Dina Mitrani is the founder and director of Mitrani Gallery in Miami, Florida. After more than 20 years in the fine art world—both in Miami and New York—Dina decided to open a gallery focusing exclusively on photography in November 2008. In addition to running the gallery, Dina also served as an art consultant and advisor for both novice and established collectors at private and public institutions.
In this interview, she offers advice on how to advance your photography practice, including tips about creating an eye-catching CV, working with collectors and clients, and more—
LensCulture: What first motivated your decision to open a gallery in Miami?
Dina Mitrani: I was born and raised in Miami. After studying art history at the University of Michigan and working at Christie’s and in galleries in New York for 7 years, I moved back here when the Miami art scene was about to get a huge boost.
Art Basel started in 2002, and I opened the gallery in 2008, a year after my youngest daughter was born. It was a tough time in the financial world, but a perfect time to start building the gallery. It takes years to build a business—and in the art world, years to build a reputation—and it must be done slowly and deliberately. So I was hoping that as the economy would grow from the bottom up, the gallery would do the same.
It was also the right time for me as a mother of two toddlers. I worked at the gallery while they napped on a small sofa in my office, and I was open to the public a few hours each day and by appointment. Once my daughters were in school a few years later, the gallery was also demanding more of my time…it worked out perfectly.
Photography had always been my most passionate interest, and when I opened, I was the only gallery in Miami to be showing photography exclusively.
LC: You’ve worked with experienced and inexperienced collectors and clients. How do you match a client with a piece of artwork?
DM: First, I need to understand the client’s aesthetic sensibility—what are they’re looking for and why. I also need to consider where the work will be placed, what size would be best, and what their budget is. After all of those considerations, it’s a process of making suggestions that I think might work. Sometimes a client knows exactly what they want; other times, it’s a longer process of looking. In every case, I say that the image must be something the client loves to look at.
Clients also should consider an artist’s career trajectory. A photographer’s CV should show active participation in competitions, group shows, local museum events and exhibitions, photo-magazines, juried competitions and blogs, and anything that will show that the artist is not only making work, but also making sure that the work gets seen by their peers, professionals, and the general public.
This is usually the most difficult thing for artists to do, especially introverted ones, but necessary to exemplify the artist’s efforts to further their career. Even if the artwork is really good, it will not receive the recognition it deserves if it stays in the studio.
On the client side, I advise inexperienced collectors to start looking at art—not only in commercial galleries, but in museums and art studio complexes, where the artists are always happy to talk about what they do and how they make their work. All of these experiences help inform a client’s choices. It’s a process, but it’s fun!
LC: Do you ever source photography for clients outside of your gallery? If so, how do you find it?
DM: Having run the gallery for nine years, I have met many artists locally as well as throughout the country at photography festivals where I review portfolios. Sometimes, I see work that may not quite fit within my gallery’s program, but it’s still good. So I keep files on these artists, and at times I have corporate curatorial projects like hotels, and I may include their work in those projects.
I also occasionally receive inquiries from designers looking for specific images for a client’s home. Many times, if my gallery artists don’t fit what they are looking for, I may offer work by artists that I do not specifically “represent.”
LC: Is there anything you wish more photographers understood about the art market?
DM: The art market is a complex place, and can be frustrating, but do not give up. Make your work and continue to promote it. Apply to festivals, group exhibitions, and online competitions. And remember that too many editions or sizes of one image is not better. Less is more.
Also, an easy-to-navigate website is very important, as is the updated CV. If there is an artist I am interested in, I usually ask to have 10 to 15 low-resolution jpegs to add to a file in my computer. When I am looking for something in particular for a client, I usually scan all those files to see if something fits.
LC: What do you look for in a project or photographer when you’re considering them for your gallery? How do you find the majority of the photographers you work with?
DM: Since I opened the gallery, the program has narrowed to focus on more conceptual and narrative photography. I am also interested in pushing the boundaries of the photograph and presenting works that combine different methods of art-making—for example, when a photograph is intervened with thread, paint, or drawing and the final image is harmonious and impactful.
Most of the time, the image itself must have a sort of visceral impact, something that enters my eyes and continues into my gut. Then the cerebral element must work. The artist’s intention must come through the work. For me, art must have some element of the emotional; it should be moving.
LC: Is there anything that will make you quickly dismiss a project? Is there anything photographers should steadfastly avoid when it comes to presentation or approaching you?
DM: A person’s manner, attitude, honesty and gratitude is very important. Many times, I may have an initial response to the work, but the personality of the artist is just as essential. The relationship between a gallerist and an artist is very much a partnership where both work together to produce an exhibition, hang the show, market and ultimately sell the work to both private and public collectors. This means open, honest and easy communication is crucial. It’s a bit like a marriage—which means both sides should give and get something from the arrangement.
—Dina Mitrani, interviewed by Coralie Kraft