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The Art Basel/Miami Beach satellite event you would have known about if you were truly an insider

Post #920 • December 8, 2006, 8:40 AM • 31 Comments

Comment

1.

c de v

December 8, 2006, 10:01 AM

Franklin, I bet you or I would get first and runner up ( or vice versa) in art nasal, at least for size ha ha

2.

Franklin

December 8, 2006, 10:09 AM

Like LL used to say, CDV, how're ya gonna fight a whole army with a handgun? ;)

3.

Marc Country

December 8, 2006, 12:21 PM

Funny (sad, pathetic) story on AB/MB collectors in Newsweek.

4.

Jack

December 8, 2006, 1:35 PM

In the article linked above by Marc, the featured big-shot (or would-be big shot) collector type says, referring to the stuff at the main ABMB venue at the Convention Center:

You don’t have to know art, you don’t have to like art—you know this is the most amazing collection of art in the world.

That's certainly all I need to know. No further questions.

5.

Marc Country

December 8, 2006, 7:50 PM

The only question I have is, whether this all qualifies as comedy, or tragedy?
(I never was a drama major)

6.

Jack

December 8, 2006, 9:30 PM

OK, so I'm trying to follow this guy in the Newsweek piece, who's nothing if not enthusiastic, though some might find him manic, not to say all over the place. So he wants to put legs on his photo collection. Six figures' worth of legs. German legs, predictably enough. Helmut Newton, to be precise. You know, Vogue and Vanity Fair fare. If Helmut Newton didn't exist, Madonna would have had to invent him. Maybe she did, and if not, she might as well have. Great choice, or at least good enough to impress the Hollywood cognoscenti. You know, like Leonard Nimoy.

So we have this Berlin dealer guy. He's Kicken. He knows Gwyneth (Ms. Paltrow to you), and he sounds like he's definitely been around the block. He says Newton's work is tightly controlled and there will be no posthumous printing of the negative. Well, if I'm going to pay six figs, there had damn better be no negative, but never mind. I'm not the one who wants to be put on the photography map. And we have the collector's wife. She seems to hate the stuff, or it makes her queasy, but she figures it's "important work." And she probably knows hubby will buy it anyway, what with map issues and all.

Call me crazy, but somehow I'm reminded of that great Christmas movie where the father lusts after a hideously tacky lamp in the form of a woman's leg wearing fishnet stockings, and his hapless wife, who wants no such thing in her house, is desperate to stop him. Anyway, Herr Kicken said "It's a good work of art and it is worth the money." Yes he did, presumably with a straight face. Business, you understand. And he probably sounds quite impressive when he says words like "Hamburg" or "Stuttgart." Oh, and "Maastricht," which must be to die for. Just like butter. Or at least sour cream. So Kicken bags another one. And now Mr. and Mrs. Collector have "edgy stuff for the apartment."

7.

opie

December 8, 2006, 11:21 PM

It is "Christmas Story", jack, by that all-but-forgotten genius of radio storytelling, Jean Shepherd, and the wife is not so hapless because she finally manages to break the hideous lady-leg lamp and make it look like an accidnet, if I remember correctly.

8.

Jack

December 9, 2006, 12:16 AM

A Basel bedtime story:

Hip multimillionaire collector X gets the chance to buy a previously unknown Vermeer from a demented European nobleman fallen on hard times. The Euronut is lucid enough to want a fairly hefty sum, but Mr. X could manage it. It's a second version of the View of Delft. The X-man has heard of Vermeer all right, and he likes the painting reasonably well, but it is, after all, a Dutch landscape.

Should he go the dusty Old Master route, which is so 1890s, or put some better legs on his contempo collection(s)? He's torn. I mean, the Queen of England has Vermeer, but she's pretty dowdy, isn't she? Lots of diamonds and stuff, but still, pretty much out of the loop. It's not like Saatchi's into Vermeer, and X is pretty sure Victoria Miro wouldn't approve, let alone Mary Boone. What to do?

"Well," X tells himself, "I'm my own man. All my art consultants tell me so. I can do whatever I want." He ponders some more, and finally comes to his senses. After much agonizing, he realizes it was a no-brainer all along. Attending ABMB (as always) put everything in the right perspective, as it was bound to do. "Screw Vermeer. Not edgy enough."

9.

