Art Basel Miami Beach and the multitude of alternative fairs that pop up around Miami every December can feel like two warring worlds. On one side of the ring is South Beach, home to Basel proper at the convention center, glitzy vernissages, beachfront concerts, and art parties with high profile celebrity attendees. On the other is Wynwood, Miami’s burgeoning area for quirky art spaces, warehouse installations, and dive bars. Here, nestled amongst a municipal landscape undergoing an identity crisis — giant new condos sit next to abandoned lots and derelict buildings — lies Fountain, a downtown, down to earth fair rich with DIY spirit.
Founded by New York gallerists John Leo and David Kesting and launched there in 2006, Fountain’s mission is to create a space for independent and young galleries amongst the larger, corporate-sponsored art fairs. They brought Fountain down to Miami for the first time that same year, and it has since garnered a reputation as a welcome black sheep. Unlike Art Basel, Scope, or Pulse, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to participate, and takes kindly to site-specific installation — a rarity at many of the other fairs.
Of the 13 galleries and collectives that comprised Fountain this year, almost all were from New York, with home bases as disparate as SoHo and Bed-Stuy. Among them, it included the prestigious Milk Gallery, which chose to showcase silkscreens by British artist Russell Young; Glowlab and Brooklynite Gallery, which display work celebrating cities and urban spaces; Grace Exhibition Space & Alice Chilton Grace, sister galleries that host and document live performance art; international collective We Are Familia, many of whose members have not met in person; and Super/Prime, a New York-based project that takes over unsold condos and retail spaces to mount temporary art shows.
Fountain’s space on North Miami Avenue included a sizable yard, which housed a video installation, “Legacy Fatale,” by Coco Dolle, as well as a fully functional sauna on stilts created by a group of seven artists from Estonia and Finland. A number of special performances occurred on a nearby stage for art-weary viewers ready to get their dance party on. G. Love headlined on Friday night, while Saturday evening saw Brooklyn’s own Chairlift taking the stage amidst a flurry of DJs from the University of Miami’s radio station, WVUM.
Flavorpill’s Ali Gitlow was on hand to check out the ruckus, and got a fully immersive preview of the space courtesy of fest producer Brian Balderston.