30 Jan 2023
Collecting for Culture and Change:
Kamiar Maleki’s Passion for Contemporary Art and Artists
Art lovers and collectors alike have a lot to look forward to this spring as VOLTA, an international art fair, returns to New York during Frieze Week. The fair, which debuted in Basel in 2005, was acquired by Ramsay Fairs in 2019 and has since been re-committed to building a platform for younger galleries to participate in the art market’s major cities. Kamiar Maleki, the fair’s director, has made it his mission to support galleries in staging ambitious solo and group presentations, focusing on the artists and their work.
One of the goals of VOLTA is to cultivate a vibrant and approachable environment of discovery for the engaged collector. To ensure that the event stays contemporary and current in the fast-paced world of the art market, Maleki has re-strategized and re-positioned, traveling to cities like Copenhagen, Vienna, Madrid, Budapest, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Mexico, New York, and Miami to cultivate new exhibitors, fresh talent, and wider constituencies.
One of the highlights of this year’s fair is the introduction of the VOLTA Spotlight Prize for NFTs, presented in collaboration with Artsted. The prize will award a $2,500 grant to an artist presenting NFTs at the 2022 New York edition. The prize winner will be deliberated by an external jury of digital art experts and tastemakers.
Image Source: BMW Art Guide
Ardan Özmenoglu, Red Birds, 2021, Glass, wood, 40h x 30w cm (glass panel 14 pieces) / 18h x 20w x 28d cm (wood base), courtesy Anna Laudel (Düsseldorf/Istanbul)
Maleki is thrilled about this new initiative, as he is an active member of the crypto and web3 communities and an early proponent of digital art and NFTs. He hopes that this new addition to the fair’s program will bring in a new audience and perspective.
In addition to the prize, VOLTA is inaugurating a new location in the heart of Chelsea’s art district. The building, located at 548 West 22nd Street, has a long pedigree of being an arts hub. It was formerly occupied by the esteemed Dia foundation and housed the Hauser & Wirth gallery space. With its proximity to the Frieze art fair at The Shed, Maleki hopes the new location fosters a sense of momentum, becoming a hub during fair week.
The artworks being presented at this year’s fair reveal a lot about the current trends and market. VOLTA New York will feature a strong selection of solo presentations, many of which maintain all-female presentations or are made possible due to female-led programs. Additionally, the fair is highly international, with many solo presentations being the first solo the artist has received in New York City.
For collectors attending the fair this year, Maleki has some advice: “I always return to the word ‘discovery.’ It is critically important that collectors, both new and seasoned, feel driven by a sense of curiosity that leads to new discovery. I encourage collectors to dialogue, ask questions, look closely, and assess artistic merit on their own terms.”
Image Source: BMW Art Guide
Jen Pack, Walk-in Rainbow, 2018, Thread and Hardware, 10 x 18 x 15 inches, courtesy Kouri + Corrao Gallery (Santa Fe)
In terms of the post-pandemic art world, Maleki hopes that we see new players emerging that serve to level the playing field. He hopes that the international art fair circuit will return to a sense of normalcy and that there will be space for new players to enter, for new artists to be discovered, and for middle-market galleries to share a stake in the game.
As a collector and fair director, Kamiar Maleki is passionate about supporting up-and-coming and established artists in the art world. He has been involved with VOLTA since its inception in 2005, and recently took over as director with the goal of building a platform for younger galleries to participate in major art markets. Under Maleki’s leadership, VOLTA has re-strategized and re-positioned itself to cultivate new exhibitors, fresh talent, and wider constituencies. The fair’s focus on compelling visual statements by artists cultivates a vibrant and approachable environment of discovery for collectors.
This year’s VOLTA New York program is particularly exciting for Maleki, as it includes the introduction of the VOLTA Spotlight Prize for NFTs, presented in collaboration with Artsted. The prize offers a $2,500 grant to an artist presenting NFTs at the fair, and the winner will be decided by an external jury of digital art experts and tastemakers. Maleki is excited to bring this new audience and perspective into VOLTA’s program.
The artworks being presented at this year’s fair reveal a strong focus on solo presentations, many of which are all-female or are made possible due to female-led programs. The fair also features a highly international cohort of galleries, with many of the solo presentations being the first solo shows for these artists in New York City. The fair is thoughtfully curated to demonstrate strong presentations from diverse perspectives that reflect the cutting edge of the market.
Maleki’s advice for collectors attending the fair is to approach it with a sense of curiosity and discovery. He encourages collectors to dialogue, ask questions, look closely, and assess artistic merit on their own terms. He is confident that by approaching the fair and the wider market with a desire for discovery, collectors will feel satisfied that they’ve acquired works that bring them joy and have intrinsic, personal value.
In terms of the post-pandemic art world, Maleki hopes that new players will emerge to level the playing field. He hopes that the international art fair circuit will return to normalcy, but that it doesn’t reach the same level of market saturation as before the pandemic. He believes that the art market needs space for new players to enter, for new artists to be discovered, and for middle-market galleries to share a stake in the game.
On his must-see list in New York is a solo exhibition of Frédéric Bruly Bouabré’s works at MoMA, which will be on view through August. Bouabré will also be exhibiting with Ethan Cohen Gallery at VOLTA New York.
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