Among the week’s fairs, Fountain is the one gaining a reputation as a rambunctious upstart whose size and momentum are growing with each event. What began in 2006 as three Brooklyn galleries pooling resources to show their artists outside of established fairs has been slowly building not just a fair but a community. We talked with Alex Emmart, curator and co-founder of Mighty Tanaka, a three-years-young Dumbo gallery that first exhibited at Fountain last year. In addition to its booth, Mighty Tanaka is also hosting a collaboration between UFO and Doyle that everyone on site was talking about: a kinetic squid that will be squirting ink (and “making a big mess,” according to the artist); and when we stopped by, Dizmology was installing a dramatic white-on-white sculpture on a wall right next to where Ad DeVille was installing a red-and-blue wall of Skewville works.
You’ve chosen to present a large group show in your booth, over forty artists: are these all artists you work with regularly?
There are some old faces, but we’re showing some fairly new faces we haven’t really worked with before. I kind of see the art-fair environment as market research. I get to see what people are interested in.
Last year Mighty Tanaka exhibited with Fountain and also Verge (in Brooklyn) during the same weekend. Talk about your experiences as an exhibitor.
We did Fountain in New York last year, then we did a booth in Miami, too. We tried to do Verge last year as well as Fountain, but Verge failed miserably. This year we’re back with Fountain, and the location speaks for itself. We have a good thing going in an up-and-coming fair. So this is really one of our greatest opportunities. Fountain is one of the more intense art experiences that you can have.
There is an extremely collaborative vibe here—everyone seems like a big family. Is that Fountain’s signature?
With other art fairs, you’re an anonymous gallery in a fair of anonymous galleries. At Fountain, Mighty Tanaka is a featured gallery in an up-and-coming art fair. It’s like a family. Everybody here is cool, everybody is just mad enthusiastic about what’s going on. This is the fair that’s showing the young, raw shit.
For the last few years, you’ve been building your credentials as a curator of urban, contemporary style; the Mighty Tanaka roster is not all street artists, but it’s not traditional fine art either. Talk about how you curate for the gallery.
People overuse the word curate as a verb. Everybody curates everything these days. If you put together an event, that’s not curating, that’s producing. A curator is an overseer of an entire collection. Anybody can say, “I’m a curator,” but what are you overseeing? People need to use the word properly. To become a curator, you spend a lot of time going out and proving your credentials. When the credentials are there, then people seek you out, and that’s what’s happening for us now.
The collection you’ve put together for Fountain includes street artists like Matt Siren, Cake, Toofly and Hellbent, Elle, Celso, and See One. Are collectors looking for gallery work created by street artists?
Finally, the art world is starting to understand. I have so many collectors who are getting into street art now, it’s like, “yo, welcome.”
As Fountain producer Elizabeth Tullly put it, “No other art fair would let people have sex in their space or destroy a car.” Now are you excited about the show?
We’re really excited about this show—it’s fucking awesome.