A collaboration with the arts organization providing essential support to galleries and artists.
First question: What was the primary impetus for founding NADA, and why did it start with the art dealers? What sorts of problems was it looking to address?
The organization was founded by Sheri Pasquarella who was working as a director at a gallery called Gorney, Bravin + Lee at the time. She asked three other dealers to co-found the organization with her. I think they saw that there was a rising number of young galleries opening up, particularly in New York City, that were all working in different ways. Some people had apartment galleries, some people were opening spaces in upper-level lofts in Chelsea, some in Brooklyn. She saw a way for that group of people to come together and find ways in which they could work together and share resources or just get together for social reasons. The fair, I think, came out a need from the NADA members. At the time, it was just the main fairs, Art Basel and SCOPE, but there wasn't really anything else for any of those young galleries to do. There was a need and the organization came together and decided to produce their own fair in Miami.
NADA represents the interests of its members, which are primarily galleries and art professionals. The participation costs of NADA programs are generally affordable for galleries and art spaces to take risks, and be able to experiment or bring interesting things into a fair setting or an exhibition setting. I think that's something that sets NADA apart, because of what galleries are able to do when participating. They can experiment. NADA's Project section at NADA Miami furthers that mission by presenting incubator-like project booths, where many galleries will be participating in their first art fair and will go on to have a long career as a gallery. It really can be a launching pad, especially for galleries that are outside of major art centers. Members have the ability to shape that programming in a lot of ways.
You just mentioned coming together and creating a sense of community amongst those younger dealers. What are some ways that NADA, even today, continues to foster that and continue to create community?
We do membership programming throughout the year. We started doing an annual exhibition on Governors Island, which last year was up throughout the summer. That had real community spirit for members and other galleries to work together to produce the exhibition. We also have member workshops throughout the year, which are meant to support the galleries and address their needs whether it's through issues with legal contracts or shipping or health insurance. And then there's a host of other social events throughout the year so that people can connect and get to know each other outside of the art fair or exhibition framework. A lot of them are in New York, but we're trying to do more in other cities where the membership is growing, like Los Angeles and Chicago.
You've mentioned various services that NADA provides. Could you elaborate on some of those?
One fundamental thing is to have this community for galleries to be able to meet each other. And many times, we see all sorts of collaborations that happen organically through NADA programs and channels. We have a Google group that we call the Noodle – it's an email group for members to send messages to other NADA members. Galleries can ask practical day-to-day business questions about contracts, licensing, legal counsel or recommendations for professional services. By being a member, you have an opportunity to get this experience learning from your peers, some of whom have been in business for decades. You can meet people and can broaden your reach.
During the early months of the pandemic, we were reacting in real time to the needs of galleries. We worked to amplify a bill for commercial rent control by circulating a petition and meeting with members who were on the ground and working with people in New York City to try to provide relief for small businesses. In the summer of 2020, we hosted an online profit-sharing art fair, called FAIR, with over 200 international galleries from our community.
At the beginning of COVID, we acted quickly and put together a gallery relief fund to give grants to galleries. Since they were closed and unable to mount shows, it made it extremely difficult for them to make sales. We raised $150,000 pretty quickly. Some of these funds were raised through a partnership with the Kinkade Foundation. They offered to make an editioned print and puzzle of an old painting Kinkade made of a roll of toilet paper. This image, which was also painted with a strange brown palate, seemed appropriate at the time. Some of the funds came through the sale of that print and the puzzle, and then others were direct donations.
Sometimes there are conversations that happen on the Noodle that then turn into events or programs. Recently, someone asked about help with creating a gallery handbook and it became clear that a lot of people didn't have this, but wanted it and needed it and could use the help putting it together. Now, we're going to do a workshop around creating a handbook for a gallery.
Are there any other things you learned, as an organization, during the height of the pandemic that you might want to keep in mind going forward?
I think one thing was how important these sorts of business associations can be. When there's a big problem like that, you see the importance in having these alliances with your peers and being able to have a collective voice. Other galleries that had been participating in NADA events, but hadn't been members or maybe hadn't been members in a while, rejoined and got back in touch and wanted to collaborate on things or had questions.
I think digital initiatives were also a really big thing for us last year. Despite the circumstances, it was great for us to be able to focus on and have that time to develop different ways to show art online. In a way, accessibility increased and became a renewed priority for us. With the opportunity to speak to a broader public, it reframes how we message things. Partnering with Platform speaks to that also. Something as simple as displaying prices for artworks can be such an important moment of transparency for the new collector.
Last one: What are some of the big initiatives NADA has coming up in the future?
We're working on a series of online exhibitions that we'll launch next year, and we're partnering with international curators to select artworks from our community of galleries. We'll publish artworks online every couple of months as a series. We think this will be a great way for galleries to introduce their artists to curators around a specific theme that the curator poses. It also creates a way for that curator to develop their research around that theme by discovering new artists through this open call. We're in the process of getting ready to launch that and will begin in the next year.
I just remembered one thing we didn't mention, which I think is kind of fun: our member basketball league, NADA Hoops. We want to revive it. It was a fun extracurricular that we partnered on with Nike in the past.