fill that gap.


Girls’ Club

Francie Bishop Good, Michelle Weinberg, Sarah Michelle Rupert

117 NE 2nd Street, Ft. Lauderdale

From left to right standing: fellow Erica Mohan, intern Dara Katzenstein, gallery director Sarah Michelle Rupert, artists Marina Font, Jill Weisberg, Jenny Larsson, Amalia Caputo, Natalya Laskis and creative director Michelle Weinberg; left to right seated: writer in residence Laura McDermott, founder Francie Bishop Good, artist David Rohn and Leah Brown. Photo by Teodora Dakova.

From left to right standing: fellow Erica Mohan, intern Dara Katzenstein, gallery director Sarah Michelle Rupert, artists Marina Font, Jill Weisberg, Jenny Larsson, Amalia Caputo, Natalya Laskis and creative director Michelle Weinberg; left to right seated: writer in residence Laura McDermott, founder Francie Bishop Good, artist David Rohn and Leah Brown. Photo by Teodora Dakova.

Launched in 2006 by Fort Lauderdale philanthropists and collectors Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz, Girls’ Club is a publicly accessible private collection and alternative art space that focuses primarily on contemporary art by women from South Florida and beyond. Now run by three female artists, the club operates with a three-part mission: to educate the public; to act as a resource for students, scholars, artists, and curators; and to cultivate the careers of female artists, especially by bringing local artwork to a wider audience. During Art Basel in Miami Beach, the space will show “Pink Noise: Flexing the Frequency,” a show devoted to the color pink and its associations with femininity in contemporary art and culture. Next year, Girls’ Club looks forward to a series of nomadic and itinerant public programs, including OFFSITE: four interdisciplinary performances by South Florida artist Jen Clay, writer and artist Vanessa Garcia, dancer and choreographer Jenny Larsson, and artist Christina Pettersson.


Artsy: Can you tell us a bit about your exhibition program? How do you decide which artists to work with?

Michelle Weinberg: So many wonderful artists are working in South Florida. We exhibit internationally renowned artists alongside them.


Sarah Michelle Rupert: Our exhibitions are drawn from the collection—an amazing collection of over 800 works from primarily female artists—and represent a huge range of cultural backgrounds, generations, and perspectives from internationally renowned artists as well as locally based artists. Our public programs rely heavily on local artists who are involved in innovative projects and exciting collaborations, and we feed off of that.


Artsy: In your opinion, what makes a gallery successful?

MW: Since Girls’ Club is a nonprofit, we adhere to our mission statement. That’s our gauge of success. Since we began in 2006, our programming has steadily expanded. We get pretty creative, and we like to share, so we’ve become an ad hoc publisher of creative catalogs, a training ground for emerging curators and arts administrators, a community exhibition space, and a spot for people of all ages to make art under the tutelage of excellent artist-educators.


Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?

SMR: It would be wrong to say better, but artists do make for a unique kind of gallerist. I find artist-gallerists relate a little more directly with the issues, demands, and realities that artists face—for better or worse.


Laundromat Art Space

Andre Martinez, Bianca Pratorius, Christin Paige Minnotte, David McCauley, Jean-Paul Mallozzi, Marina Gonella, Michael Williams, Pablo Contrisciani, Ronald Sanchez

5900 NE 2nd Ave, Miami

Photo courtesy of Laundromat Art Space.

Photo courtesy of Laundromat Art Space.

Motivated by a desire to create a space to promote positivity in the community, a group of artist friends, all finishing up residencies at other organizations, toyed with the idea of launching their own space in Miami. After searching across Wynwood, North Beach, and Little River—attending neighborhood meetings and discussing with other local creatives along the way—they finally came across a charming, abandoned laundromat in Little Haiti. There, in July 2015, they opened Laundromat Art Space, beginning with a group show aptly titled “So Fresh & So Clean.” Today, the space exhibits artists from Miami and elsewhere while, true to its public commitment, partnering with local arts education organizations like Arts 4 Learning and Florida International University’s MFA program. The resident artists will exhibit at the Superfine Art Fair during Miami Art Week; in the future, they hope to develop their second-floor space to create live/work studios for non-Miami-based artists, allowing for greater collaboration with artists and organizations across the U.S.


Artsy: Can you tell us a bit about your exhibition program? How do you decide which artists to work with?

