Gallery Name: Artformz
Owner: Alette Simmons-Jimenez
Artistic Director: Alette Simmons-Jimenez
Opening Date: June 2004
Location: Wynwood Art District, 171 NW 23rd Street, Miami Florida 33127
Â· How did your interest in the business of art start?
As an artist, I first had my own work in mind. I had worked with a few galleries over the years and was never satisfied with how I was represented. The operational plan behind owning and running most traditional art galleries, I believe, is counterproductive to an artist’s mission. To stay in business a gallery must pay rent, electric, advertising or promotion, assistants, internet, webs, and just a million things. The owner or director’s mission is to find art and artists whose work will sell, and not only pay these bills, but also make a salary or profit to take home.
For an artist the pressure to create great artwork is good, but the pressure to conform to trends or the market to make sales is just plain bad. If you do not sell then eventually you become a drain on the system, your work gets put in the back or stored. I have always pushed my work, always experimented with new ideas and materials, installation and video. For a time my paintings were selling well, but were becoming a formula. I always had a need to test new limits. Feeling the heat from a couple of galleries at that time, about 6 years ago, I decided to break out and try something as an independent, and explore ways to succeed in the business without being trapped.
That’s when Artformz came about.
Â· Is this your first gallery?
Â· Do you have a history of gallery work? If so, what other galleries have you worked for or owned?
I had curated a museum show early in my career. I was living in the Dominican Republic and I took an idea to the Museum of Modern Art there, it was for a group show that would be a historical review of the local women in contemporary art. They agreed and
I worked on it with their support. We had a whole floor and produced a catalogue. Later, in the early 90Â¹s when I relocated to Miami, I wanted to be involved, to get right into the center of what was happening, and I needed the money, so took a part time job at the gallery representing me at that time in Coral Gables. I was also at the Art Center on Lincoln Road and we put together some interesting shows there.
Â· What made you decide to open a gallery in Miami?
When I decided to get proactive about my work I rented a space in the
Design District in 2004 I thought I would just see what happened. The scene there was evolving and very exciting. I believe in the saying that if your art is not seen you do not exist. I didnÂ¹t exactly know what I wanted to do, except that I wanted to get exposure and see what came of it. I couldn’t stand waiting around to see when I could get another show. I am very ambitious and hands-on with whatever I do or feel strongly about. I also believe if you want something done right, then most of the time you should do it yourself. I didnÂ¹t ever decide to open a â€œgalleryâ€ and I never wanted to be a gallerist or an art dealer. I still do not consider myself a gallerist.
What I wanted was a space of my own, to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I didnÂ¹t expect that the space would start to have a life of itÂ¹s own. We are a gallery, and weÂ¹re not, we are a collective, and weÂ¹re not, we are a non- profit, and weÂ¹re not. The venue was created as an experiment, it was totally free to change and grow in whatever direction seemed to best fit the need. The â€œgalleryâ€ so to speak, just happened. It was a working plan that evolved or got a â€œtune upâ€ every two or three months. After five years itÂ¹s quite polished, but then we just made new organizational changes this month. This freedom to be able to morph and meet the needs of artists, community, and economy is empowering and one of the basis for Artformz success. Freedom is the key.
Â· Do you have a specific artistic vision or style for your gallery?
Since I am the â€œBossâ€ the style or direction has grown out of what I respond to. After the beginning, when friends would be invited to bring work in for exhibits, it got harder to select work. I think most artists are tough critics. I didnÂ¹t see much around that I could say â€œWow, I love that. If I were a collector I certainly would pay money for that and live with it in my house.â€ But I learned that not all really good work is something that has to fit in my home, on my wall. But our edgy, contemporary direction is very, very clear. Selected artistÂ¹s work must show complete dedication to the field, be technically well made, and visually exciting. The artistâ€™s concepts must reflect originality of content and commitment of purpose. We show work in painting, sculpture, installation, new media, and video. We have a program called Artformz Outzide that aids artists in the creation of exterior street murals, and outdoor performance pieces. Another program is Artformz Projects that guides and supports artists with curatorial concepts, such as the recent â€œGiants in the Cityâ€ held at Bayfront Park.
The basis of our project is that artists have the ability to show their work without having the pressure to sell. One artistÂ¹s work is never chosen over another artistÂ¹s because it has more possibility of selling. Artists are pressured to create their best work sellable or not. All the artists here, with no exception, start creating exceptionally better work after joining. It is a byproduct of the freedom, collaboration, and dialogue that comes with being part of a cohesive and dynamic group.
Â· Who is your favorite artist ever?
Favorites come and go and that list is so long…I canÂ¹t imagine one only. So here is a short list: Constantin Brancusi, Isamu Noguchi, Louise Bourgeois, Olafur Eliasson, Beatriz Milhazes, Carravagio.
Â· Who is your favorite current Miami artist?
Now you will get me in trouble…I donÂ¹t really have a favorite here apart from the artists I work with at Artformz. Maybe it is yet to be discovered. I do like the works of Craig Kucia, Glexis Novoa, Gustavo Acosta, and Ray Azcuy.
Â· What are your goals for the gallery?
To hire a Director so I can step back and do more of my own work and just say â€Yesâ€ and â€œNoâ€. To give artists the opportunity to explore new markets by curating Exchange Shows between galleries in other cities.
Â· Have you seen any effects of the economic downturn this past year?
Yes, I suppose we cannot deny that sales are slower. But our artists are not the blue-chip kind (yet), so we are very familiar to the difficulties we have always faced them. I also think it will get worse before it will get better. So selling needs to be more creative too.
Â· Do you show at any art fairs, either locally or in other cities?
We did our first art fair this March at Arteamericas on Miami Beach in the Convention Center. We are planning to do more locally for now, if possible.
Â· If so, how have those experiences gone for you?
We went with no expectations at all and considered it another experiment. It was a big risk that turned out to be a very positive experience. Sales were small but we did make some. We saw people we had not seen in a long time and made many, many new connections. What we gained more than anything was presence. That is a very valuable element.
Â· What would you say is the one most important idea for an artist to know when it comes to getting recognized by a gallery?
Do the homework, go out and see what is there. You can rarely expect to fit in to a gallery where your work has nothing in common with the rest of the art that is represented. That holds true for price range, style, and resume. There is a place for almost everyone.
There is a system to introducing yourself and being professional is so important. If you do it well, it says so much about how you handle yourself in the business world. If you donÂ¹t have a clue then read, research, and go online to find information. There are many websites that give pointers on the etiquette of approaching a gallery. You would never go to a new dentist, walk in without an appointment and open your mouth and say â€œCould you just look for a minute at this tooth.â€ So never, ever think that a gallery owner will drop every deadline that is on the desk to look at some strangerâ€™s five paintings out in the car. It is disrespectful of the galleries time and a sure way to not get an appointment later.
On the other hand – I would say donÂ¹t compromise. There are plenty of alternative spaces and university galleries that offer exhibitions. You can get recognition that way also and the exposure can create new opportunities. One experience leads to another and so on.