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plans for basel

Post #414 • November 23, 2004, 7:22 AM • 21 Comments

Okay, I'd like this blog to not suck when Art Basel rolls around this year. I think I have a plan: blow off the openings.

No, really. I think that I-never-want-to-look-at-art-again feeling that one gets after Art Basel comes from attending all the openings. Art isn't a party, just like your heartbeat isn't a party.

Look, everybody, bottom line: Party if you like - I won't tell you not to. But viewing art is a contemplative act and requires having sufficient time, space, and silence around you. Any art that doesn't require this is probably a novelty. And as the doodoostorm of novelty that is Art Basel proves, finding great art in the contemporary art world is like recovering your wedding ring after it gets swallowed by a dog.

Remember the Taoist looking technique? Not going to the openings shall be the Taoist attendance technique. "Do not sparkle like jade; do not tinkle like stone chimes." Just go see the art. Breathe. An artist friend of mine is taking this to its logical conclusion - he's not going to any portion of Basel, and will instead attend our Zen group's rohatsu. This is a special retreat they call No Toys - just sitting meditation; no liturgy, interviews, walking meditation, or anything else. The only instruction is that if you fall asleep, do it at your cushion. Part of me will be with him in the zendo even as I walk through this upcoming brouhaha of art appreciation jacked up to the level of caricature. I will regard the fuss as like the flickering shadows cast when the light of art is blocked by everything that isn't art. I have a wedding ring to find.




November 23, 2004, 3:43 PM

Putting asside the miriad little events going on Basel weekend, I don't see how you're ever going to find quiet time with the work in the main show. Perhaps the least crowded time last year was during the Vernisage, which is exactly the opening... But even if you spend all weekend in that big room, you're never going to have sufficient time, space, or much less silence around you to see everything you could see.

I'll be spending as much time as I can in the room, and some of that time is reserved for hanging out at the booth, chilling with the interns.



November 23, 2004, 3:46 PM

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November 23, 2004, 4:33 PM

"doodoostorm" is a nice coinage.

And the dog and the wedding ring, odd as it is. I guess the idea is to wait around and then pick through the dogshit to find the ring. Probably better to not take the ring off in the first place. And feed the poor dog, or he will eat your finger next time.



November 23, 2004, 4:35 PM

Trying to reproduce the problem.



November 23, 2004, 4:38 PM

Didn't work. Alesh, you're not the first to report that the computer went nuts when someone left a comment. I haven't been able to catch it happening yet. Sorry for the inconvenience.


that guy in the back row

November 23, 2004, 5:42 PM

alesh: Spend as much time in there as you need. Just don't be snookered into believing as most will, that what you are seeing must be great art just because it's in the show. Art tends not to spring up like tulips in Holland, but takes the side roads.

Franklin: Thats pretty good advise for the weary art collector/lover, stick to the shows that have have real potential, rather than those imbued with hype.



November 23, 2004, 6:19 PM

I knocked myself out the last two times Basel was here. It wasn't worth it; in fact, it was like eating too much junk food. I'm not doing it again. It's too bad so many members of the local artistic community pretty much put all their eggs in the Basel basket, and more or less blow off the rest of the year. The year since the last Basel has been very weak, even more so than usual. As I see it, rather than having an energizing effect on the local scene, Basel has done the opposite. All we get now is the one-week frenzy of locals desperately trying to be noticed by some big-shot gallery or other. There's way too much going on at once; it's overkill, and people who could have gotten more attention during the regular season get lost in the shuffle. Basel is an alien visitor, and it cannot substitute or make up for a real, serious, substantial art scene here the rest of the year.



November 23, 2004, 8:07 PM

My last sentence above should have read:

Basel...cannot substitute or make up for THE LACK OF a real, serious, substantial art scene here the rest of the year.



November 23, 2004, 9:11 PM

Interesting point, Jack. Never occurred to me.