Elizabeth

December 9, 2006, 7:42 AM

oh man, what an ass that Leiberman is....does he think art is carpeting and sold by the foot??? ughhhh..he really needs a smack upside the head..........I wonder if at any time while he was taking in the show he actually LOOKED at the art and said 'that moves me, that speaks to me'??!!
what a dumbass!! wealthy, but still a dumbass.

10.

Curious

December 9, 2006, 8:07 AM

I think the Art Basel Fair is essentially a traveling Gift Shop for Rich People.

The Curators are Glorified Interior Decorators.

The Collectors are all in great need of a 1/2 million dollar THING to put on the wall of their second apartment somewhere.

The Artists are all running around like rats in a maze, or flying in private jets to private parties.

(Or better yet...Mr. Big Shot Artist flies to Miami only to stick a Feather in a piece of Shit belonging to a Big Wig Collector. Mr. Big Wig plans a party just to celebrate this event, the press is invited.)

It is Tragic comedy. I want to write a screenplay.

The material on this blog contains excellent material.

Thanks all

11.

Elizabeth

December 9, 2006, 8:26 AM

Curious, thanks for the laugh :):) with my morning cup of coffee. You nailed it! But dont diss private jets.... I have flown private and nothing beats that :):) and they dont even look into your bags going or coming, a smugglers delight, no kidding. Maybe thats how the rich supplement these purchases....just a thought.

12.

opie

December 9, 2006, 10:57 AM

Yeah, thanks Curious. You got it right.

13.

George

December 9, 2006, 11:18 AM

Reading along with some observations.

The Newsweek article was a profile of one couple who collect art and their experience at AB/MB. I have the same feelings about it as most of the other readers here. I am curious about how this couple came to be profiled but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

I would question if it is fair or logical to paint all art collectors one color based on one news article.

Why do people collect art? For that matter, why do people collect anything? It seems to me that people who collect things, be it art, stamps, baseball cards, or whatever, have a particular obsession with what they collect. I don’t think collectors all collect things for the same reasons but that they all seem to have a similar obsession with the process. Curious in referring to the collectors, used the word "need" (#10) and I think he has a point. I suspect there is a strong psychological component to collecting

Jack sets his little tale in the past and makes an interesting point about the hypothetical collector who passes on the Vermeer, comparing it with the "edgy" purchase by our collectors in the present. His comparison may well be correct, but it only comments on one particular sale. If I go along with the story, I think it would follow that the Vermeer would be sold to a different collector and possibly, from Jacks perspective, for the right reasons.

The expansion in the art market is being caused by an expansion in the number of collectors. With the increase in size of any group of people, in this case collectors of art objects, we should not be surprised to find an increase of the variability of their motivations for collecting. We could sit down and list them out, but the primary polarity probably exists between the collectors who have a developed sense of aesthetics and love art, and the collectors who want something to display as primarily a symbol of their wealth or hipness. Moreover, few collectors likely start out with a well developed eye, this is something which develops from looking at art over time, and as a result they rely on the marketing line to make decisions, some good and some bad.

As I mentioned on the other thread, there is a lot of noise in the system. At the moment, there seems to be a lot of capital available to purchase art, creating a reasonably high level of demand. Making a statistical assumption, on the supply side, there is only a limited amount of really good art works available. When demand is sufficiently high the marketplace will fill the supply chain from what is available and find a method to promote it. I think this has always been the case but because the art market is so much larger, the noise level is higher.

From a practical standpoint as an artist, our job is to make the best art works we can. It is a process, not a production line, and regardless of how earnest, self critical, committed and ambitious we are, inevitably the quality of our body of work will vary over time and from piece to piece. However, if in this 800 pound gorilla of an art market we manage to sell something which is less than a masterpiece, it enables up to keep working. Isn’t that what we really want to be doing?

14.

Elizabeth

December 9, 2006, 4:53 PM

What is needed is a 'Perfect Art Storm'.
The Gallery, the owner, the artists who actually HAVE talent, the promotion of said artists.
Would Pollock have done as well without CG and Peggy G? Maybe not?
All the variables have to be in place for this PStorm to have a real impact.
Again I think of Pollock and how he really was of his time and part of group that was recognized because of CG and others etc etc etc....timing and fate play a part and then theres the fact that REAL talent, I like to think ,does get noticed and pushed right to the top....the way that group was.

This all needs to happen again....we are lost without another like CG.

15.

