Art Fair Renegade
Scope’s anti-establishment founder has done it his way from the start.
“I never had this fantasy that I was going to be an art fair organizer,” says Alexis Hubshman, the outré founder of Miami’s Scope. This upstart has breathed new life into art fairs, fusing cutting-edge pieces and immersive installations that consistently deliver the shock of the new.
Among the displays this year: Tomislav Topić’s design for the graffiti-inspired entrance; Connor Tingley’s work inspired by skateboarding; Jeremy Pope’s exploration of homoeroticism and hyper-masculinity through photojournalism; and “Tea Room”, which allows guests and hosts to participate in a highly ritualized Japanese ceremony that celebrates “both luxury and simplicity.”
Back in the early 2000s, though, when Hubshman was running an emerging-art gallery in NYC’s Meatpacking District, he and his partner couldn’t even get into a major art fair. “We weren’t well known. We weren’t from famous families. We were just a little gallerist startup,” Husbhman says. Their solution? Create a fair of their own.
Scope’s spring 2002 debut, in NYC’s old Gershwin Hotel, was a scene. “It was really sexy,” he says. “There was a lot of drugs and lots of sex and lots of partying. But we also sold a lot of artwork.” Scrappy editions ensued in LA, London, Miami, and the Hamptons with lines down the block.
While Scope has long since grown out of hosting exhibits in hotels, it’s managed to remain independent while other fairs, including Frieze, The Armory Show, and Volta consolidate. Which isn’t to say that various parties haven’t come calling. “I’ve been approached multiple times over the years. It’s never been interesting to me,” he says. “Anyway, I think Scope is a bit of a cult of personality, for better or worse.”
The biggest change is that, after two decades of being active on the global circuit, Scope is now content to just focus on Miami. “I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sooner, but Scope does well by the water. There’s something about the light, the energy. It just sets off what we do.”
That ineffable energy will be in full effect next week as Scope mounts its 22nd edition in glam South Beach with large-scale installations, video, and music performances staged around 130+ exciting young galleries. “There’s something interesting about creating space and helping people sort of teleport somewhere else for a little while,” Hubshman explains. “It’s an intangible experience I like people to take away from our fair.”
Experiential art aside, visitors can also expect a “serious upgrade in curatorial quality” on the exhibition floor. Thanks to new grants and awards, Hubshman calculates that half of this year’s galleries have been scooped up from competing fairs. A new prize, funded by Scope, will empower Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)’s curators to buy a piece for the museum’s collection directly from the show. It’s all part of a three-year plan to get Scope “back to its roots as a place for exploration and treasure hunting, where the collectors are less VIPs and more patrons.”
Beyond the fair, Miami’s natural beauty has also become a big draw for Hubshman, who, at 53, is now over 13 years sober. “Miami used to always scare me a little bit. It was a place I would go and get a little crazy,” he says. “Now, I’m sober. So we do wellness in the morning, with orange juice and yoga, and everybody runs into the ocean.” (And don’t forget about the CBD spa treatments, perhaps calming after a day of art that prods the senses.)
Hero photo of Alexis Hubshman courtesy of SCOPE Art Show