Karen Boyer is a former hedge fund executive who studied art history at the Sorbonne and later turned her love of New York’s galleries and emerging art scene into a successful art advisory business, Elements in Play.
How do you prepare your clients for the fair?
The fair is a lot of fun, but to get the most out of it, I take my preparation seriously. In the days leading up to the fair, galleries send out previews of what they’ll be showing, which I go through carefully to curate a selection of works to discuss with my clients. The timing here is key — galleries are eager to make pre-fair sales and will hold works for fair-goers to see in person, but only for the first hour of the fair. So when the first VIP day arrives (there are two), I already have works on hold for my first clients of the day, and we view them promptly. For clients seeking art for specific areas of their homes or offices, we come armed with precise measurements and photos. And it might seem an obvious suggestion, but given the fair's vastness, limited food options and unforgiving concrete floors, I encourage my clients to have a hearty meal beforehand and wear comfortable shoes.
How do you get ready for the after-hours festivities during the week?
Because most collectors tend to leave by Friday, I spend more time at early-week gatherings and opt for a good night’s sleep over late night parties — so I can be fully present when I need to be. With so many events to choose from, I prioritize those hosted by galleries and institutions, including White Cube, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Kasmin Gallery, ICA Miami (where I co-chair a patron’s group) and Locust Projects (where I serve on the board). These all happen before the fair opens on Wednesday. This year, I'll also be at the Rubell Museum when they unveil their prestigious 2023 artist-in-residence, Basil Kincaid.
Many people describe the current state of the art world as a buyer’s market. Is that true — and does that change the way you approach the fair?
The current market definitely favors buyers, and I'm ready to help my clients press their advantage. Clients often work with me because I can get special access to sought-after works. With the arrival of COVID, this became more competitive, driven by an increase in art purchases and speculation. In fact, until recently, it could be difficult to get access to the most popular works without agreeing to buy another work by a different gallery artist; or to buy one, give one (BOGO) to a museum. But today, with the market cooling and speculators pulling back, I anticipate having much greater access to works, without these expectations. Galleries might also be more open to negotiating price, which helps me improve my clients’ position even more.
Do you have a secret to navigating the crowds and traffic in Miami?
Ha-ha — yes, a lot of them! Think through your visit to avoid unnecessary bridge crossings from Miami Beach to Miami. When they’re unavoidable, allocate at least an hour for the return journey. Familiarize yourself with the fair layout for easy navigation — orienting yourself with a map every few minutes is maddening. Arrive at the fair when it opens, and try to plan as many of your activities as possible within walking distance. I also have to point out that going with a seasoned art adviser is a game-changer, since we know our way around the fair and where the galleries are located. We also have established relationships with the galleries and can quickly get a gallerist’s attention, even in bustling crowds. The fair is business, but it can also be a real pleasure if you plan right!