David McCauley: We have an online submission process via submittable.com. Once we receive a curatorial proposal, we meet, discuss among ourselves, and select which ones make the most sense for the space. We definitely try to support the local scene, but we also want to expose the community to artists outside of Miami. We are building a network with other residency programs in which we’ve participated (like Vermont Studio Center) to connect with other artists. In addition, several of our resident artists were formerly based in New York City, so the cross-pollination just happens naturally.


Artsy: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?

DM: I just try to work hard and do the best I can do. I definitely wear many hats, ranging from grant writer to docent to rent collector, and all the resident artists contribute in a myriad of ways, from pushing brooms, building walls, slaying mice (yikes), and fixing the air conditioner. We also have fantastic volunteers.


Artsy: In your opinion, what makes a gallery successful?

DM: The ability to present a strong curatorial vision and engage the public—and I mean a diverse segment of the population. I want to capture the attention of a museum director as well as the gentleman who runs the bodega down the block. Sustainability is also important. We don’t want to be a flash in the pan.


Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?

DM: Loaded question. Depends on the goal of the gallery. I do believe artist-run spaces focus on cultivating innovative concepts more often, which normally results in very interesting exhibitions. But at the end of the day, this is how we eat, so commercially feasible shows are needed to balance the scales.


Noguchi Breton

Aramis Gutierrez, Loriel Beltran, Domingo Castillo, Jonathan Gonzalez

8375 NE 2nd Ave, Miami

Photo courtesy of Noguchi Breton.

Photo courtesy of Noguchi Breton.

Directed by artists Gutierrez, Beltran, and Castillo, and more recently, architect and designer Gonzalez, Noguchi Breton opened in North Miami’s Little Haiti in 2013 with a unique mission: shine a light on local aesthetics in South Florida. In response to Miami’s influx of imported culture and the abundance of art spaces already devoted to international artists, the team—originally named Guccivuitton and, later, Versace Versace Versace—focuses on underrepresented artists connected to the area, like Cologne-based, Miami-born Jessica Gispert, whose work symbolically resonates with Miami’s culture. In addition to the current show from Miami-based abstract painter Lynne Golob Gelfman, Noguchi Breton will soon have booths at NADA Miami Beach and Design Miami/.


Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?

Loriel Beltran: Not better gallerists—I don’t think we are gallerists. We have a space, and we do shows that we think are meaningful, but I think we are far from being gallerists. Hopefully, gallerists make better gallerists.


Artsy: Where did the name Guccivuitton come from?

LB: There are a few reasons our original name worked for us. At first, Aramis mentioned Guccivuitton as a joke, but it became obvious that that was the right name. Guccivuitton sounds cheap and fancy, like Miami. Also, when we moved, it was the end of an era for Wynwood and the Design District—the end of the gentrification cycle when artists were getting pushed out—so it made sense that if we were the first in a new area, we were also signaling future gentrification, and we might as well reference it in our name. Like marking a future site for luxury B.S.


Artsy: What’s next? Do you have plans to continue to develop your space? Upcoming exhibitions you’re excited about?

LB: We are just looking forward for Basel week to end. We have a great show up at the gallery of new paintings by Lynne Golob Gelfman; we’ll have a booth at NADA with three amazing Haitian artists and a booth at Design Miami/, under the name Giovanni Beltran, with a show of outdoor furniture.


BFI

Naomi Fisher

Nomadic

Portrait of Naomi Fisher.

Portrait of Naomi Fisher.

In 2004, Naomi Fisher and Hernan Bas launched Bas Fisher Invitational when they relocated their studios to a 4,000-square-foot retail space in the Miami Design District. With more space at their disposal than they needed, they decided to invite their artist friends to stage solo shows. Now a nomadic space, BFI is still dedicated to supporting the Miami art scene, what Fisher calls “an amorphous ocean of artists that leave and come back like the tides.” Aside from bringing once-Miami-based artists back to the city, they help local artists realize projects in cities across the U.S. This December, at the historic Colony Theater in Miami Beach, BFI will stage the first solo exhibition of Miami-born artist Jorge Elbrecht, along with a multimedia installation by L.A.-based artist Max Hooper Schneider.


Artsy: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?

