In Conversation with Danny Baéz: A Dominican Art Boss on the Rise

In Conversation with Danny Baéz: A Dominican Art Boss on the Rise

Baéz in front of a work by José Delgado Zúñiga, in Washington Heights, NYC, 2019. Portrait by Magdiel Báez.

Baéz in front of a work by José Delgado Zúñiga, in Washington Heights, NYC, 2019. Portrait by Magdiel Báez.

Danny Baéz is a Dominican-born, NYC-based, force of nature in the art world. Like really. He is an art homie, a cultural producer extraordinaire, and one-half of the founding duo behind MECA art fair, alongside Tony Rodríguez. In his own words Baéz talks about his come-up in the art game, and we need to be paying attention.

Gallery Gurls: What is your journey in the art world? How did you arrive here?

Danny Baez: Starting in 2008 with Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, I was hired by RT’s studio manager Glorimarta Linares for a three day job that subsequently turned into three years as a studio assistant on different projects. One of those was a soup kitchen at GBE’s former space in the Greenwich Village which was part of Rirkrit’s show in April 2011. I was asked to help that’s how I got to interact more with Gavin. The duties became more constant and we became homies and I was welcomed into the GBE’s crew in a more constant role from that. 

You work with the very influential gallery Gavin Brown's Enterprise, can you talk about your duties and what you enjoy most about this role?

From helping with daily life duties (errands), to assisting artist Hope Atherton (Gavin’s wife) with some of her projects. at her former studio (in Chinatown/Soho) and her current one in Harlem. I was also given the chance of going to art fairs as a booth sales associate starting with Art|Basel Miami and eventually at arteBA in Buenos Aires, Zona MACO in Mexico, and Paramount Ranch in LA. Nonetheless, the experience has been great, enriching and the best learning lessons someone in the art business could ask for. For real. I thank Gavin and the whole team (past and present) for somehow allowing me to be just myself up to this point. At the moment, I am on commission mission with very very limited physical presence at The Enterprise, given that I really wanted to put more focus in the development of MECA at this moment. 

“We want to showcase the rich culture (music, gastronomy, and artistic) not only of Puerto Rico but from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad, Barbados, etc”

Baéz in Washington Heights, NYC, 2019. Portrait by Magdiel Báez.

Baéz in Washington Heights, NYC, 2019. Portrait by Magdiel Báez.

You're constantly traveling around the globe, what are other art cities that you like besides New York?

There’s nothing like New York. As cliché that’s sounding right now. Not a close second, but since you asking me this... MEXICO CITY! It’s definitely the other art city I truly and deeply LOVE. There’s such an amazing variety of things happening there that you can’t help yourself but just to embrace it. Also the food helps. Totally. Even though some friends know my stance on the East Coast/West Coast debate (and I’m not talking about hip-hop, hehehe) it’s fair to mention that Los Angeles is a very good art city as well. Lately, L.A. has become the city with the artists that are labeled “Next to Watch” (whatever that means) and with exhibits/shows at the institutional/commercial level to “Look Forward To”. Also, Chicago, San Juan and Guadalajara are pretty sweet too (yeah, Guadalajara). Bogotá is another fantastic city where amazing art things are happening. The same goes for Detroit, somehow overlooked but definitely claiming their place in the ranks. I’ve been to Europe only three times before,  therefore I still have a long way to go to explore deeply their art scene. 

“We feel very optimistic about becoming the main cultural hub for all the Caribbean countries. Too ambitious perhaps, but very honest I must say.“

Báez and MECA co-founder Tony Rodríguez at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Harlem, 2018. Portrait by Magdiel Báez.

Báez and MECA co-founder Tony Rodríguez at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Harlem, 2018. Portrait by Magdiel Báez.

I read somewhere where you said that Latin American art fairs don't include Caribbean artists. Obviously MECA, the art fair you started with Tony Rodriguez, is that answer. Can you talk about MECA'S recent successful second edition?

I would say, that the fairs that do so only showcase big established names which isn’t at all bad, but the constellation is too vast to just keep it with the ones that resides outside the Caribbean region or are represented by “bigger” galleries. With that being said, MECA doesn’t only give exposure to local/Caribbean artists but also artists from the Americas (North, Central and South) to Europe and Asia. We want to showcase the rich culture (music, gastronomy, and artistic) not only of Puerto Rico but from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad, Barbados, etc We feel very optimistic about becoming the main cultural hub for all the Caribbean countries. Too ambitious perhaps, but very honest I must say. 

The success of MECA’s second edition this last November came mostly from the effort, passion and love that the team injected into it this year. Same efforts were made for the first MECA in 2017. We had the advantage of last year’s experience and knew what to avoid to make this MECA a solid project moving forward. You add all that to the trust we had by our repeat and first-time exhibitors, plus support from the Board of Tourism of Puerto Rico, and friends/vendors/contractors who helped us. The press/media also contributed to this. We are the new kids to the art fair circuit and having that kind of coverage where we can reach outside the island and into mainland and beyond, is surely something we are grateful for. This motivates people to visit the next edition and wanting to see what’s happening. That, I consider a triumph too. You never stop learning in life and we are not exempt of that. Big ups to Mariángel Gonzales, Hazel Colón, María Del Mar Frederique for pouring their hearts into this project. 

Besides MECA what are other projects you're involved with?

I’m the co-founder and on the board of ARTNOIR, a member of the Young Collectors Council of El Museo del Barrio, a member of The Independents of ICI (Independent Curators International)., co-founder of DIPSTERS (a Cultural -Dance, Arts, Culinary- Experiences Platform), and a member of the selection committee for the SWAB art fair. I think that’s all for the moment...hahaha.  

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