Miya Bailey wants to make an art collector out of you

The painter/curator is raising the stakes in Atlanta's cool art renaissance

Miya Bailey's upcoming art show, Before I'm Gone Vol. 1: The Art of Miya Bailey, is probably about to — as he laughs — piss his dedicated collectors "the fuck off."

The show, dedicated specifically to newbie art buyers, will feature approximately 30 original works by Bailey starting at $100 each. That's about $900 less than what some of his collectors paid last time they bought a piece from him. But the show prices are all part of Bailey's master plan — boosting Atlanta's collector scene.

"The art scene is dope and flourishing but we need to put more attention on the art collector," Bailey says, adding that he created the works for the show over the course of about two weeks, far less than the time he usually takes to produce a piece. "This show is specifically for people who have never bought art. It's like a stepping stone for them."

By now, we've all heard the story of Atlanta's burgeoning creative scene and the cool art renaissance that's happening in real time. Bailey is one of the cornerstones of the movement, not only serving the community with his own art and outreach projects such as Inspire Your City, but curating shows for others. People flock to Bailey's City of Ink tattoo and art gallery (which he co-founded) to be seen and be on the scene during its underground art shows. And since Bailey opened Notch 8 Gallery with Sharon Dennehy in South Atlanta last year, exhibition nights have swarmed with Atlanta's influencers and cool kids. So yes, the art scene is popping. What isn't hot yet is the city's base of collectors.

"I think the art collection scene is being undernourished," Bailey says.

So this entire year, the artist/curator will focus exclusively on art collectors. Specifically, his series of shows Before I'm Gone will feature three volumes — the first focusing on new buyers and the second focusing on seasoned collectors. The third volume will be a surprise, though he does allow it'll be "experimental" and still aimed at tapping into a base of excited art buyers. Bailey got the idea to focus on building Atlanta's art collecting scene last year, after opening Notch 8.

"I did a lot of shows but I hadn't seen that much art sold ever," he remembers with a laugh. "The work is selling like crazy at Notch 8. At City of Ink, they're coming to be seen and be social. At Notch 8, it doesn't matter the size of the crowd, they're there to see, study, and purchase."

But the thing is, the bulk of those purchases aren't coming from Atlanta buyers. People are flying in from other cities to cash in on Atlanta's scene, which features talented artists offering works at substantially lower prices than artists in, say, Los Angeles, London, or San Francisco. Because Atlanta's art scene is still so young, artists have to look elsewhere if they want to make any real money selling their work.

"We're selling a lot [at Notch 8] but it's people coming to Atlanta to buy art," Bailey says. "Like 90 percent of the sales are coming from people outside of Atlanta. Last year, I sold close to 32 paintings and all of the sales came from someone outside of Atlanta."

Bailey, who has been at the forefront of the art renaissance, says now he's trying to link with other collectors to start a new social scene. As an avid art buyer himself, he wants to inform people about the importance of art investment. No, he's not about to start hosting seminars or tutorials on the subject, but says he'll use his own shows to promote organic conversations with people interested in collecting.

"Art collecting isn't a luxury, it's something that's needed," Bailey insists, launching into preacher mode. "You don't want to live in a boring ass house with white walls like a jail. Your home is a reflection of your personality."

And if you're living in Atlanta, Bailey says there's never been a better time to buy since the scene is bubbling with up-and-coming talent. In other words, the prices are cheap but they probably won't be for long.

"When you're seeing and hearing an artist's buzz, get them while you can afford it," he advises, mentioning that he purchased a couple of Paper Frank's pieces years ago for only a couple hundred bucks, and now his pieces sell in the thousands. "It can only take an artist a year to blow up and once they do, your purchase will increase in value like a stock bond. Look at someone who may've bought a Basquiat young."

Basically, people need to stop acting like they can't afford to buy art.

"Part of why I'm doing this show is because I don't want people to think they can never afford me," he says. "I'm tired of people saying, 'I can't afford to buy art.' It's like, 'You can't afford $100? I just saw you at the club last week!' And if you want a piece of art that you can't afford right now, save up for it until you can afford to buy it. We got to get people back on that."