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[WATCH] Art Basel Miami Beach is not for elite only

Philippa P.B. HughesBy Philippa P.B. Hughes on Dec 11, 2012 | Add a Comment Add a Comment (458)

[WATCH] Art Basel Miami Beach is not for elite only

DC crew hanging out at The Delano (Image by Ben Droz.)

While I was in Miami last week for Art Basel, this Twitter exchange took place:


mafalicious: "Why the art world is so loathsome." Harsh invective! Thoughts, @monroehaus, @pinklineproject? #artbasel 3:13pm, Dec 07 from Buffer


monroehaus: @mafalicious @PinkLineProject Let's do our part to make the art world less loathsome! Starting with being less exclusive and pretentious 4:34pm, Dec 07 from Twitter for Android


PinkLineProject: @monroehaus @mafalicious In weird way, Miami Basel has become fun place where theres something 4 everyone. Some things exclusive, many not. 9:36am, Dec 08 from HootSuite

It's true that at Art Basel, elite galleries from all over the world show (and sell!) the most expensive works in the contemporary art world. In the evenings, exclusive parties and dinners abound. I weaseled my way into a a hoity toity party sponsored by Bugatti. The caterer? Nobu! What?! 

However, beyond the fancy stuff, there seemed to be art and access to art for everyone at every economic level in some form in Miami. If you couldn't afford the $17 cocktails at the fancy hotel pools, you could always drop in at The Deuce for a $6 drink and still rub elbows with some art world stars like Shepard Fairey and Sanford Biggers.

At the Fountain Art Fair, you could buy street art for as little as $5. (You could also buy street art by Invader for $9,000 at the Pulse art fair!) Many DC artists bunked together at a hostel and had a grand time. A group of us made our way to a GIF art installation. Free! The Wynwood Walls street art installations? Free! Art Basel public art installations? Free! One of my favorite free things was this carnival ride, called Sugar & Gomorrah:

Peter Anton's experiential “Sugar & Gomorrah” at CONTEXT Art Miami is the world's first art installation in which the viewer journeys in a reworked carnival ride through a modern interpretation of the destruction of a Sodom and Gomorrah-like world.

Right after I got back from Miami, I saw a New York Times article about Art Basel that asked whether money and greed had ruined contemporary art and "its long-term cultural significance." The article noted that several prominent art folks had recently excoriated the art world: Sarah Thornton, Felix Salmon, Will Gompertz and Dave Hickey.

I had actually bookmarked all those articles over the last few weeks because I was percolating an idea for a blog post. I've been thinking about how much I love street art, temporary public art, and performance art, which are all things that you can't buy for your collection. I take pictures of street art I see and then a few days later it's gone. I collect performance art experiences and all I have when it's over is a memory of the experience. (Except for when I got a painting out of participating in this performance art.)

But then I went to Miami and I felt inspired and energized and I even bought a couple new artworks to add to my collection and then @mafalicious tweeted at me, and it hit me. Those art world writers who criticize the art world might be just as bad as the people they criticize. The don't seem to see that the art world is much larger than the elite one they criticize. They appear to ignore the fact that Art Basel Miami Beach has spawned multitudes of opportunities for art buyers and appreciators to have contemporary visual art in their lives no matter what their economic level. They seem to ignore all the awesomeness that makes up the entire art world spectrum. Sure there is plenty of crappy art at the less costly end of the spectrum. But there is plenty of crappy art at the more expensive end of the spectrum, too! And there are ridiculous, snooty people at every point on the spectrum, as well.

I was happy to see that mega-art collectors Don and Mera Rubell disagreed with all this backlash against the contemporary art world and are not snooty and ridiculous. They told the NYT:

Today, multimillion-dollar sales represent only a silk-thin layer of a deeply varied and thriving art market. The art world, Mr. Rubell asserted, is “actually becoming more democratic.”

“There’s 20 ancillary fairs” in addition to the high-end main event of Art Basel, he said. “Whatever amount of money you have in your pocket, you can enter this magical world of art.”

Right on Rubells! And @mafalicious and @monroehaus and everyone else who knows how magical and wonderful art can be for everyone, let's do our part to make the art world less loathsome and spread the good word to everyone.


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