Marcel Katz, known as the Art Plug kept the torch burning this past Art Basle Season by hosting Miami's first Dali Art exhibit: The Real Surreal. Making a name for himself through his Gallery and Creative agency he has surrounded himself with some of the most noteworthy names in the art world including Picasso, Warhol, Haring, and Basquiat. Katz, age 30, also holds the record as the youngest Dali Art dealer in the world and was the inaugural lead in putting together Miami's first Dali Art Exhibit.
Follow along as we chop-it-up with the one and only Art Plug and discover his timeless vision.
Tell us about the Dali experience. What was the ethos behind this event and what did you want people to walk away with?
The Dali Estate was intimidating! Putting myself out there as a 33-year old that hasn't been in the game for that long yet felt like being naked. Luckily we had a great team who slam-dunked it and went above and beyond. It also had to do with being in the right place at the right time.
The idea was to continue a tradition of carrying on so that we could provide hope and inspiration going into 2021. By involving the Dali Universe, including a rotating art collection, and working with brands like Hyatt's Confidante Hotel, Stella Artois, and E11even Vodka we were able to inspire hope on a local and international level.
In order for everyone to experience the show the right way we also extend the exhibition to 8 weeks as gave students, creatives and teachers free access.
Because we created a buzz a month earlier, others in the community like Design Miami also started doing things to continue the tradition of Art Basel. If we hadn’t done something it would’ve really affected the future art scene in Miami.
Did you take any safety precautions considering Covid?
We did! We created a free online show that anyone could enjoy from the comfort of their home and for the people that wanted to visit we set up time slots so that they could enjoy the show in a socially distanced way.
Additionally, we also had an educational section where people could watch a video that guided people through the show which helped keep close-proximity interactions at a minimum. The space was also constantly sanitized in-between the time slots.
Yes, this year was more private, but we were able to bring something to the city that kept people safe and that kept the tradition of Basel alive.
Why a Dali and not another artist?
Dali was considered the master of surrealism so we only thought it was appropriate to exhibit the master surrealist during these surreal times. It was also the first time a Dali Exhibit was being held in Miami.
The exhibit also offered a rotating collection of local artists. This made perfect sense because having local artists with a surreal style was the perfect balance for the Miami ecosystem. We wanted to show both sides of the coin; the local and the master.
What was the reason for the location?
In terms of location, the historic Confidante Hotel was a perfect fit because it had a 40-50s vibe and Dali was very influential around that time. We presented that concept to them and they said yes.
Tell me about the art on display? Which one was your personal favorite?
I curated the show with Bertrand Epaud, a representative from the Dali Universe, who is a world-renowned expert on Dali.
For the exhibit, we selected 14 graphics and 8 bronze pieces that we felt suited the time and were true to 2020. The idea was to inspire people to get excited for 2021 and provided a good sense of inspiration.
There were many great pieces in the show, including pieces on paper and bronze sculptures, but my favorite was Saint Jorge and the Dragon. It's been traveling the world since 1989 and has been to Italy, Tokyo, Genoa, Rome, Singapore to name a few. It was supposed to represent Dali but he decided to keep the face blank because he wanted it to represent us all.
We were also able to sell half of the pieces during the show, including half of the rotating art collection. This was great because you can’t make these moves without capital, this is how we continue.
Similarly, you can’t just hang art in a room and think collectors are going to show. You need to put thought into it. You have to come up with a cool concept and ask yourself; How else can you engage with people? How can you make people walk away feeling hopeful?
How did the Art Plug adapt this year considering the new world we live in?
Because I deal with a lot of collectors in Asia I was aware of what was going to happen, some of them even sent us masks. So being Covid ready was a real blessing for us.
During this time I worked on my own art and thought myself how to animate and create Giffy's. One of them even ended up going viral with a 100 million views. I discovered that I could have a positive impact by creating surreal VFX that complimented our time.
Because people were staying at home, we also launched our new web-store and made sure we had something for everyone’s wallet. Likewise, we focused on digital marketing strategies because brands didn’t want to put up murals during the pandemic.
The digital frontier is truly here!
You're very young for an art dealer. How do you do it?
People say that I’m a creative genius, but I’m not that different from the rest! I just do and act on my ideas. A lot of people have ideas, but an idea is only a hallucination if it's not put together and executed.
I often ask myself; What opportunities do I have, what can I do, how can I make this better, how can I take a concept and turn it into a reality.
What have you learned as an art dealer? Any recent lessons this year?
Warhol said the best art is good business.
I’ve learned not to assume things when it comes to art and all the information beforehand.
I've learned to be more patient with people. Not everyone is going to know what you know. You're going to learn how to listen to people! This has been something I've been working on.
I've also learned that the first business you must take care of is you. Eating right and feeling good about yourself will make people want to do business with you.
After 8 years in the business I’ve had my fair share of downs but I’ve also managed to make history several times and get to live out my passion on the daily.
What are your plans for 2021?
We're going to do The Real Surreal 2. It's already in the process because it can't not happen. We hope to create the largest Salvador Dali exhibit ever. I'm already working to put something together that I think can be extremely impactful.
We’re also planning to continue the tradition of providing free tickets to creatives and people that contribute to the community like this year.
Because we have a great proven concept, we also want to expand to other major cities like NY and LA around the country and hopefully go international one day.
Our goal as a brand is to make art more accessible for the community and offer a more complementary incentive that will inspire generations to come.
If you go to our website at the artplug.com you can already find our free virtual tour of the show, download screensavers for your phone, find Spotify playlists, and find our Giffy packs.
What do you look for in art? What do you look for in an artist?
There's a mixture of things I look for. It's not only how the art looks, but what the actual message behind it is. What's the narrative? What's the story? That’s what's important.
You want to make sure that what you're doing as an artist is timeless. Dali's spirit and work are forever, you can't say that it isn't going to be around in a 100 years. That’s why we included the rotating art show because just like Dali’s work, it's just going to continue to thrive.
If in 10-30 years you are able to change people with your message, you're in. That’s how you become great as an artist.
Another big part about art is who's collecting it. Who's selling it. If they have a few good art dealers they’re probably doing good business.
If I like all these things, I want to work with them and have their art exhibited somewhere.