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Valérie Blass’ “Ne faire qu’un, ni même deux”

Curator Omar Lopez-Chahoud

Fairest of Them All

Untitled, this December’s buzziest new fair, is all about art’s dialogue with architecture.

City for Display: 

Every art fair tells a story and “the end” for far too many brings sensory overload. This awareness by Omar Lopez-Chahoud inspired him to compose a calmer plotline for Untitled (Dec. 5-9,, Miami Beach’s newest fair sitting squarely on the sand at the hem of Ocean Drive at 12th Street.

Not only did the New York City-based independent curator meticulously map out the placement of the art shown beneath the folds of the oceanside tent; he was involved in planning the organic flow of the space itself. Thanks to the brilliance of founder Jeffrey Lawson, who tapped Keenan/Riley Architects to design the tent and assist Lopez-Chahoud in creating the integrated floor plan he envisioned, Untitled has been actualized by a veritable “dream team.” Creating a dialogue between the space and the art was one of Lopez-Chahoud’s strongest intentions: “There will be an intrinsic relationship between the architecture and the art because the story I want to tell is that the architecture, in this sense, is art.”

Using his curatorial skills to their fullest, Lopez-Chahoud set out to facilitate a “conversation” between the work by the artists, the arrangements of the 50 or so galleries exhibiting, and the participation of four nonprofit organizations. “I’ve been studying other fairs to understand why so many of them cause exhaustion, and I found only a few that didn’t,” he says. “My favorite of these was Frieze New York, which had the strongest emphasis on the curatorial—a key to preventing overwhelm, I think.”

In order to achieve the sense of ease he foresaw, Lopez-Chahoud edited the exhibitions and installations contained within the Keenan/Riley structure with an eye to bringing the fair a sense of intimacy. “Creating a dialogue between art and the space has been part of the program from the beginning,” remarks John Keenan. “We’ve designed a plan different from the typical ‘ice-cube tray’ with equal rows of booths and uniform walkways. Because the tent is on the beach, we took advantage of views with the structure.”

Lopez-Chahoud agrees that the laid-back vibe of the setting brought layers of meaning: “Even good art becomes diluted if the editing process is not thoughtful; and the art that is shown has to be stronger than the social element swirling around it or the experience is a hectic one. Organizing the art and the gathering spaces to have a relaxed attitude will prevent these missteps.”

Terrence Riley sees the effort they have put into the process as a perfect alignment of everyone’s goals and aspirations. “The town square of Miami Beach is really the beach itself,” he says. “That makes the sand the perfect place for Untitled to debut.”

As for the edgy, nondescript name, Lawson explains, “The name came out of trying not to have a name! We wanted a title that did not overshadow the fair.”

Looks as though Miami Beach has another page-turner in the mix of fairs during Art Fair Week, one that should prove to be a satisfying “read.”