Naomi Fisher: It’s a commitment of time and energy complementary to my practice. I thrive off seeing shows and studios. Knowing an organization I’ve nourished can help produce shows that might not exist otherwise is a total joy.


Collaboration is key. Hernan was part of it for the first few years. Other artists, like Agatha Wara and Kathryn Marks, have been involved at various points. Jim Drain for many years. Now that we are a 501(c)(3) and have more grants, the amazing Danielle Bender is employed full time. Incredible interns have helped and learned. BFI recently initiated new programming called Artist Swaps, where we work with artist-run spaces, artist-initiated projects, and curators to do gallery exchanges. Currently, we are working with curator Anna Frost, who has organized an exhibition and billboard project with Miami artist Jillian Mayer. As we try do more, we embrace all the help we can get. It truly takes a village.


Artsy: In your opinion, what makes a gallery successful?

NF: In order for our programming to be innovative in a way that benefits artists and the community the most, we believe artists should lead the way, allowing them to dictate how programming should look and how their audience will interact with it. Success is helping artists take risks in a safe space and nourishing our local community while staying connected to the global dialog.


Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?

NF: Artists know how much is on the line when committing to a lifetime of artmaking. Every show is a risk to the pocketbook and ego, a moment where you could drown in an avalanche of rotten tomatoes. Most artist-run galleries hold a protective space far bigger than the bottom line. It’s not a matter of better or worse; rather, the room for experimentation that a nonprofit space can offer through space, time, and funding is a crucial part of the art-world ecosystem.


Swampspace

Oliver Sanchez

3940 N. Miami Ave.

Photo courtesy of Swampspace.

Photo courtesy of Swampspace.

Years ago, while working on his Miami art blog, dubbed Swampstyle, Sanchez gazed out of the old Miami Design District storefront he was working in and decided to open his own gallery. He began with a pop-up in 2008 during Art Basel in Miami Beach, then, in 2010, opened Swampspace in the front of his studio. He has since moved the space twice, all while seeking to present what he calls a “swampy” program of socially relevant shows that subvert expectations and challenge the norms of art institutions. This December, to coincide with Art Basel in Miami Beach, he’ll open “DABOMBDIGGITY,” a comprehensive exhibition that offers a historical overview of New York’s legendary East Village art scene in the 1980s.


Artsy: How did you choose the name Swampspace?

Oliver Sanchez: The name Swampspace was chosen by committee. It’s the brick-and-mortar of Swampstyle. We used to sit around, drink coffee, play dominos—Bhakti Baxter, Nicolas Lobo, Jason Hedges, Daniel Arsham, Tao Ray, Friends With You, and other artists that made up a community in the Design District.


Artsy: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?

OS: Swampspace is in the front and my art practice is in the rear of the facility. Honestly there is little distinction between the two. There is no space between swamp and space.


Artsy: Can you tell us about your exhibition program?

OS: From students to faculty, from group shows to musical events and theatrical performance, Swampspace is a known destination for a diverse audience of novice and seasoned art lovers alike. With little funding, we have presented exceptional works characterized as unvarnished and sophisticated.  Though not intentional, we are regarded as a swampy salon of the refused.  


Artsy: In your opinion, what makes a gallery successful?

OS: Success is how much you are loved by others.


Iris PhotoCollective

Carl Juste, Andre Chung, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, and Clarence Williams

225 NE 59th Street

In 1998, four acclaimed photojournalists joined forces to form Iris PhotoCollective with the intent of representing and disseminating the stories from people of color around the world. Between them, the members have amassed two Pulitzers and three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, among some 400 national and international prizes. They’ve worked alongside esteemed writers and journalists at publications including the Miami Herald, the Baltimore Sun, the Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times. Now, despite being based in four different cities—Juste in Miami, Williams in New Orleans, Martinez Monsivais in Washington, D.C., and Chung in Columbia, Maryland—the members collaborate frequently on exhibitions and publications, including an upcoming series in tribute to the 10th anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Juste helms their activity in Miami at the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance in the Little Haiti Cultural Center, where he teaches photography and organizes shows on behalf of the collective at the IPC Visual Lab, a program they founded.  


Artsy: Can you tell us about the objectives of Iris PhotoCollective?

