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Alex Gartenfeld: A Young Curator’s Pioneering Approach to Miami’s Newest Institution

With a keen eye and entrepreneurial spirit, 27-year-old Alex Gartenfeld launched his first curatorial endeavor out of a cramped Chinatown, NY apartment. Many critically acclaimed exhibitions later, and after a long run as Art In America and Interview‘s online editor, Gartenfeld uprooted to sunny Florida. But unlike most New Yorkers, he moved not for the weather, but to head up the city’s newest institution, ICA Miami, as chief curator.

Can you talk a little about your background, and how you first became interested in art?
Art is the way that I see the world. I became interested in contemporary art when I realized that it gave me the tools to discuss the esthetic, political, and social issues that I was interested in.

What kind of programming can we look forward to at the new ICA Miami?
The ICA Miami is launching with a mission statement to promote experimentation. We will be seeking to present artists who are at the vanguard of contemporary production—artists who are working to advance understanding of their mediums; or working with some of the most important issues of our time. At the same time, we will be looking to experiment as a museum—through innovations in our collection and public program.

In what tangible ways will ICA Miami set itself apart from the city’s other institutions?
The ICA will be focused on scholarship. We are participating in a catalogue for Andra Ursuta, in partnership with Koelnischer Kunstverein, as well as books for three additional shows to be announced this fall.

Moreover, we will be engaging with the city and its connection to contemporary art. Particularly in the Design District, which has a historic relationship to visual culture and production, as well as a dynamic recent history of urbanization―art and the city are very closely connected. This will be made manifest through research and presentations on the relationship between the city and contemporary art.

How do you approach curating for a public space, which is intended for public viewing; as opposed to curating for a more insular, intimate community, like the exhibitions you used to put on in your apartment?
I hope that every exhibition I make, be it monographic or thematic, is geared toward imminent issues in art and culture.

Starting in December, visitors to ICA Miami will be able to receive “therapy”—which we’re particularly excited about. Can you talk a bit about this?
We are honored and excited to present Pedro Reyes’s installation Santorium. This project by Reyes turns the gallery into a transient clinic, where volunteers trained by the artists execute treatments of the artist’s devising. The installation guarantees that each visitor to the museum has a unique and revelatory experience—a feat in the midst of the dynamic week of Art Basel Miami Beach.

Any survival tips for getting through Art Basel?

What local Miami artists excite you right now?
I follow Gucci Vuitton closely, which is a gallery/exhibition venue project by artists Aramis Guttierez, Domingo Castillo, and Loreal Beltran. They are all interesting artists in their own right; this collaborative project is a meditation on the relationship between Miami and the international art world, and brings to light truly unique projects related to the city’s history and artists living here.

What do we need more of in the art world?


Photo: Gesi Schilling