WORDS Cat Acree

Nashville’s place within the national and international art world is about to change. This October, Art Nashville debuts as the city’s first international fine art fair, offering a dynamic melding of art and music unlike any other art fair.

To be held at Vanderbilt University on October 17–21, 2018, the inaugural Art Nashville is predicted to attract 35,000 visitors and will exhibit work from more than 60 local and international galleries. Special exhibitors include the Fine Art Dealers Association, a Printer’s Alley pavilion curated by Hatch Show Print’s Daniel Lonow, and a Music Row pavilion. But this is Music City, so Art Nashville will not only feature fine art galleries but will also actively engage with Nashville’s music industry.

Founder Matthew Eck, who is also the co-founder of Miami’s X Contemporary fair and New York’s SELECT, is already drawing comparisons between Art Nashville and the CMA Music Festival, which in 2017 saw a daily attendance of nearly 90,000 people. As Eck and his partner, Pierre Lamoureux (a Grammy-winning producer and one of the directors of Fogo Labs), explain, they’d like to see Nashville’s art community capitalize on the city’s boomtown status in the same way as the music industry.

Photograph by Hunter Armistead

“We want to put together a hybrid [of art and music],” Eck explains. “Something that’s really unique to Music City.”

Lamoureux points to the success of Nashville’s opera and ballet as examples of the music industry’s versatility in growth; if country music can lead to a strong opera and ballet programs, then just how far can Nashville’s burgeoning art community go? With this spirit in mind, special programming may include an acoustic lounge, lectures, and book signings by big-name musicians who are also deeply involved in the fine art world.

“By embracing the natural attributes from the city, that will set us apart from other fairs.”

Eck may have cut his teeth in Miami and New York, but bringing an art fair to Nashville has been a whole new experience. Early hurdles to Art Nashville have been to find a venue (Nissan Stadium and the Omni Hotel were early options) and to wade into a small, well-integrated community, especially as an outsider. “Nashville’s teaching me a lot,” Eck says, “[like] how to forge an art week in a community that’s tight-knit and in the South, how to navigate through that. When I was in Miami and New York, I was always doing shows with other art fairs. Art Basel has twenty-five other art fairs that are happening, so having a twenty-sixth fair was not unheard of.”

Eck ventured to Nashville for the first time only two years ago, and he was “blown away” by the professionalism of

galleries like Tinney Contemporary, David Lusk Gallery, Zeitgeist, and The Rymer Gallery, then learned more about OZ Arts and Nashville’s other art offerings. Eck realized that here was an untapped market for a fair, with high-quality work and enthusiasm from Nashville collectors—and from many galleries throughout the United States—to back it up.

“The work that is coming out of some of the art studios in Nashville is really phenomenal,” Eck says. “It’s not [just] Americana, not rustic—it’s really contemporary, cutting-edge stuff.”

As exciting as Nashville’s art community may be, it’s undeniable that a fair of this magnitude will affect the industry in a major way. A question from local galleries may be, what is your intention? “One thing that I’ve been trying to stress to the local galleries in Nashville [is] that this is not a competition,” Eck says. “It’s actually a symbiotic relationship. An art fair brings in collectives from Japan, from China, from France, Colombia, that have never been to Nashville before. We should have collaborations, with extracurricular [events] at the fair but also special events at the galleries.”

Art Nashville will likely change the face of art collecting in Nashville as well. “I want it to appeal to every type of collector in Nashville,” Eck says, “[or anyone] who might not be a collector now but who might want to be one.”

In service of fostering a new art-collecting community, a Young Collector’s Party will be held on October 19. “If you’re not well-versed in [art collecting], it’s a hard world to really understand at first,” Lamoureux says. “This is a way to open the door to all the influx of young blood that’s come to Nashville . . . We’re fostering an environment of growth and curiosity. It’s not just for fifty-, sixty-, seventy-year-olds. It’s for everyone at different levels.”

Looking into the future, what Eck describes as “Phase B” is to bring Art Nashville to Manhattan for a one-night event to promote the art of Nashville in 2019. “We’ll make a statement…that will have two effects,” Eck says. “It’ll create curiosity for people there to come here, and it’ll create opportunities for people here to reach out to a larger audience. And that’s a really big part of our plan.” 


For more information, visit www.art-nashville.com.

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