Why do I go to Basel?
Every year someone asks me “Why do you go to Art Basel? Are artists supposed to go? Doesn’t it bother you to see art in an art fair setting?” These questions puzzle me. Not because of the questions themselves but because they show a lack of knowledge about the art world.
The art world is one of the only industries in the world that can be whatever it wants to be. There are no set rules to guide you through. People often consider themselves experts overnight by reading a few books and advise others on the few subjects they know. Others spend years educating themselves on the nuances of every movement. The prices for work are unregulated and the value of a piece is not necessarily determined by the technique, materials used, or time spent creating it but rather the greater need for it. The artists themselves range in personality from extreme attention seekers to “don’t talk to me unless I talk to you”. Of course the spectrum of these traits vary and there are some artists who believe that they are like everyone else outside of the art world- which still borders the crazy line. With all of this in mind, what is so special about Art Basel Miami Beach?
Art Basel itself is an extreme opportunity for art collecting. In the U.S. there are very few occasions that galleries bring what they think is their best work to display for our viewing pleasure. The participants in Art Basel are usually the top tier galleries exhibiting some of the most famous artists in the world. The art shown is for collectors who are used to the high price tags with which the work comes. Over the years it has become more commercial than all the other fairs and has become the best example of art as a business. The Art Basel fair is not extraordinary but if you are at all interested in the art market, it is a good way to see what people in business think collectors are seeking. As an artist, I think that artists should try to understand how dealers’ think– What they think will sell or whom they are appealing to. (Not that whatever they do would change an artists point of view). It is just good business to understand how the market conducts itself.
One significant way that fairs have changed the art world is that idea of understanding what you are looking at is lost. Viewers breeze past most of the art without really looking at the details of each piece. Like running through flashcards before a test except no one actually knows what is on the cards themselves. On one hand when you see so many people interested in the idea of art it is encouraging. But when you see so many people not taking the time or opportunity to really consider what it is they are looking at or looking for, it is disheartening. Therefore the problem with art fairs for artists lies within the business model itself. Artists should understand that there is no way that buyers would ever visit all the galleries that set up shop in Miami in such a short time. But artists (and collectors) should also encourage their dealers to display more provocative work that educates and challenges the viewers’ eye instead of just appealing to what might look good next to “their beige sofa in the assigned display space”.
The following posts are most of the wonderful ideas/pieces of work/random but impactful statements that I discovered over my time during Art week in Miami. Hopefully it will help you get a sense of what is out there.