Carl Juste: Our objective is to tell these very intimate stories through the voices of people of color that stay true to their storyline while not being influenced by the dominant culture—that’s where it all came from. I’ve worked hard to make sure that what we do is defined as art and seen as an art form. We’ve worked with gallerists and major art institutions, and we sell our work. So I think we’ve won that argument.

We were all raised with the attitude that you work in darkness and in light; you work when nobody’s watching, and you work when people are watching. The work is what’s important.

We have an obligation to people of color. Three of us are children of immigrants; one is African-American, whose family was raised and formulated in the South. That’s our common ground—that’s what connects us all. It’s a beautiful thing to participate in, and we use our camera as a weapon of choice.


Artsy: Can you tell us a bit about the work you do as well as your program?

CJ: The space is a split-level; my office looks over the gallery space, and there’s also an art and salon space where we will host conversations with photographers, other visual artists, writers, authors, musicians. Each discipline will have a specific curator.

We’re a boutique agency that has a publishing arm. We’re like the epicenter for visual creators, and we work alongside people like Edwidge Danticat, Leonard Pitts...a who’s who of contemporary literature—we know them or have worked with them. We’re journalists who believe in the power of the pen and the power of the picture, and our mission is to ensure that we tell these stories in the proper context.


Primary

Cristina Gonzalez, Books Bischof, Typoe Gran

15 NE 39th Street, Design District

Typoe, Cristina Gonzalez, and Books Bischof. Photo courtesy of Primary.

Typoe, Cristina Gonzalez, and Books Bischof. Photo courtesy of Primary.

In 2007, spurred by their lack of representation among galleries in Miami, artists Gonzalez, Bischof, and Gran started Primary Flight, a public art initiative that invited artists from around the world to paint murals across the Wynwood Arts District and the Miami Design District during Art Basel in Miami Beach. “We treated those districts like it was our private open air museum and, over a five year period, installed well over 350 projects,” they explain. Guided by what they had learned through presenting public art, Primary opened in 2010 in the Design District with a well-received show from international street artist Retna. While focusing on supporting emerging and mid-career artists, they have sought to rethink existing gallery models in the way they curate shows and represent artists. This December, the gallery presents a solo show of Autumn Casey and a group show of Alejandro Guzmán, Beatriz Monteavaro, Gavin Perry, Kelly Breez, and Magnus Sodamin at their second location in the Miami Design District, plus a public art installation by Cody Hudson in Wynwood.


Artsy: How do you balance your own art practice with running the gallery?

Primary: When the spaced launched, we were all practicing artists. Over time, priorities began to take shape. Primary progressed, and we all started to focus on our strengths when it came to running the space. Even though we are all artists in our own right in reference to the development of the brand or an exhibition, Typoe Gran’s practice is the one that continued to flourish.


Typoe Gran: Being part of an encouraging team is integral to the balance of my personal career and the gallery. Working with two partners who fully support my own achievements is the only way this can work successfully. If I’m not in the office because I need to prepare for a solo exhibition or a new project, it’s looked at as a positive thing rather than a negative. I think it works wonderfully because we are all going after the greater good. Which, for us, means constantly challenging each other and growing to be better.


Artsy: Can you tell us about how you’ve developed your exhibition program?

P: When assembling a group exhibition, we always focus on our general interests. What is it that turns us on? What is the state of the world? Responding to raw emotion and instinct. Ideas are challenged, arguments are heard, solutions are presented, and then we write. We view artists as a medium to convey a message or ask a question. We are a platform. The group exhibit is an opportunity to exercise our collective voice.

Solo exhibitions present themselves naturally. We prefer for bodies of work to be in motion, then solo exhibitions are planned, not the other way around. We take great pride in working with artists to bring their visions to fruition. We share success, failure, and enjoyment together.  


Artsy: In your opinion, what makes a gallery successful?

Success for us is based on our ability to disrupt, sustain, and surpass. We conduct our business, creative, and curation honestly and true to our form. The art world follows the outliers.


Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?

The argument could go in so many directions. In our opinion, it’s more about understanding and honoring the relationship between the “artist and gallery.” Galleries are the front lines to the ever-changing art world, a doorway to new artists; this relationship is a crucial part of the contemporary art world ecosystem. They both need to represent each other seamlessly, challenge each other’s stance, present and place work, and have an overall trust between them. 


—Demie Kim and Casey Lesser