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Dazed Digital: Interview with Al Moran of OHWOW

Founded by Al Moran, Miami’s OHWOW gallery is gearing up to prepare for its miniature alternative to the gigantic Art Basel fair. Exhibiting for the third year straight, “It Ain’t Fair” will this year include works from artists including Aurel Schmidt, Nate Lowman, Agathe Snow, Dan Colen, Andre Ethier, Neck Face, and FriendsWithYou. Dazed Digital recently sat down with Moran to talk about what he perceives as the problem with art fairs and some exciting new plans regarding the expansion of the O.H.W.O.W. empire. Some key excerpts taken from the interview can be seen below.

Dazed Digital: First, can you talk about the genesis of It Ain’t Fair, three years ago? That was at the pre-recession peak of art market craziness, right? What were some of the art-world or art-fair issues you wanted to address or counter with your own show?

Al Moran: Actually, we opened the first It Ain’t Fair about 30 days after the crash in ’08. IAF was conceived as a response to that art market craziness you mentioned. Our artist selections weren’t based on who was selling at the moment. We chose to exhibit artists whom we felt were making interesting work. Period. We didn’t care if we sold it or not. It just so happened that the market crashed at the right time and we came off looking like the ones that “got it.” While the rest of the industry considered that particular Basel a bust due to poor sales, we considered it a wild success. I also take issue with art fairs in general. I’m not a fan of the visual overload of the fairs and prefer to do a site-specific group show that makes sense from an exhibition standpoint. Hence, It Ain’t Fair.

OH-WOW is independent and “underground,” but not at all anti-commercial. Is it fair (ha) to say you guys want to make the work you sell more widely accessible than hugely inflated?

Yeah, definitely. In my opinion, it doesn’t help anyone – artist, collector or gallery – when prices rise too rapidly or for no good reason. I like the fact that young collectors support our program because I see it as a way for them to grow alongside the artists. Lately though, established collectors and institutions have tuned into what we’re doing and have become supporters as well. This is putting a little bit of downward pressure on the younger collectors but we do our best to make work available to those that have believed in us since the beginning.

You held Scott Campbell’s first solo show. What was your first reaction when you heard he’d burned down his own show at the Vice Gallery in Mexico? Could ABMB use a little more pointed rebellion?

Campbell called me right after he did it and we had a good laugh about it. We both thought it was funny. Again, it’s all about the artist. If a gallery mistreats an artist to the point where he wants to burn his own work, rather than sell it, then that gallery obviously has problems. That move was definitely punk rock, though, no question about it. Scott, you ever pull that shit on me we’re fighting one-on-one in the parking lot!

And when it’s over, how do you plan to recover?

Right after Basel, I jump on a plane and head to LA to find a permanent gallery space. We have programming for 2011 and 2012 already, starting with a solo show for Scott Campbell in late February, and no space yet. I have about 8 weeks to find a space, have Rafael design it, build it out and get that first show up. Never a dull moment.

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