Art Basel Miami (A Posh Supermarket Sweep – did I say that?)
#Rank at Seven
which included :
I didn’t go, obviously, as I joined in the “Sorry I Couldn’t Be There” video along with many, who, also for various reasons didn’t go either (be it demographics, work, commitments and or cost). In hindsight I wish I had gone! Reasons: Specifically for #Rank. Explanation below;
Those who did manage to gave a vivid array of tweets, blog posts and photographs all documenting the atmosphere of what seemed to be an incomprehensibly large art fair from where I was, back in chilly UK, with my monitor and a few online-guides to whats-on. But even if you have visited the likes of Frieze etc. I get the idea this is BIG.
The reason I was drawn to finding out about this hitherto (for me) unknown event apart from its name, was #Class. This came onto my radar last February through a chance tweet. A brilliant month long gallery and internet based discussion about art, focused on blowing away the myths of the more delicately avoided subjects within the art world hierarchy, like exclusivity, class, gender, inside-deals and general unaccountability. You name it – it was discussed and may I say very inclusively.
So, this is the atmosphere of Art Basel Miami as seen through the eyes of people predominantly visiting the Seven space. Whom I either *know* through the #Class event, or wider arts in general, like Hales Gallery London, who were also part of this years group of Seven.
A teeny bit of context here: The history of Art Basel Miami Beach is relatively recent (2002) compared to its parent 1970’s inception, Art Basel Switzerland. And it also has a more by-the-beach quality, it has a lot of moneyed visitors, or at least it shows it more by those who would, with things like Rolls Royce and Mercedes (in a high viz ostentation-transport kind of way). I guess a sort of Cannes of the art world but with more emphasis on the Block-Buster, than World-Indie.
And why not, it works to some extent at Cannes, but then they do have a whole host of the unexpected not-your-usual-suspects on their books and it is a nomination event – pre sale if you like, not directly in the queue at the check-out.
Still the image of your average artist mingling at Miami seems a little at odds with all the official online details of exclusively tailored and expensive venues and special events, parties and the like (although busses are apparently offered as an alternative source of transport, so it can’t be totally non-inclusive). No I’m not being a kill-joy here – I like parties as much as anyone – as long as I don’t feel I have to gatecrash, that is.
So errm yes where were we .... ahhh yes the parties, the sun (its got to be a draw for northern hemisphere peeps this time of year). A vast structured event-space once a year in December, would I be wrong in thinking it's main purpose is for the shifting of ART. A well organised schedule (and why wouldn’t you want that) which seems to be focused toward privilege-based benefits. For example if you can afford the extra you can travel seamlessly between fairs – preselect works in advance and I assume not have to troll around with the crowds in an IKEA like daze through vast thorough-fares and booths showing increasing signs of ADHD.
I noticed from many photographs on tumblrs and twitpics that there certainly is GOOD art, and some fantastic backdrops for it. So its not that the art shown is not good and that all buyers with money are crass – they are not.
Wealthy Wolfgang Joop the fashion designer, for example (not that I would have a clue if he bought from this fair or not) has been involved with art for years, with an artistic sense rather than just buying to accumulate.
But maybe it’s just a wee bit heavy in veering toward Viva-Las-Vegas-Large, celebrity glitz and the two tier (one for the rich) sales pitches, that is not so much good.
It does seem a win-win shopping situation if you’ve got the bung. Though apparently sales in the high zeros were down this year. With those works priced in the thousands racking up the tills instead.
HOWEVER at Seven the status-quo-rules were reversed somewhat, as this space, didn’t seem to play to quite the same tune.
There looked to be a distinct lack of come-hither booths with dodgy? sales people (I know!, they’re only doing their job) but all that hovering and glancing you up and down (with xray eyes spotting your credit rating at fifty paces) and ignoring/engaging appropriately. The space here looked functional, errm think concrete, with clean lines and had an eye catching frontage. I have no idea how accessible the space was en-route inside the bigger picture of ABMB, but there seemed enough people visiting over the 4-5 day stint.
Inside Seven it had its walls full and with mid ground space occupied by one giant silver man-thing in a rocking chair ......... and I think a flying fish? You have to excuse my lack of knowledge here as I'm still wishing I had experienced these works first hand......