November 23, 2004, 10:07 PM

When I go to Basel this year I am not expecting nor hoping for the Zen of a quiet museum with calm minimalism and clean white walls thought Miami. I want two things- ONE: I want see some of what the best artist in the world are up to and what their galleries are pushing and TWO: I want to get some good partying in. Miami is a party town lets celebrate that. There is a long history of artist partying so there should be no reason to shun it. Maybe shun all of this bull shit invite only VIP stuffNo scratch that dont shun it invade it lets show em real Miami spray paint their white walls with Dirty Dade tag or something. Lets throw alternative anti Basel parties with free art. I believe that art can be boring in the traditional stogy museum/gallery setting so why not party like your at the factory or Paris of the late 1800 where is the absinthe in Miami) and if the Art is good enough I will write it down and come back to it the next day.

The problem with Art Basel is that much of the good art and gallery shows have now shifted their good shows and parties with that to happen to be during Basel. This is the drawback of Art Basel and unless some of the big Miami art names figure out a way for Miami to have a vibrant summer scene then Miami's art community doesn't get much more than another reason to move away and only return for 1 or 2 weeks out of the year when the weather is nice and the liquor flows freely. I'm not going to move away just yet but if this trend keeps going Miami may be destined to become a homogonous empty community of wealth and privilege who live in fashion 'LOFTS' and collect art but never produce art.



November 23, 2004, 11:43 PM

Until Jack said it - then seconded by HE, in his own way - I had always gone along with the accepted idea that Basel helped make Miami a "happening art town", even though I think little of 99% of the art that has been shown there. But their observations put a different, and I think more accurate, spin on the whole event.

Basel comes here because Miami is a big city which is also warm in the winter, very beachy & resorty, a party town with easy air access. There are few other cities like it.

But it has absolutely nothing to do with Miami as an art center. During Basel our "art world" is like a tiny island resort that has an intense, explosive short tourist season when all the rich people fly in and all the natives shake off their torpor and run around like fools making anough money to tide them through another year of provincial lassitude.

As Jack says, Basel is an alien visitor, a huge flying saucer packed with tchotchkes for the sightless rich, skipping town quickly after sucking up all the art bucks. It is a great commercial boon for Miami, but i can't see much benefit to our art or our art market.



November 24, 2004, 12:49 AM

I wonder if Art Basel isn't beside the point. Miami's arts community is either strong, or it isn't. Art Basel shines a spotlight on Miami, but what Miami does as the cameras roll is its own affair.

Life's a social place. The more cross-pollination, the better. Why not attend Art Basel as advocates. Pretend it's performance art. Introduce yourself to strangers as a local artist (gallerist, teacher, collector, curator, afficionado, etc), and offer to tell where the good stuff is.

People might be flattered to meet an "insider," and when it comes to massive trade-show exhibits, a guiding voice could be quite welcome. Just say, "if you like this booth [or alternately, if you hate this booth], you'll really love the such-and-such exhibit down the hall."

If it doesn't shake the foundations of the earth, it might at least make you feel good about having done something. It might even get some attention.



November 24, 2004, 2:29 AM

I share a lot of the skepticism and mixed feelings about Art Basel that have been voiced here. But I'm curious about the relative silence in response to Franklin's post about his new project, Drawing Project, yesterday. People seem very ready to go back and forth and talk up AB and the lack of year-round art action in Miami, but when someone puts effort into creating a solid-sounding new project that could generate some meaningful activity locally (and elsewhere), no one seems to have much to say. Maybe a lot of people demonstrated support by signing up and just happened not to have anything--critical, positive, or otherwise--to say about it? These types of projects are an essential part of a healthy arts infrastructure, just as much as--if not more so than--than galleries exhibiting and selling art. It would seem to at least merit some discussion. Am I reading too much into this? What's up?



November 24, 2004, 2:49 AM

I was puzzled that there were no more reactions, too, at least polite, noncommittal ones like mine. When you pop something big and grand like that idea on people they tend to back off and get a wait & see attitude. Just a part of human nature, I think.

Also, when I tried to sign up something went wrong with the connection.



November 24, 2004, 6:23 AM

Franklin: actually the error message had no ill consequences at all - my message was still posted.

Guy: I agree... less then half of the stuff at Basel us usually any good. But I've average two or three transcendental art experiences at each Basel, so it's all worth it.

If we're the small-fry local artists, it may well be our role to gripe that art basel has a nonexistent or slightly negative effect on our scene. Contrary to apparently almost everyone, I think Miami's art scene is pretty great. Basel functions like the sweeps week of the scene, with everyone trying to put their best foot forward, but I think the overall amount of good stuff/year goes up because of Basel.

