In Conversation: Director of Pulse Art Fair, Cornell De Witt.

Image courtesy of Tara Israel

AMM sat down with Cornell DeWitt, Managing Director of Pulse Art Fair, to find out what Pulse Miami wanted  to convey to the public, how the fair dynamics are evolving and what makes Pulse different from other art fairs.

Laura Roughneen: Cornell, how long have you been the Director of Pulse Art Fair?

Cornell DeWitt: I’ve been in the job about two and a half years, which means that this is my third Pulse Miami, as I started just before the fair in 2010. But then I’ve also done two Pulse New York’s and one Pulse Los Angeles, so I believe the math on that is that this is the sixth Pulse fair that I’ve put on.

LR: What’s the aim for this fair?

 CDW: At the end of the day, the idea is to keep making it better and better every year. But where things really coalesce is when we start to put together the Special Projects. Pulse galleries are a phenomenally strong group of galleries. The art fair landscape is changing so much all the time, and we do have a fair amount of turnover but not nearly as much as some of the other fairs.

LR: In what way do you think the fair dynamic is changing?

CDW: It’s definitely becoming more mature, but that’s where we really try to mix things up. With the Impulse Section, we can always bring in new galleries, and what’s exciting is that, for example, last year we had a young gallery from London in Impulse called Man and Eve, and they were showing an artist by the name of Larissa Nowicki, and Larissa Nowicki won the Pulse Prize, and her career has just been going from strength to strength. She’s been doing residencies all over the country, doing shows, and now Man and Eve have graduated to the main section of the fair and they’re doing a group show. We also have an artists called David Ellis, who shows with Joshua Liner, who won the Pulse Prize in New York in 2011, and since then he’s been collected by the Margulies and so many phenomenal collections, and now Josh is in the main section of the fair doing a more comprehensive collection of his artists. So it’s a constantly evolving process and it’s a process that’s build in.

LR: Is there a theme you try to capture with Pulse?

CDW: We don’t set out to look for a theme. Things happen very organically, which I think is very strong. After all the galleries are accepted and we have our list set up, galleries can then propose Special Projects, and that’s really where it starts to coalesce. We have sixteen Special Projects. This is Carlos Rigau’s work, he’s a very popular artist from Miami; we have Zackary Drucker who’s a young, transgender performance and video artist who’s a critics starlings these days, he had a screening at PS1 recently, he’s getting a lot of curatorial and critical attention. We have Casey Neistat doing our Pulse Play programme, and he’s definitely out of the mainstream of the art world. He specializes in these guerilla-style YouTube videos. He also does Op-Docs for the New York Times, which are short, documentary videos that are essentially opinion pieces.

So we have both ends of the spectrum: Brand new galleries as well as ADAA member galleries. And that’s also something that happened organically.

LR: O.k. Can you talk a little about your vetting committee?

CDW: Well I’m the head of the committee, but it’s a lot of galleries that have been with the fair for a long time, and then for instance we have a lot of German galleries, and Stefan Röpke is on the committee. We’ve been trying to branch out to more European galleries so now we have Nieves Fernández, which is a legendary Spanish gallery that is now run by her middle daughter who’s on the committee and she brings that historical perspective that she gets form her mother, but as a young gallerist is really keyed into the younger galleries in Spain and Southern Europe so that’s a great asset. We have Thomas Von Lintel who’s previously worked as a director of a major German gallery for a long time and is a very experienced dealer. And we now have Luis De Jesus, a young gallerist from Los Angeles who is well known and a real driver in the Southern California community.

LR: Regarding the architecture of the space, why does Pulse Miami attract galleries? Is it evolving in any way?

CDW: People come to Miami and find themselves spending five hours in a convention center. And while there’s amazing galleries and art there, why would you want to do that in Miami? We have amazing galleries and art here, and you can go in and out, come rest on the hammocks, sip some coffee and champagne, and then go back inside and see some more work. It’s the enjoyable experience for the collectors, and that makes the galleries happy. We tweak the flow a bit each year. This tent was new last year, we used to have Impulse in the main building and we moved it there last year and it’s worked out great. So we’re always looking to make a great visitor experience and I think that’s what makes it special here.


Many thanks to Cornell DeWitt for taking a time out to talk to AMM at Pulse Miami.