An Interview with Art Miami's New York Director Katelijne De Backer

The director of the newest addition to the art fair circuit talks Brooklyn Heights and getting the most out of NYC museums.

Art lovers, take note: The New York counterpart of Art Miami kicks off Thursday, May 14, bringing 100 exhibiting international galleries, artist talks, a center hosted by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and more to Pier 94. The fair is the newest edition to Frieze Week’s bustling schedule of diverse art fairs bringing international dealers, collectors and art lovers to New York City this weekend. At the helm of the fair is Katelijne De Backer, veteran director of the Armory Show, a historic art fair occuring in March that features such categories as Modern and Contemporary art, and SCOPE, a satellite art fair of the Armory Show occuring in the same week. Amid crates of art being unpacked at Pier 94, the Belgian native tells WhereTraveler why both collectors and art appreciators should check out Art Miami, how to get the most out of the Museum of Modern Art and what inspires her about living and working in New York City.

Q: What does Art Miami bring to New York?

A: Art Miami has been around for many years. It is one of the longest running international art fairs in the U.S. It brings a certain style, professionalism and ambience to New York. It’s not a new fair, although this is its first year in New York.

Q: Would you say that the Miami version and the New York version differ in identity? Will the New York rendition bring a certain Miami flair to the New York art scene?

A: Work that has been around for many years, that comes from a collector or gallery, is back on the market, along with work that is coming fresh out of the [artist] studio. I think for collectors it is really nice to see these two artworks next to each other and put in historical context. I have gallery [owners and staffers] here who tell me they are waiting for work to dry because it just arrived from the studio. Then we have a Monet for millions of dollars that is sort of new to the market. That’s really exciting to see these two next to each other and that’s what Art Miami has done for years.

For the New York edition of Art Miami, I want to encourage the younger, more contemporary, more edgy galleries to join us. This is a work in a progress that will happen over the years. I want to see [different level galleries] next to each other because collectors kind of want to mix it up. They don’t want to buy really old art or just new things. Collectors, I feel, really want to see these things next to each other. 

Q: What should visitors expect from Art Miami?

A: We have 100 galleries, which is a nice round number. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan will have an area where children can come and learn how to make art while their parents are shopping. It’s really cool because they have art teachers showing children how to use these techniques and comparing the art they make with the art on exhibit.

We will have talks at the fair where all kinds of subjects are being handled. We also have tours.

Q: When you're away from the hubbub of Pier 94 and Art Miami what are some of your favorite things to do in NYC?

A: I live in Brooklyn Heights and in the morning I first do a run in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I always get inspired looking at the Manhattan skyline because I think it is a work of art in itself. I  go to the Green Market near Brooklyn Borough Hall, which I do every Saturday.

I like to take my 11-year old son to MoMA and have lunch at Café 2, which he loves and I love it too. We pick one of the halls and go and look at it. I never do too much with him because I want him to really enjoy the museum and not feel like he’s schlepping—kids really get tired. It works. We have lunch and we decide what we want to see and we focus on that. It’s the perfect way to introduce kids to art and a good atmosphere.

I would then head to the High Line and see what’s on view there in terms of public art. I think there’s a really nice public art show there now.

In the evening I would head back to Brooklyn Heights and have dinner at our favorite little restaurant River Deli. It’s on Joralemon Street. I totally recommend going there—it's really cozy and a beautiful scene. 

Where I live in Brooklyn Heights is my favorite. I am lucky for that. I mostly stay in Brooklyn but that doesn’t mean that I don’t jump on the train and go to my favorite macrobiotic restaurant in SoHo called Souen.

Q: What do you like best about living and working in NYC?

A: It’s a number of things. The internationalism— you meet unique people from all over. It’s different from every other city in America. I feel at home here. I’m from Belgium. I have friends from all over the world that are in exactly the same situation I am. I arrived here, planning on staying for a short period of time. Sixteen years later, I’m still here.

I like the way people work here. It’s very driven, very passionate. People here, when they do something, it's because they really want to do that work. I am like that too. In my whole career I always made sure I found the job that I really could do with passion and not feel like “Oh my god I have got to get to work this morning.” I feel like people I work with share my mentality. There are many, many creative people. I find it stimulating and inspiring.

Lorraine Rubio
About the author

Lorraine Rubio serves as the New York assist...