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art fair death match

Post #342 • August 10, 2004, 6:36 AM • 7 Comments

Three warring art fairs - where have I heard this before? Dan over at Iconoduel has been following the brouhaha around Art Miami's sister fair in Chicago, which has put Ilana Vardy back at the helm to navigate it through changing, competitor-infested waters.

Meanwhile, Tyler reports bad news about the NADA Art Fair, which last year took over a vacant Michigan Avenue property during Art Basel/Miami Beach, and this year seems to have lost its curator, pushing notifications about inclusion in the fair past the previously scheduled due date for deposits. Uh oh... "[Modern Art Notes] wants to know more," says Tyler, to which I'd add that we here in Miami know nada about this besides what Tyler has found so far.




August 10, 2004, 6:28 PM

Too bad about the NADA fair. It was much better than the officially Basel-affiliated containers section by the Bass Museum, though that's not saying a great deal. I know the NADA people did very well in terms of sales, so I expect they're not just going to give up and forget the whole thing. Still, their location just off Lincoln Road was perfect, and that will be hard to beat.



August 10, 2004, 6:34 PM

It's a good thing for Vardy that the Chicago people didn't ask my opinion of her performance concerning Art Miami. They should really do more checking than they apparently have. Maybe the Chicago situation is not as far gone as Art Miami, but her job here was simply not satisfactory, let alone stellar.



August 10, 2004, 8:19 PM

I believe Vardy's spot at the helm of the yet-to-be-named replacement for Art Chicago may simply be due to the fact that it is being produced by the same firm that recently acquired Art Miami, though her history in Chicago is probably also a factor.

Her tenure as director of Art Chicago (93-99) was before my time and I'm unfamiliar with local opinion regarding her performance in that role. I would love to hear the view from Miami.

A previous remark from Franklin regarding Art Miami's "reputation for putting half-decent art next to untrammeled shlock" fills me with apprehension.



August 10, 2004, 9:27 PM

Well, Dan, I can tell you is that the most recent Art Miami was a waste of my time, even though I had a free pass and gave it ample opportunity to impress me. Moreover, it depressed me, and I decided not to go to it again unless major changes were to be instituted. I am essentially an art addict, so for me to write off an art fair means it really turned me off.



August 10, 2004, 10:35 PM

Has Art Miami been historically weak, or did the arrival of the Art Basel juggernaut precipitate a decent into Palookaville?

More broadly, and Art Miami's particular woes aside, how have the art fair wars impacted (if at all) the local art community down there? Any sense of increased international attention? Increased local attention? A more robust local collector base?

And beyond such vulgar considerations, have the abundance of such market- and event-centric forums had any effect on local aesthetic practice, positive or negative?

Or, are my questions misdirected?



August 10, 2004, 11:53 PM

I can't answer your questions, Dan, but I know there are those reading this who can, and they are legitimate questions, certainly.

However, in a broad sense, there is an inherent and inescapable weakness in the basic concept of an "art fair", because, as the name implies, it is a huge commercial assemblage of art for sale, and there is never very much good art, especially good art that these dealers can get hold of. So before you start you know that a very high percentage of the art there will be at best middling and at worst schlock, albeit gussied up into acceptable art schlock. I missed the previous Art Basel but I was told that I had to go to the last one because there was so much good stuff.

Well, it was terrible - Slick, shiny, trendy, junky. Vast numbers of huge bad photographs of deliberately (so it seemed) uninteresting subjects. There was an air of desperation about the place, and it came from the art, not the dealers; I understand they did very well. The good things (I saw about a dozen) stuck out as if they had neon arrows pointing at them. When I talked about the show with people who have some judgment, they immediately said "did you see the such and such" - most of them had picked out the few interesting works I had, or mentioned something I had missed which I regretted. The primary expression I heard from artists I spoke to was that this exhibit was just not part of them, not part of their world. I literally could not get through the entire show; as we moved toward the back the art got steadily worse, and my feet were killing me, so we went home. I think it was a good decision.



August 11, 2004, 12:12 AM

Dan, the questions are all good ones.

Art Miami has never been any great shakes, even before Basel. The range has tended to go from feh to intolerable, despite recent efforts to gussy it up. A handful of good work usually slips in, seemingly by accident.

Miami has gotten a lot more attention because of the fairs. Art in America commissioned a a big piece from Roni Feinstein about Miami to coincide with ABMB '03. The rest of the country's art scene gets wiped out for the weekend, so I'm told. In '02 the propietor of Scott White Contemporary Art visited Miami for Basel and picked up my work. I have no idea about the collector base. I have perceived no impact on the local aesthetic practice.



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