What’s Next? Oh, Wow



“Never not working” is an apt motto for Aaron Bondaroff, and it stuck, for both him and his business partner, Al Moran, last week during Art Basel Miami Beach. Operating under the auspices of OHWOW, they already have a bookstore in New York and events nationwide. This past week, they opened the third edition of “It Ain’t Fair,” their annual group exhibition in Wynwood, but also The Island, a one-day sculpture installation on a remote island off  the beach, and a new bookstore at the Standard Hotel.

But Moran and Bondaroff were friends for years before they came together in 2008 to found OHWOW, a “book club” on Waverly Place in the West Village. They figured that by combining their respective talents—Bondaroff was an integral part of the New York social scene and founder of streetwear company aNYthing; Al owned GTC media in Miami, a publishing company that supported independent publications—they might nurture a new generation of art and literary stars. “We felt that by bringing together worlds, we could create something very powerful,” Moran says. “Here we are three years later and this movement has grown much bigger than we originally anticipated.”




With the initial success of the space in New York, and connections to Miami, where Moran’s publishing company was located, it made sense for the pair to migrate south to participate in Art Basel Miami Beach. They called their first group show “It Ain’t Fair,” a title that carries two meanings. The first plays on the idea that the exhibition staged by OHWOW wasn’t a trade fair, but rather a multimedia production in which artists might reach both the high-end art collectors at the main event, and the local community. Moran remembers, “The artists that contributed to the show the first year was a who’s who of the art world. So it became a kind of inside joke between me and Aaron. ‘How did they get so-and-so in that show.’ ‘It’s not fair.’ Now it’s expected that we work with some of the most interesting artists… But that first year it was a big deal.”

In its third iteration this year, “It Ain’t Fair” featured artists including Dan Colen, Daniel Arsham, Scott Campbell, Nate Lowman, Aurel Schmidt, Dianna Al-Hadid and Nick Van Woert. It also got one step closer to the fair, moving from its location West of Wynwood, smack-dab into the middle of the Design District, where foot traffic would triple what it was off the strip. Three weeks before the show was set to open, they decided to build the tent. The design of the new temporary exhibition space and the bookstore was conceived by Rafael de Cárdenas, a New York-based architect who has worked on a number of experience design products around the world, most notably at the BMW headquarters in Munich. Although OHWOW’s New York base sells original editions of art publications, there will be no exhibition catalogue. So if you missed it, just wait for next year.

So what’s next for OHWOW after “It Ain’t Fair”? “Right after Basel, I jump on a plane and head to LA to find a permanent gallery space,” Moran told me, laying out a plan that is as ambitious as the collectives original conception. “We have programming for 2011 and 2012 already starting with a solo show for Scott Campbell in late February, and no space yet. I have about eight weeks to find a space, and have Rafael design it, build it out and get that first show up. Never a dull moment.”