Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Art of Basel Promotion

Recently, Pope Francis discussed, “the idolatry of money” as well as “trickle-down economics.” He wrote that this philosophy, “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power." Immediately, kind, thoughtful souls like Rush Limbaugh responded sympathetically, bravely and lovingly accusing the Pope of Marxism.

This is an art column, not about political one, or should I say manifesto. I do not wish to get in the middle of a dispute between Francis and a talking mule, but considering the recent Art Basel revelries, the issue merits mention.

This year, Art Basel careened wildly from full blown artistic event to full blown artistic opportunism. Whether this is due to Pope Francis’ previously mentioned worship of the almighty Benjamin and those forces in the art sphere hoping for some trickle down or simply old fashioned human ingenuity, I will leave this for you to decide. However, there are some signs that perhaps his holiness spent the first weekend of December thinking about conspicuous Miami clubbing and shows opening while attaching himself to the events that were being spread like salt on snow in a northern winter.

Even a lowly brother like me got invited to about a hundred events this year, many of them marginally related to the pursuit of quality in the Arts. People I have never heard of and who yielded few results in a Google search invited me to exhibits I have never heard of where the proceeds were earmarked to a cause I have never heard of benefiting a project I have never heard of all underwritten by a vodka that I had heard of – Grey Goose. Then – a magazine that I had never heard of invited me to a play I had had never heard of written by an author I had never heard of starring four ex-NBA players long since forgotten that few have ever heard of being held at the Colony Theater on the Beach. Another offered admission to the most esteemed Italian furniture designers I have never heard of building strong relationships with suppliers that I have never heard of who show them in showrooms I have never heard of hosted by two guys with cool Italian names that I had never heard of. Forgive my piling on to the hyperbole, but never in the history of humankind has the word legendary been so shamelessly used, abused, and misused. I could go on to the pop-up this and its partnership with the development group that and its beneficiary this or that. Pope Francis – I’m feeling you!

Despite my consternation, and make no mistake - as a proud elitist, sharing this event with hungry and desperate, philistine promoters pains me - a select core of Art Basel remains unbroken. Pulse retains all of its legitimate style in the city’s most tasteful venue – the Ice Palace. Art Miami and CONTEXT get it right. Miami Project’s Max Fishco and Jeffrey Wainhause keep it spacious and do not overwhelm.  Scope, despite its collaboration with VH1 and gasp – Red Bull, continues to showcase fine work. NADA deserves credit for being an incubator for new art and its non-profit status.

All of which takes us back to Pope Francis and Rush. If Mr. Limbaugh were to come to Miami, he would find a city thriving and profiting off the original paint fumes emanating from the Convention Center on the Beach. He would extol the virtues of all the money generating opportunities which have sprouted in the last few years. He might even partake of a few free hors d’oeuvres, hang out in a cheap cigar lounge, and enjoy Boy George spinning his favorites. He would praise the snake oil sales folks peddling tees, smile at all the hustling entrepreneurs, and beam at the Derek Zoolander wannabes needing to be seen and passing out cards. He might even prepare an exhibit and preview it during Basel 2014: Francis and Jesus: Marxists.

The Pope would see the same things differently; rents rising, suffering artists having to move, Wal-Mart expanding into Midtown paying low part time wages, and venture capitalists swarming over Art Basel like vultures.










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