Jack

December 9, 2006, 7:23 PM

OK, so I went to the thing today, but not too eagerly, mind you. When I saw like 50 long lines in front of the ticket windows, I was not amused. Sure enough, once I managed to get inside, there were too many damn people. I hate that; it's like being in an anthill. Milling around and around, enough to make one dizzy. And yes, the stupid transvestites in pink outfits from last year were there again, as if it wasn't bad enough to see desiccated-looking women with obvious plastic surgery running around.

Of course, I was in a bad mood before I even reached the Convention Center. I stop at David's Cafe for some serious coffee beforehand, and waiting in line ahead of me is this perfect art person, obviously from Europe. Very tall, lanky, white as a sheet, slouching just so, with a facial expression you can't get unless you're either drugged or autistic, dressed in black from head to toe, with really cool accessories, and I'm going, "Man, this guy is really good. Why can't I look like that?"

Anyway, back to the Convention Center. Yes, there were some very nice things to see, as expected, practically all by famous dead people. Trouble is, the setting and ambience were all wrong, at least for me, and that seriously undercut the experience. This thing is about business and socializing, not seeing art. Also, as OP has already noted, the pickings get progressively slimmer as one goes from front to back, so the initial high dissipates into irritated stupor, more or less.

I don't know; maybe I should have skipped it. This sort of operation has very little to do with people like me, who are neither the point nor the object. The dealers are there to sell, obviously; what matters is having enough money and the willingness to spend it, regardless of motivation or background. Crass and potentially clueless trophy hunters are both highly desirable and assiduously encouraged; somebody like me just takes up space and spends too much time taking in a wonderful 1923 Matisse charcoal on paper of a seated nude, for instance.

Like they say in all those Hollywood divorces, it's pretty much a case of irreconcilable differences.

16.

Robyn

December 9, 2006, 8:21 PM

All I can ad is a quote from artist David Dory
"Good art provokes emotion and thought.
Bad art is forgotten by the viewer in the amount of time that it takes to look at something else. (David Dory)
Collecting is a personal experience and is going to be viewed by different people different ways.

17.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 12:28 AM

Some rambling and more specific observations about my visit to the main ABMB venue at the Convention Center:

My approach was to ignore anything that didn't significantly interest me. Once upon a time I would have looked at literally every piece, over multiple visits, but no more. If the whole booth seemed unpromising upon scanning, the whole booth was bypassed. If a booth was showing something particularly damning, like, say, Gilbert & George, it was immediately written off. Showing other stupid stuff? Zap. You get the idea. I've paid my dues, and I'm not wasting my time any more.

I never once bothered with who the dealer was, except for Kicken (the one who sold the Helmut Newtons to the Newsweek guy). I should have known better--there was no way Kicken was going to let space be taken up by something he'd already sold, so those Newtons were gone. Actually, even if they'd still been there, it would have been a waste of time, but sometimes I succumb to morbid curiosity.

There were some very nice Averys and several good Diebenkorns. A fair number of Hofmanns of varying quality but never less than engaging; some were terrific. Joan Mitchell is just too sloppy, not to say a slob. Lee Krasner is interesting but a trying colorist. Motherwell's stylishness and "smartness" is looking more and more mannered and starting to irritate me. I was surprised to see an Albers that didn't bore me (probably because it reminded me of Rothko somehow--black and marroon). Kandinsky did not maintain his early greatness; the later stuff is painfully stiff, angular and even silly. Great Picasso etching with a Minotaur and numerous figures; also liked a pastel from his Classical phase. The little Braque was a rush. Also saw a Juan Gris. Loved the Pollock mosaic, and there was an interesting painted ceramic bowl by him. Liked a pinkish Esteban Vicente collage from the early 50s that was like a softer, prettier version of de Kooning. A few Klees, all worthwhile. A couple of Morandis, ditto, but not his best. A delicious little Kurt Schwitters. Intriguing Olitski (Belshazzar's Feast, I think he called it). Check out the de Kooning room, and look for a few scattered pieces by him. And definitely see the Matisse seated nude drawing at Landau--soberly sensual, classical and voluptuous, hedonistic yet restrained.

18.

ahab

December 10, 2006, 3:01 AM

You were starting to exude enthusiasm there, at the end there, Jack.

19.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 10:17 AM

Well, Ahab, even in a noisy and overcrowded supermarket environment, with overblown nonsense and glorified bric-a-brac in abundance, it's hard to deny a simple piece of paper with some charcoal on it that quietly but firmly says "Yes, I'm the real thing, and I don't need bells and whistles, wall text, celebrity endorsements, heat or buzz. I just need someone with eyes to see and understand and appreciate, and even lacking that, I still am, and will remain."

