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kulchur and the three fairs

Post #191 • January 15, 2004, 8:07 AM • 10 Comments

Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" in this week's Miami New Times covers the surfeit of art fairs in South Florida. Kulchur and gallerist Brook Dorsch came to pretty much the same conclusion I did about Art Miami: not as bad as last year, but far from great. Bottom line (pardon the pun): was clear Art Miami director Ilana Vardy had dodged an economic bullet. "It was my challenge in getting exhibitors to sign up," she said, "but it turns out there is enough money to go around." ...

[Vardy] suspects [palmbeachcontemporary director Lorenzo] Rudolf's insistence on holding his fair the same weekend as hers is a deliberate attempt to siphon away patrons.

But Vardy chose to -- mostly -- hold her tongue, preferring to rely on the sound of pens meeting checkbooks . "Whichever fair's galleries sell the most will determine where this all ends up," she predicted confidently.

So follow the money?

"That's what this is all about -- for everybody."

Not so fast, Ms. Vardy. For me, this is about one of the great pleasures of life, and the continuation of one of the most important ongiong human endeavors on the face of the planet. I understand the need for practicality, but come on, now. Bigger things are at stake, and understanding that would go a long way toward pulling up the level of Art Miami.

UPDATE: What the hell is Lorenzo Rudolf talking about?

"Miami has an incredible, interesting collectors' scene," Rudolf said. "But how many collectors of classical modern stuff do you have? There is Norman Braman , perhaps [Debra and Dennis] Scholl , and then it's finished." Palm Beach, he countered, is full of classical-art enthusiasts -- snowbirds from Chicago and New York dying to snag a Kandinsky or a Picasso, few of whom are interested in the kind of after-hours party-hopping that defined much of Basel. "It's a different lifestyle.... So Art Basel will be dominated more and more by younger, cutting-edge artists doing contemporary work, and palmbeachcontemporary will have a focus on classical modern art."




January 15, 2004, 5:41 PM

Well, at least Vardy's being honest. An art fair is a business venture, and what really matters is sales figures, not artistic merit. Sure, respect is nice if you can get it, but the main goal is making money.

Maybe the schlock galleries were there because Vardy couldn't get better ones to pay for the booths, but maybe they were also there because they can sell well enough to keep the operation afloat. It's depressing, but just business. We should also take Vardy's "we did good" line with a grain of salt; she's hardly going to come out and say "we tanked."

MY bottom line is that if this is the best Art Miami can do, going to it again is pretty much a waste of time (but yes, I'll probably go anyway, though I'll hate myself afterwards).



January 15, 2004, 5:54 PM

"palmbeachcontemporary will have a focus on classical modern art"

Then why call it "contemporary" he is hijacking the terminology of art to make $$$, but in the process, he does a disservice to everyone who is contemporary. Classical Modern is not contemporary. This means his fair is a complete misrepresentationputting it in the same category as any frame store that sells "fine contemporary art."



January 15, 2004, 7:51 PM

M, I'm additionally confused about classical modern. My understanding is that classical as an art term refers to anything from ancient Greece. By citing Picasso and Kandinsky, he means, maybe, early modern? But that doesn't sound nearly as sexy. Consider also, classical modern as opposed to what other kind of modern? It sounds like he's trying to co-opt contemporary while enshrouding modern in some kind of stately air. (You can charge a lot for that air.)



January 15, 2004, 9:32 PM

Jack - You'll go again, just like Franklin and myself will go again. It's for that faint hope, that there will be something there that will surprise you or you'll discover work that will make you think twice about an artist that you know little about. I agree that the disappointment when there is little or nothing new to discover leaves you feeling that you'll hate yourself for going, but think of how happy you'll be you went if that surprise does come along. I did find a few small surprises in Art Miami, in the currents section, a gallery from Chicago (Don't Have the name Right Now). So I did have a good feeling when I left, since I felt like I dug through the dreck to fine a pearl. A small pearl, but sometimes it doesn't take much for me.

The whole thing with looking at art in an art fair type setting, for me always leaves a bad taste in my mouth, unless lighting, and not having only 15 mm between works is addressed. That was definitly something that Art Miami has to address, but in many case all the light and space in the world couldn't make a difference. Just Run.



January 15, 2004, 10:03 PM

Yes, Brook, I'll go to the damn thing again, for exactly the reason you mention. We live and hope. I have lots of experience going to shows I'm virtually certain will be nothing special, and even though I'm usually right, I keep doing it. I suppose it's a kind of compulsion--art hunger. The up side is that, on the rare occasions when one finds the real goods, it's really, really sweet.

As for the Palm Beach outfit, it should have kept the old name (Art Palm Beach). While there's contemporary work, it's not the predominant product. Their "modern" offerings, however, were fully Basel-worthy, and head and shoulders above anything at Art Miami. I'm still drooling over, among other things, a 1933 Picasso etching, "Nude Model and Sculptures," that might have impressed Ingres (or the ancient Greeks, for that matter).


Carlos de Villasante

January 15, 2004, 11:04 PM

I once asked an Artist I greatly admire to go to the affordable art fair with me, he looked at me like I was a martian and said "I think both concepts are depressing, artists going to art fairs and 'affordable art' which you can find plenty of at a postershop."

I find myself agreeing with him more and more


Carlos de Villasante

January 15, 2004, 11:05 PM

I once asked an Artist I greatly admire to go to the affordable art fair with me, he looked at me like I was a martian and said "I think both concepts are depressing, artists going to art fairs and 'affordable art' which you can find plenty of at a postershop."

I find myself agreeing with him more and more



January 15, 2004, 11:21 PM

Correction: Posters are not art, merely reproductions thereof. Is anyone actually advocating that art should NOT be affordable? Or is the message that if art IS affordable, then it's not good art?



January 16, 2004, 6:38 AM

Well, I have always done my best to preach to my artists to keep thier prices down, cause the only way to get those mall poster buyers to switch to buying original art is to lessen the sticker shock and get them to understand the difference. However the average person doesn't realize what it takes to produce original artwork in terms of just the raw materials; Canvas, Paint and other supplies, let alone the artist's time and the last but not least the Gallery selling the work.

With all that said, I think whatever it takes to get more people to look at art, the better. The goal should be to get those people to get out of the mall and not be afraid to go to the Fairs, Galleries, and Museums. When people get intimitated by high prices it just keeps them thinking that posters is the better way to go. And if an affordable art fair is the way to get em off the couch, maybe at least a couple of people will see the difference and start becoming art junkies like the rest of us.

And thats good for everyone!



January 16, 2004, 8:22 AM

I agree, Brook. I think an "affordable art" fair (meaning work under 5K) is an excellent idea, assuming the work is respectable. People need to learn that good work does not have to be very expensive (and that expensive definitely does NOT guarantee good work).

There's nothing easier in the art world than paying too much, since so many dealers are peddling so much stuff that's mediocre or worse, but persistence and patience tend to be rewarded. It's a rush (at least for me) to find the real thing at a reasonable price--it's thrilling, actually. I only wish more people could experience that, because you sure as hell can't get that from a poster.



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