Leiter Gallery: Outside the circuits

Conversation with Sinuhe VegaSome people might call “an artist” a person with extra-artistic exceptional skills. However, art will not always honor other activities like owning a restaurant – or two – and much less depending on the success of the business. Sinuhe Vega owns two successful locations, “Uva Restaurant” at Biscayne Boulevard and 69 st and “Canne a Sucre”, a busy French Bakery and Cafe at the edge of the Miami Design District. But the reason why we are here talking with Sinuhe Vega is because he is an artist, and has annexed a gallery space to its location at 69th street: Leiter Gallery. How artists manage will always be a curiosity for many of us, used to more orthodox ways of making a living, but for them, to reinvent themselves every time is common place. MAG: What is Leiter Gallery, and how it was created? Sinuhe Vega: Leiter gallery is created by an artist and for artists. The idea of the gallery stands from an artist point of view hoping to feature other artists, but not with the commitment of a typical gallery, it is more about the work, like a creators’ space more than a gallery. We would like to do different projects; we are open to ideas, to curators, to artists and their concepts hoping the gallery could become a good breeding ground. We are basically open to any type of work. MAG: In Search of Color was the opening exhibition featuring your works and including work from other artists. Can you comment on the exhibition? SV: In Search of Color is a new series I started. It deals with the respect for the use of color mainly. Colors are washed away from the pieces, allowing only certain colors to come through, is like I was searching for something, a perfect moment. I’ve blurred everything to be able to focus in specific details. Like life is sometimes. And then we have pieces from other artists that we are going to be working with, like Frank Verelli or Oriano Galloni, but we are still very young as a gallery and we are looking at portfolios, searching for works that would stimulate us, strictly contemporary young artists with affordable works that people in the neighborhood can buy. I would not want to become a “blue chip” gallery, but would like to show works with quality. MAG: The gallery is not located within the perimeters of any of the “Miami Art Circuits”. How does it feel to operate independently? SV: We are located outside the “Art Circuits”, I think that is healthy, it will work great with the restaurant because it brings a lot of traffic and it will give a lot of exposure to the works, whether if is painting, sculpture, installation or video. I come from the Coral Gables art scene, but I was also interested on what was happening in Wynwood, on the most cutting edge artworks… but really, I think I’m in between spaces, I like most of the new types of works and also like the traditional works, painting itself. I really don’t think that, regardless of your concept, you have to be anywhere to succeed as long as what you do can attracts an audience. Many people have settled in Wynwood, the Design District or Coral Gables thinking that that’s the “area” but they haven’t been able to accomplish any success. You could be located in Liberty City and still have success. When the first galleries moved to Wynwood, they where in the middle of nowhere, and now is the place to be. I think is about what you do, and about creating an audience. MAG: Are you planning to keep exhibiting other artists? SV: Right now we are actively looking; we are planning studio visits, talking to several artists. I want to show other works than mine, works that would inspire other artists and collectors. Art has a very broad spectrum and I want to capture that spirit through bringing a diverse group of artists together. I want to keep it alive and entertaining. MAG: You own this building where other business rent. Leiter Gallery is your second space in the building. Do you have plans to keep growing the location toward an artistic direction? SV: Yes, of course… for instance, the Sculpture Garden is an idea that I came across with, in combination with Bruce Lurie from Lurie Galleries. I think sculptures are kind of intimidating and hard to store. We are going to be working to create a space in the back like a Zen garden, with all the sculptures around, and furniture so people can seat and eat or have a drink. We are currently proposing this to many young art dealers that represent a diversity of artists to bring their art. I like very much the concept of Fred Siegel in L.A that started as a very small shopping center and now everybody wants to be there. He was a photographer that opened a photography shop, and created a very elegant place. I think art contributed a lot to that. Art creates quality of life and people enjoy it. I would like the whole building to function as an artistic complex, we already have a design store, FOLD, offering works by young designers, art books etc; we have Studio 69, a hair saloon run by Vivian with a very selected clientele, I mean, I hope that we all could synch and work together. We are already successful in creating a nice atmosphere so I have a good vibe about its success. What’s your take on the relationship between artists and business? I think artists should know more about business. I’ve been a victim of that “gallery philosophy”, I’ve been through law sues with art dealers, I mean, artists can be a real Cinderella sometimes, waiting for somebody to come and save us…pure fairy tales, and we get our heart broken every time. I think, as an artist you should go through that, but also should grow wiser and learn to manage your work better. And I think everybody is getting smarter. A gallery is part of the business but is not the center anymore. Collectors are getting closer to the artists studios and artists are not hidden in the sweatshop anymore. Artist should be given respect and are demanding more respect, because it has a positive impact in their work. I think we should look more into the democratic aspect of art, and less into the “Art Patronage” of the Renaissance. There are many examples in modern art on how dealers and artists went through a lot together to achieve success. To me, it is something that should happen together, not separated.

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