A Show of Art: Nick Korniloff explains how Art Miami has thrived over the past 30 years

Nick Korniloff stands outside the Art Miami office in midtown. Photograph by Felipe Cuevas. Art Miami artwork by Douglas Hoekzema.

When Nick Korniloff was a fresh graduate of Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the early ’90s, his new boss gave him a specific assignment as a fledgling event manager: “Overwatch Art Miami.”

“I walked along the terrazzo floors in this building with amazing history,” Korniloff said about his start as an event manager. “I had never seen an art fair in my life. The carpeting was plush and white. There was amazing lighting and beautiful art popping out at me — colorful Picassos, Chagalls and Boteros. It was my first experience of luxury and lifestyle.”

A Natural Curiosity

Hospitality and art were always in Korniloff’s blood. As a teen growing up in Long Island, he worked in a fine-dining steakhouse.

“My goal as a young man was to eventually own and operate a high-end restaurant,” he said. “I worked in a nice steakhouse and learned about wine. I’ve always liked the finer things.”

‘I felt proud for our organization but also for the city of Miami.’

Korniloff came from an arts family. His mother, sister and grandmothers would paint, draw and sing when he was growing up. “As a child, we would go to all the museums for field trips,” he said. “I loved the Museum of Natural History, seeing how all this exists in the world, and [wondering] where do I get to see that?”

Art Miami
Lynn Chadwick’s ‘First Girl Sitting on a Bench’ presented by Osborne Samuel gallery at Art Miami.

Repositioning Art Miami

He was able to explore the world when he started his art career full-time in 2001 while he was working with the Daily Mail Group after they acquired the Palm Beach International Art and Antique Fair. After 9/11, many were wary of flying, but Korniloff traveled globally to see fairs like Art Basel in Switzerland and FIAC in Paris.

In 2008, after learning the ins and outs of the art world and seeing everything from ancient relics to works from the old masters to postwar and pop art, Korniloff became the director of Art Miami and implemented major changes.

Art Miami had originally been held in January at the Miami Beach Convention Center, but Korniloff “repositioned Art Miami to run alongside Art Basel,” he said.

“We found a property in Midtown Miami, at the edge of Wynwood, which was quickly developing. We grew from a fair that had 60 dealers to 85 the second year to 100, with more and more important works of art and international galleries. The fair resonated with a collecting audience that descended on Miami during Basel.”

Art Miami Nick Korniloff
Nick Korniloff. Photograph by Felipe Cuevas. Artwork by Shepard Fairey.INDULGE

A Move to Downtown Miami

After the economy collapsed in 2008, Korniloff and his partners bought the fair from its previous owners the next year. And the Art Miami group continued to grow. In February of 2012, Korniloff launched Art Wynwood while working with Tony Goldman. Later that year, he added Aqua and CONTEXT to his portfolio of art fairs.

Then, just last year, Korniloff and his partners invested in the decision to move Art Miami, CONTEXT and Art Wynwood from Midtown to downtown Miami.

“One of the most interesting experiences was relocating the fair last year and watching a convoy of 450 cement trucks pour around the clock,” he said.

‘We want to get Art Miami to the highest level for [next year’s] 30th edition.’

“We dug up the foundation of the old Miami Herald site. As a fair producer, I remember standing there and going, ‘Oh, wow. I remember when we had three tents and a wooden floor, and look at what we have done.’ It’s amazing. I felt proud for our organization but also for the city of Miami because without them, we could have never done it.”

Art Miami’s Milestone Anniversary

Korniloff said he hopes to continue to add to Miami’s blooming art scene and honor the people who helped build it as Art Miami nears its 30th edition.

“We want to get Art Miami to the highest level for [next year’s] 30th edition, where we will have the most important collectors and artists coming to the fair. We’re having some special events and curated projects to help celebrate. Debra and Dennis Scholl will get the Art Miami Lifetime Visionary Award. Jorge Pérez was the first recipient for that [in 2016].”

He added: “You’ll see more of Art Miami acknowledging the pillars of our community as we continue on.”

Art Miami
The entrance to Art Miami in downtown Miami. Photograph by Brett Hufziger.

Highlights of Art Miami and CONTEXT

* LOCATION: The two fairs return this year to their updated space in downtown Miami, between the MacArthur and Venetian causeways, giving visitors the opportunity to peruse art while enjoying views of Biscayne Bay.

* CULTURE: Take a walk or a free Metromover ride from the fairs to the nearby Frost Science, Pérez Art Museum, Arsht Center and other art shows.

* ARTISTS: The 29th edition of Art Miami will feature more than 800 artists from hundreds of international galleries. —MSR

Art Miami
Ronald Davis art presented by Vivian Horan Fine Art.

Can’t-Miss Galleries Showing at Art Miami

* LANDAU CONTEMPORARY: Based in Montreal, Landau brought more than $100 million in inventory to its Art Miami debut last year. “I am most looking forward to seeing Landau’s comprehensive and unprecedented display of the Spanish painter Antoni Clavé,” Korniloff said. “The collection spans his 40-year career.”

* GALERIE FORSBLOM: Based out of Helsinki and Stockholm, Forsblom will show American multimedia and installation artist Tony Oursler’s phantasmagorical work, Infinity Loop.

* OSBORNE SAMUEL GALLERY: From London, Osborne Samuel will present the work of English sculptor Lynn Chadwick at this year’s show. “Chadwick is an artist whose work I am always excited to see,” Korniloff said.

* VIVIAN HORAN FINE ART: A member of the Art Dealers Association of America, Vivian Horan specializes in modern and contemporary works and will be exhibiting artists like Larry Bell and Ronald Davis at this year’s fair. —MSR

More: This couple’s gallery is the place to see and be seen during Art Basel

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