Changing The Station
Producer Eleanor Cayre loses the frills and becomes the talk of Art Basel Miami
Story by Cator Sparks / Photography by Kareem Black
Oh, the art market today. Collective sigh. But actually, anyone who knows a lick about art knows that dark economic times are when young, fresh work begins to get noticed. At last Art Basel Miami Beach 2008, the main fair was arguably not as buzz-worthy as years past, but the satellites were certainly all the rage. And one in particular drew the most attention.
The Station, an exhibit showcasing works from artists including Adam McEwen and Ryan McGinley, along with a massive sculptural installation by Sterling Ruby, had The New York Times and every art critic falling over themselves to figure out who was the brains behind the bastion of cool. Eleanor Cayre was their girl. But good luck tracking her down. Between shopping with clients, manning the door, meeting with curators, staging sound checks for performances, and checking that video projections worked smoothly, she was hardly basking in the glory of her project.
Cayre, a vivacious 29-year-old wife and mother, was exposed to art at a young age. Her mother was an artist and her dad was a music and film buff, and their interest in art definitely sparked her lifelong passion. She went to museums, was part of the Culture Club at her Brooklyn high school, and took in underground concerts and performances whenever possible. She surrounded herself with art and after years of researching and reading and soaking in Manhattan, she is now one of downtown’s most respected art consultants — even though she lacks a “proper” education in the arts.
“I spent a semester at school and ran for the hills!” she says, laughing. “At the time I just thought it wasn’t for me. There is no more gratifying artistic experience than hearing an artist talk about their work. It’s miles above reading about it in a textbook. That is why I take my clients on as many studio visits as possible.”
Over the years, Cayre said she became enamored with contemporary art. As her interest grew, so did her group of friends as she began meeting all the artists whose work she admired both as a collector and advisor. She casually said she follows artists including Rosson Crow, Peter Coffin, Kelley Walker, Banks Violet, and Dzine. And older generation like Bruce Nauman, Sophie Calle, Ed Ruscha, and Louise Bourgeois continues to inspire her because they pushed the boundaries.
“They didn’t restrict themselves to one medium, market, aesthetic, or thought process, and the underlying themes in their works are strong enough to carry over in many different ways,” she says. “They are and will continue to be an inspiration to many artists after them.”
While workin on The Station, Cayre was eager to work with the artists she had been following and provide a platform for them to exhibit their work in a non-commercial setting, as opposed to the commercial market Basel is becoming known for. Her idea came organically.
“I was given access to an amazing space in a great location in midtown Miami and I knew I wanted to produce a nonprofit exhibition during Art Basel,” she said. “I wanted it to be pure.”
She pitched her idea over lunch to Shamim Momin, a curator of contemporary art for the Whitney Museum of American Art, who Cayre thought would be the perfect curator for the project. Momin was on board, so Cayre asked artist Nate Lowman to co-curate, who jumped on board too. Within days, Cayre, Momin, and Lowman agreed on a yet-to-be-completed midtown, luxury condo building as the location, and thought its raw and partially un-built interiors were the perfect place for such a groundbreaking show. The project team was small, tight-knit, and focused. It was all grassroots, non-corporate, and although high-pressure at times, still lots of fun.
The show consisted of 48 artists, many of whom contributed site-specific work, and many of whom helped with the installations. “We were lucky to have many of the artists staying on site,” Cayre says. “It was a bit like art camp.” The results were the talk of Miami. The Station included pieces such as Rob Pruitt’s “Tombstone,” an ode to Anna Nicole Smith, Martha Friedman’s “Banded,” a room of stretched rubber bands, and Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman’s massive “Hello Meth Lab With a View,” an entire duplex condo packed full of a crystal meth maker’s detritus.
Cayre never had a moment to wonder if people would actually show up (they did) or if people would laud it (they did). “Although we certainly didn’t plan it, I think this was the perfect year for a show like this: non-commercial, no hidden agenda, no frills, just a platform for great work,” she says.
But will there be another one? “Producing shows is like doing a puzzle and right now I am working on fitting all the pieces together for the next Station show, which will take place in New York,” she says. “Miami was great, but coinciding with an art fair gives you a very short window of time to be open, whereas a show in New York could stay open much longer than five days!”
Regardless of the location, she assured that The Station will stay consistent and loyal to many of the themes from the inaugural show. She plans on keeping the dynamic of using a museum curator alongside an artist curator, like Momin and Lowman, who Cayre said had a lot of chemistry and brought “interesting aspects to the table.” She also strongly believes that the space in which you exhibit is very influential on the art. “The space we took over in Miami contributed heavily to the art that was selected and to the viewers’ experience when seeing the show,” she says. “Seeing quality art in unexpected settings is something I want to try to continue in all future Station shows.”
Cayre’s relationships in this part of the art world help grant her access to the exclusive back rooms of galleries and some of the hottest artists studios, giving her collectors an education in contemporary art from the ground up, like she had.
As for the art market in general, Cayre is well aware of the dramatic slow down and is sad to realize that some galleries will not be able to make it through. But she knows that artists are still producing great work and she hopes everyone will support them any way they can until the market corrects itself. She also said it is a good market to buy quality art because there is less competition, and therefore more selection.