Danny Báez on Breaking Into the Art World

Portrait of Danny Báez. All photography by Magdiel Baez. All images courtesy of Báez.

Danny Báez is adding to his already stacked art world resume with a new position as Kickstarter’s Head of Arts. The New York-based gallerist, art fair organizer, and nonprofit co-founder will work to engage artists and institutions in the platform’s efforts to fund and support fledgling projects and individuals. When asked what interested in him on taking on another role, Báez simply responds, “I need a new challenge.”

Back in 2008, Báez had a round-about entry into the arts. Between jobs and looking for work, he scored a three-day gig working at Rirkrit Tiravanija’s studio through a friend. That turned into a three-year apprenticeship, during which Báez accompanied Tiravanija to his job teaching in Columbia’s MFA program, earning a piecemeal education of his own. Later, Báez was hired to staff an event at Gavin Brown’s enterprise. “I was literally making soup to give to people,” he remembers. Báez ended up working as Brown's external affairs representative for seven years.

Eventually, Báez cut out on his own to co-found ARTNOIR, a nonprofit working towards cultural equity in the arts, in 2013 along with a group of friends including Larry Ossei-Mensah. In 2017, he and Tony Rodriguez decided to launch an art fair, with the first edition taking place in Puerto Rico. MECA International Art Fair just closed its fourth edition last month in the Dominican Republic, where Báez grew up. Recounting this journey, Báez laughs, “My dream was always to be a baseball player, very Dominican of me, right?”

Danny Báez and Everette Taylor, CEO of Kickstarter.

Despite his initial hesitance to enter the gallery space, he launched REGULARNORMAL in Chinatown, New York, in 2020. The decision came at the behest of Báez’s artist friends and collaborators looking for a physical place to display their work once pandemic lockdowns and anxieties lifted. ARTNOIR, his other venture, began hosting virtual visits with artists. “I am myself a victim of Instagram addiction and I definitely used that to push all those endeavors forward given that that's the norm these days,” Báez admits. “Artists have the courage to reach out through DMs and ask for a visit, in person or through the camera if they're overseas, and [Instagram] has put other institutions that I was not aware of directly in touch with myself.”

When it comes to his new role at Kickstarter, Báez is confident in his ability to juggle one more artistic endeavor, and excited to give his current collaborators room to grow into their newly delegated responsibilities. “I don't know if I'm overstretching myself, but … what I told [Kickstarter] at the end of the interview, before even knowing if I was going to be considered, was that when I do something, I do it with a thousand percent,” he says. “There's no halfway for me. It's either all or nothing.”

Báez’s ethos is evident in his advice for up-and-comers. He recalls an acquaintance who told him point blank he wouldn’t make it in the art world, having not gone to school or received any formal training. The rejection, Báez says, fueled his commitment. “Times are made for you; there's not too early, too late, there's the right time,” he asserts. “Do not be discouraged. Even when you're doubting yourself, go all in. The worst thing that can happen is it doesn't pan out, and you can move onto the next thing.”