Zach Puchowitz & the SCOPE Art Fair 2014
Generally speaking, art fairs can go one of two ways: really good or really bad. Throughout my career, I have definitely experienced both ends of the spectrum. There are a lot of factors that determine the overall success of a booth, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to two things: sales and exposure. This year in Miami it was no different, except for the fact that I was bringing a whole new element to the game that had never before been tested within a major international art fair.
Let me back up a little bit... Last year, at SCOPE 2013, I was showing the work of a well known international Street Artist. Sales were slow and due to a number of issues, things were not going well. But in the midst of the frenzy, I met an individual named Zach Puchowitz, who would turn my world upside down. Zach, accompanied by his wife, Joyce, sat down with me at my booth and started to tell me about the artwork that he creates. Now, this is nothing new, as artists from around the world visit art fairs to speak with galleries and dealers about their craft. However, with Zach, it was something entirely different. It was almost as if he was bringing me in on a secret, a hush-hush conversation about new art movement that nobody had ever heard of. What he told me blew my mind and it was at that very moment that I knew I had to be a part of it.
Zach Puchowitz is one of a handful of industry leaders in the world of fully functional borosilicate glass sculptures...AKA high end water pipes. He and his contemporaries have been slowly but steadily laying the foundation to an art movement that currently exists entirely in the underground and is supported by a small yet dedicated group of niche collectors who share an interest in both the functionality as well as the craftsmanship of the trade.
Over the course of 2014, I visited Zach and Joyce many times at their studio in Philadelphia, learning about this new movement in art and discussing ways that we can advance it within the public realm in both a positive and meaningful way. What we concluded upon was that we needed to bring his artwork to SCOPE, in order to present his functional glass creations to the art world at large. Through this, his artwork would stand on equal footing with the traditional artwork that one tends to find at major art fairs. Thus, Zach stepped into high gear, building new work while altering his sculptural designs in order to hide and/or disguise the functionality of the water pipe, in order to create representational sculptural art pieces with life breathed into them. His new creations showcased his skills as a lampworker and vaulted his artwork to the next level.
After working for many months on his sculptural water pipes, Zach and I arrived in Miami for Art Basel 2014. He created a whole new body of work, based on past sketchbook drawings as well as characters loosely based on people he knows around his neighborhood in Philly. These sculptural objects took on a new life as a modern day speakeasy, hiding their functionality in plain sight. These stand alone pieces presented a new way of interpreting functional glass artwork while declaring a strong and convincing introduction to the established art world. This was Zach's time to shine.
From the onset of SCOPE during the first VIP preview to the final day of the event, people came through our booth, assuming that they were looking at simple clay or porcelain sculptures, something that is safe and predictable in an art fair setting. However, we took it upon ourselves to individually inform each and every visitor to the booth that they were, in fact, looking at a fully functional glass water pipe. Nobody saw it coming and minds were blown for days on end. Zach's artwork became a natural conversation point, as people rushed to tell their friends about the discovery they just made. People flocked to the booth to see for themselves, amazed by the conversion of the functional art pieces and excited by the notion that they were witness to the growth and acceptance of a new art movement, as it emerges from the underground. The experience was truly magical.
As previously stated, the two underlining factors towards the success of a booth at an art fair comes down to sales and exposure. Both aspects were achieved in a big way at SCOPE 2014. This event was a major turning point for the sculptural glass pipe world, helping to validate and legitimize the underground art movement and help it move one step closer towards overall acceptance within the art world. Zach Puchowitz is a trailblazer, opening the gates for his peers and contemporaries to follow suit and bring their glass creations into the public light. No longer condemned to the shadows of the art world, a new found awareness of a highly technical and skilled form of art is beginning to emerge. SCOPE was just the first step and it's exciting to see where Zach will take things next.