AND i think they picked Miami at least in significant part for the existing art scene. We're not new york, but increasingly we play in the same league.

AND i think basel increases that reputation... LOTS of the galleries represented at basel are Miami based, and LOTS of people who come here for Basel see other stuff while they're here.

it's all good.



November 24, 2004, 6:54 AM

Hovig, the problem is not what Miami does as the cameras roll at Basel time, but what it does, or doesn't do, the rest of the year. This past year has been seriously anticlimactic. It's like people are "saving themselves" for the few days in December when all hell breaks loose, and then it's sort of like rolling over and going to sleep after sex, till the next Basel coming. This is not good for the local art scene; it's a distortion and even a perversion of the way things are supposed to work. It's not as if things were exactly great around here before Basel, and now they're worse--except for a brief annual spurt that's unnaturally intense. It's not healthy.

Your suggestions for what to do during Basel are lovely in theory, but either you're too idealistic or I'm too cynical, or both. True Baselites don't want my input--I have no reputation, no brand name if you will. They don't want to take a chance on an unknown, unless some big-time dealer recommends it. A lot of these people don't trust their own judgment; they buy what they think they're supposed to buy and like (or claim to like) what's sanctioned by the establishment. I'd probably make them nervous, because I don't give a damn what the establishment promotes or dismisses. In other words, the real Baselites, the ones with deep pockets, don't want to talk to me; they want to talk to others like themselves or of higher art world status. I'm not a "name". I don't count.


that guy in the back row

November 24, 2004, 8:06 AM

Jack, Alesh, Oldpro and others. This is a good is discussion. As an artist I hope that the truly talented local ones will zing to the top. That hasn't happened so far. Hence the art world thinks of us as a little pet that is fun to visit once a year. Because most of time the only thing they hear from us is a light review of some lowbrow fluff art. The true scene is lurking behind the headlines. No wonder, things are as they are. (Kudos to Paul Harper for recognizing Robin Griffiths as a mature artist worthy of mention, in the recent issue of Art in America.) The fast growing and now malignant fare will be here for the foreseeable future. Guess the real question is: when will Miami reach a threshold where the local artists with real muscle are acknowledged by taste makers and trend setters who intern overshadow the convention center crowd and demand their attention rather than just whining for it. The bar has been raised and its up to artists to shift the power in our favor by making art of a caliber that would turn some heads. Until this happens ABMB will continue to be a new money fiasco that will continue to leave you feeling a bit cheated. Such is life.


Jerome du Bois

November 24, 2004, 8:41 AM

The only artist mentioned so far on this thread has been Robin Griffiths, of springy-tree-trunk semi-fame. Nobody else. Out of all of Art Basel.

And nobody saying, "I can hardly wait to see ____'s new stuff. Or old stuff, even."

It's about enduring the thing. What fun. I'm on a plane right now.

Art Beigel.

And the peace that passeth understanding will simply have to wait. I'm busy.


PS. The Drawing Project is ace. We're in.



November 24, 2004, 4:55 PM

Alesh: I respect your positive attitude, but keep on the realistic side, please. If New York is the big leagues, we are sandlot kids. I have lived and worked and shown in both places for many years. There is no comparison. And at a time when everything everyone does has its point of origin on the pages of the national art mags there is little chance that we will develop a singular, individual culture on our own.

It's not that we don't have better art here; we are just so in thrall to the overall trends and fashions that we are afraid to show it, and this only perpetuates our inferior status. All this will be made painfully evident by the various hastily and hopefully erected exhibits of "Miami art" we will see in a few weeks.


Tyler Green

November 25, 2004, 2:00 AM

People! It's an ART FAIR, not the Met! That means booze, drinking, and alcohol. In that order!



November 25, 2004, 2:16 AM

I'll leave it to the experts. Mr. Green (we're not worthy!) can distinguish between varieties of single malt scotches. I might be able to differentiate a merlot from a cabernet sauvignon, and the effort would induce immediate bedtime.

On the other hand, this may go a long way towards explaining why I don't seem to be having as much fun as the great thronging masses.

Modern Kicks is with me on this one, by the way.



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