EXCLUSIVE Interview: The Man Behind The Art Fairs, Nick Korniloff, Talks The Business of Art and What We Can Expect At The Inaugural “Downtown Fair”

Nick Korniloff
Nick Korniloff

As Frieze Art Week begins today in New York City, there are tons of happenings and shows to attend. This year marks the inaugural Downtown Fair at the 69th Regiment Armory, spearheaded by director Nick Korniloff of the Art Miami franchise. I had become familiar with Nick’s incredibly important role of  showcasing contemporary art fairs in various markets from my time working Aqua Art Miami this past December, and was fortunate to grab an interview with him to chat new endeavors!

How did you get started in the art world?

I got started in the art world through the exhibition world. I was the facilities manager at the Miami Beach Convention Center in the early ’90s, and the first show I ever worked on when I was hired by the Spectacle Management group, which was the world’s largest facility management company, was Art Miami.

I got to know the owners of that show pretty well, and they then sold that show. I continued to work in the facility and then I went to work in another South Florida venue for an international speedway corporation, helping them bring corporate sponsors to NASCAR events in Homestead, along with sports car racing, indie car racing; some  really high-profile auto racing events. In the interim, I received a call from the original owners of Art Miami, that they had just sold their Palm Beach shows to the Daily Mail Group out in London. They were looking for someone to be the General Manager of the business, handle the operations, and sponsorships. I met with the Daily Mail Group and they hired me; I became the Executive Vice President of that business, and I really grew that show to an important level both in the contemporary show and fine art fair. And then from there, I left and went to become the Director of Art Miami in 2008 for another media company, and after the economic crisis of 2008, they wanted to sell it. I bought the fair with one of my few current partners now, and from that, we formed in 2012, we spun off Art Wynwood and Art Southhampton. We created Context Art Miami, and we also announced that we would acquire the Aqua show. Directly after that we announced that we would launch (Art) Silicon Valley/San Francisco for October 2014,and while doing that, the opportunity came up to take over the Downtown Fair, which never happened before, in New York during Frieze Week. It’s been keeping us quite busy.

Tell us more about the Downtown Fair.

This will be the first year for the Downtown Fair, during Frieze Week, and we’re bringing it to the historic 69th Regiment Armory on 25th and Lex, which is a fantastic location…the original site of the historical Armory Show in 1913. We’re re-energizing that site and re-purposing that building for a major international art fair with 50 top exhibitors from emerging, mid-career, cutting-edge, to modern, and classical-modern [art]. Lots of blue-chip. Lots of work that will be seen for the first time. It’s really exciting for us. We’ve been looking to do a show in New York for a long time.

What do you believe sets Downtown Fair apart from others?

Our fair will be the only fair that has very strong blue-chip contemporary type of work from top artists; Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and others. You will see a lot of material that has specifically been created for the fair by the artists being represented at the show. That in particular is one of the big differences, the other is the ambience, and look, and design of the show.

You have this great infrastructure with the Downtown Armory, we’re only 10 blocks away from the Frieze Ferry, but when you walk in, we would have transformed that facility like no one else has before. It will be an intimate experience for those that attend.

How important do you feel it is to meld the worlds of art and music?

In this day-and-age, I think it is extremely important. The energy of all the arts together; whether it be performing arts, visual arts, is extremely important in the cultural development and continuation of the arts in general. I think they come hand in hand.


Downtown Fair runs from May 8 – 11 at 68 Lexington Ave. For more info, please visit the official website.

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