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5 Minutes with VOLTA Director, Kamiar Maleki
Talking about art fairs in times we miss being around them
Art Stuff 17 Jun 2020
We got together with VOLTA fair director Kamiar Maleki to ask him a bunch of questions about the future of fairs, female artists and new plans for the fall:

1. VOLTA is a so called satellite fair to the big motherships Basel and Armory. How do you feel about these ecosystems?

KM: To be at the same time as major fairs doesn’t always have to be a negative. VOLTA has always been a fair about discovery. Whether it was about an undiscovered artist/gallery or mid-career gallery that didn’t make it to the big fairs we try to build a showcase for these galleries to sell. Being at the same time as those major fairs obviously has some major advantages as for example art Basel regularly attracts 100 000 people and of those collectors, art lovers many will come visit our fairs. As of next year we are actually no longer a satellite fair to Armory as they have moved their time slot to September. It will give us an opportunity to work with other big fairs like Independent instead.

2. If we are being honest the online viewing room is not working out. Art Fairs are so much more than art to buy. What is your strategy to bring the social aspect of the art fairs in the online sphere?

KM: It is very easy to jump on the bandwagon that the online viewing rooms haven’t worked. I am quite amazed at how fast and in a whole group of team spirit, the art world has come together to create these platforms to help galleries and artists sell in what has been an incredibly unprecedented time of hardship with fairs having to close and postpone or galleries having to close for months. Any sales that derive from new platforms should be applauded. Of course with experience comes the knowledge on how to make future editions much more accessible and of course us art worlders love to interact so that is obviously going to be the next stage. We have created a VIRTUAL VOLTA platform for our viewers that we promote via our channels of Instagram, Facebook and our newsletters where we ask galleries to provide us with artists who they would like to sell. This is with galleries that have exhibited with us this year and last year. Socially hopefully we are working on some intimate live Instagram live conversations with our galleries and are generally there for anyone who so wishes to do business with us.

3. Are there new models in your mind when it comes to what art fairs offer in the future? Show pop ups during the year, art fair channels with interviews of participating galleries, etc.

KM: As Peter Drucker once said, if you don’t innovate you die. As a fair we are constantly looking at how to step up levels on not just being another art fair. Virtual Reality will surely have a huge impact on how we do business in the future, curated shows, inside and outside the fair, collaborations with organizations and institutions etc. There are endless opportunities on how to offer things that haven’t been done yet.

4. In how far do you think of a collaboration with another/other art fairs? EG VOLTA x Indian Art Fair, VOLTA x Enter Copenhagen…?

KM: When I was the director of Contemporary Istanbul I had dreamed of creating a ‘ star alliance’ between art fairs. A sort of interaction, connection and interexchange of collectors that would help us thrive. The first people I had talked to was Jennifer Flay of Fiac, Zelica Garcia of Zona Maco, Mexico etc. This of course now has slightly changed with the Data Protections rules in place but it would be amazing to be able to work together with other fairs. We are lucky enough however to have sister fairs as part of the Ramsay Fair organization, which we belong to so we have daily conversations with our colleagues at the Affordable Art Fair and keep in touch with our other contemporaries at Taipei and HK Central.

5. We at The Art Gorgeous are very invested in female empowerment, as Baselitz infamously said: “Women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact. The market doesn’t lie,” he says. “Even though the painting classes in art academies are more than 90% made up by women, it’s a fact that very few of them succeed. It’s nothing to do with education, or chances, or male gallery owners. It’s to do with something else and it’s not my job to answer why it’s so. It doesn’t just apply to painting, either, but also music.” “What does it matter so much? If women are ambitious enough to succeed, they can do so, thank you very much. But up until now, they have failed to prove that they want to. Normally, women sell themselves well, but not as painters.” How do you feel as a head of an art fair about that?

KM: Talent is Talent. It has nothing to do with age, race or gender. I like to promote all kinds of talent and don’t like to make it gender specific. I have two bosses who are both very capable females who I enjoy working for. As the head of an art fair I have to be neutral and deal with every challenge as it comes. If there is a sector I would like to support as an art fair director it would be that of the unrepresented artists. As I feel that there are soooo many talented artists out there, that do not have the opportunity to work for a gallery.

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