20.

opie

December 10, 2006, 12:43 PM

That's about it, Jack. Great art just sits there and doesn't give a damn.

I missed it, unfortunately. I have been told about a dozen things I missed. This is very frustrating. There must be a better system for getting around that exhibit than what I am doing.

21.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 1:57 PM

It's probably impossible to catch everything worth seeing unless one is extremely compulsive and goes multiple times, which is not practicable. The whole set-up and environment there works against that; there are distractions galore; it's too maze-like and rambling; there's too much stuff and too many people running around. Of course, the art is not there to be contemplated; it's there to be sold, like cars or boats or home appliances. That's why it's so frustrating.

22.

Curious

December 10, 2006, 3:49 PM

I did not even go.

It was too beautiful of a weekend to be spent wasted indoors looking at bunch of whores, whoring their wares to a bunch of pretentious and uptight Euro Trash.

All the best Kandinsky's and Pollacks, and Picasso's have already been sold 50 years ago.

What's left is toilet paper and skid marks.

I'd rather make art than go see a frenzy of rabid art whores.

23.

George

December 10, 2006, 3:59 PM

What's left is toilet paper and skid marks.

Ah, but blow it up onto a eight foot square canvas and you could build a career as an "edgy" abstract painter.

24.

opie

December 10, 2006, 7:33 PM

Or put it in a vitrine - as is - and you have a "comment on the consumerism of our culture". It could win the Turner Prize.

I don't think you realized that you were imagining True Art, Curious.

25.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 9:49 PM

Dropped by the Bridge satellite fair today at the Catalina Hotel on Collins Ave. at the beach (I went because Dorsch was in it and Brook had given me a free pass earlier). It was claustrophobic as expected for this sort of arrangement, with dealers set up in hotel rooms, but it wasn't too crowded (I'm told Saturday was terrible), and I sort of enjoyed rambling around the various rooms. I wasn't expecting any life-altering experience or anything, so it was reasonably pleasant.

Brook told me that a little painting he saw and liked at the Convention Center by someone current, but whose name neither he nor I had ever heard before, was quoted to him as selling for $45K. One can only imagine what they'd ask for a little scrawl by Elizabeth Peyton or some such brand name. This is just crazy. There must be one hell of a lot of money flowing around, and I expect it's none too choosy.

26.

jordan

December 11, 2006, 12:12 AM

Perhapes in the future, it may come to be that something so simple such as a sensitively executed empirical charcoal drawing ( derived from observed physical reality in three-dimensional relational proximities ) will, like a snow flake, land gently on a mountain peak and provide nourishment before it dissolves into a river, participates in the formation of a delta, and is "lost at sea."

27.

Marc Country

December 11, 2006, 12:41 AM

Cheers to that, Jordan.

28.

david rohn

December 12, 2006, 9:10 AM

Wow that article in Newsweek made us feel so ignored-we want to be on the map too -for photography or mid century art or something/anything-our publicist and curator is fired-yeah we had some publicity a few years ago when we exhibited selections from our Kollection but have been ignored ever since-even tho we were among the first to invest in Chinese artists ( remember the lead baloon by Chi Poo Qua
)It s not fair-we re rich too! AT LEast all our friends saw the article in the Sunday NYTimes style section explaining how luxurious expensive glamourous and star studded art Basel was-that s us and we re V-V-V-V_V I P!
-Herb and Kitty Katzenjammer Konceptual art Kollectors

29.

Jack

December 12, 2006, 11:40 AM

Art History for those interested (and especially for those who think the wheel has only recently been invented):

In his early years, Hokusai (1760-1849) travelled around Japan giving displays of his artistic prowess that were forerunners of action painting; he sometimes created paintings 200 sq. meters in area in front of festival crowds, rushing over the huge sheets of paper with a broom and a bucket of ink. In a famous competition with another artist, he dipped the feet of a chicken in red paint and let it run about freely on a sheet of paper he had just covered in blue paint; he called the resulting design Maple Leaves on a River.

30.

Jack

December 12, 2006, 12:52 PM

Note to Herb and Kitty K:

This Newsweek guy has nothing on you. Trust me.

31.

George

December 12, 2006, 5:36 PM

No but Conan O'Brian does...

Off topic and off color (gray)

The lead article in the Arts section of the NY Times today (also way up on the most emailed) So This Manatee Walks Into the Internet

Art Basil watch out, the Manatee's are coming.

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