Art Basel Miami: Powering through NADA with Bravo’s Bill Powers

You may know him as the smile-cracking judge on Bravo’s Work of Art, but Bill Powers doesn’t merely do the show for shits and gigs. “My mission has always been to bring more people into the art world. I want to make everyone an elitist,” he explained, while touring the NADA show, one of Art Basel’s satellite fairs. Powers has set up shop at this visual carnival, which boasts an alternative assembly of galleries dealing with emerging contemporary art to showcase Exhibition A, his members-only website that sells exclusive editions of artwork by top contemporary artists.

“Though we did a pop-up shop with Colette this fall, Exhibition A has an online presence, so it is nice to let people see the prints in person,” Powers explained as he shook hands with just about everyone, while spreading the word he already sold out of Nate Lowman’s print. It’s no surprise that Powers seems like the most popular kid on campus. The former BlackBook editor morphed into an artsy tour de force of sorts, thanks largely to his Half Gallery, whose artist roster includes Leo Fitzpatrick, Duncan Hannah, and most recently, Terry Richardson.

Powers’ often snarky yet on-point judging style in Work of Art only adds to his appeal, but don’t be fooled: Even though he runs in the ‘holier then thou’ circles (Powers was one of few invited to Lowman’s installation at Alex Rodriguez’s McMansion last night), the gallerist still manages to project that populist, anti-establishment vibe he claims attracted him to NADA in the first place.

“People see some kind of an artificial barrier in the art world. But look at me. I have no formal training in the contemporary art world. I just became interested, I started going to galleries, and I started reading up on art. Anyone can do that.”

Industry Insiders: Nicole Nadeau, Art Star

Nicole Nadeau doesn’t understand why the art world reacted so vehemently to Work of Art — Bravo’s reality TV show in which artists competed for a chance to have their work shown at the Brooklyn Museum. After all, art is meant to provoke, and competing in the show was “an experiment,” she says. Nadeau grew up in small town in Connecticut, where she played sports, danced, and dreamed of becoming a dolphin trainer. But she was always creative. Her father, a fourth generation craftsman, had a woodshop in their garage where she began experimenting with art objects at an early age. Rocking her signature beehive hairdo, she met us at the High Line, where a Bravo publicist monitored us on speakerphone as we discussed the highs and lows of reality television, and having her work judged by Jerry Saltz.

Background: In school I focused on the arts and sciences. When it came to college I knew that I wanted to do sculpture, installation and design, so I went to RIT and did an engineering/design type of thing. Then I transferred to Parsons for product design.

After school: I started out at an architecture firm because I wanted to see the larger scale of a building or a whole room instead of the objects that are in a space. Then I started KNS Design, an experimental collective that is a conversation between art and design. If you really want to be an artist you just have to go for it. You have to make things possible for yourself and break boundaries of what people think art and design is.

Alternate career path: It would be very creative. An anthropologist or traveler of the world doing archaeological digs. Something involving experiments.

On her art: A lot of my art is inspired by nature and geometry, because I try to add harmony and balance to it. But I keep it simple and open so there is a point of seduction.

On designing for Ralph Lauren: I love doing design consultancy because creativity is my strong suit. It’s fun to be brought in and give it a certain direction, or use materials I might not be able to find in my studio.

Favorite artists: There are so many. Tobias Wong inspired me a lot when I was in school.

On the High Line: I love the High Line. Not too many people know the story of it. Tenth Avenue used to be called Death Avenue because the trains used to kill people on the street. There’s a certain sense of life and death to it. They raised it up so people wouldn’t die.

Favorite fashion designers: Rodarte. Chanel. Issey Miyake. I really like Tom Ford because he’s a Renaissance man. And I really love that movie he made, A Single Man. Every scene was so beautiful.

On reality television: I actually don’t own a television, but I find reality television interesting because it’s a product of our time. It’s a system, there are archetypes, and at the end you really don’t have control over what goes on.

On being judged by Jerry Saltz: Pretty epic. I love reading all of his reviews in New York magazine. He’s very approachable and I can identify with the things that he says. It was so magical to have people critique your work everyday and have a gallery show every day.

On the Work of Art experience: I did it all in good fun without really thinking about the repercussions. I wanted to see what the constrictions and control on the materials and time would have on my work, and if it could produce a certain level of creativity. I found the response to it to be a little bit conservative. I understand their point, but at the same time I’m like, Have an open mind and explore this a little bit.

Did the best person win WOA? No because I should have won.