I nabbed these shots of the #Rank space taken-as-it-happened on the Seven twitpic-share:
Man Bartlett: Measure, as The Absurd Tailor
The #Rank space during Stephen Truax: Project Present
The art seemed the only defining route-map for you to negotiate through the space. Basically it looked like you could literally immerse yourself and drift through, if not drift then at least go at your own pace and not be particularly bothered by anyone, depending of course whether it was rush hour or not.
Then there was the #Rank space which was taken up with discussions, films and related events. Like an on-the-road graduation from #Class. My eye into this was a fixed view webcam, this time subject to the whims of technology-on-the-hoof. Some of the live stream I found absolutely riveting. Hearing Diedra Kreiger’s Building Backbones; a group rendering of rejection letters to submissions for art and related funding, which was at once therapeutic, quite sad and also hilariously funny (in a probably only if you were listening to it in this context kind of way, ie, don’t try this home alone).
One reply on twitter quoted as The Best Yet! “Dear XYZ ....I'm sorry to inform you will not be qualifying for ... now you won’t go slashing your wrists will you?”. Quite, who ever came up with the idea artists are thin skinned?.
The events overall during #Rank were all about questioning and showing how the art market and the system it trundles along with causes ructions and obstructions for the very people who supply it – the artists. And in that #Rank stood out, as I imagine, there were only a few at Miami doing anything like along these lines.
I am amazed that they got this over in live debate as the practical trips and switches of short term space sharing are never easy.
The whole idea of #Class and #Rank is to include artists and people connected with art who are mainly, by means of social media able to do so. In an otherwise art-centric world that gestates in cities such as New York and London, which then migrate to appealing art centric locations such as Miami for the Fairs. Excluding many – for some of the US artists who had to find the air-fair, hotel bill etc. it was still time off work, out of the studio, out of you own pocket job. Not an expenses paid gallery-funded jaunt, (not that isn’t as dead as a dodo these days - like the book advances of once-upon-a-time), nor indeed artist driven ROI.
So It’s the #Rank idea; the time to join the dots up thing, that I believe is what they aimed to point out here. By showing and discussing the lottery like ethos, purported by these overwhelmingly large fairs toward art and artists aspiration.
The wider event, even from a logistical point seemed pretty intense; one of those three day-hit the ground running (unless you had pre-pre-pre-planned or splashed your dosh around enough to pre-plan without the foot slog). I don’t know exactly how big it is but I imagine if you compare your average troll though any gallery taking a good half day?.
Either way the Fair seems a lot to take in critically. It must be a definite buzz – but also a colossal – and yet time restrict atmosphere of get-it-while-you-can, a posh Supermarket Sweep.
The sense of #Rank and all the wider thoughts it generated was good (with its gremlins and streaming aside - c’est la vie!). If I had been so wholly immersed in those I would have probably missed a number of other things like Laura Isaac informing ranker’s of a tid-bit about her kickstarted project providing (for those who would dare to don) t-shirts to navigate the exhibitions and booths with *where do you rank?* across the front.
A dealer apparently unaware of Laura’s involvement with them, took one look and rolled her eyes at her – brilliant!. Ordinarily that would be a crushing personal(ish) dig – which artists are used to but in these circumstances the whole idea of being privvy to a dealer rolling her eyes at something that you had done, held an inverted if not reversed relevance of importance. Doubly brilliant!.
So for me, the #Rank discussions and events, highlighted, by its very being there the large Art Fair market-bias in bold relief: An antithesis sitting against the backdrop of Art Basel Miami; The next party, The event, The Art (all, I imagine to be mentally-mapped within 30 seconds of landing by some form of clique-osmosis). Plus being in the know of this essential frippery, also seems to be the overriding factor gluing its presence together, to keep the show rolling. With the peripheral gestures of the not so errrrm *The* Art giving The Fair complimentary authenticity.
Within all this the #Rank space showed that these are still very necessary things to point out. The high-art, low-art, emperor’s new clothes, star rated this and star rated that. Alongside the fact that artist’s moneyed-recompense are not mutually exclusive – that they are all part of the wider equation that needs discussing. And what better place for #Rank to set up their stall and get to grips with that!
Oh and an aside-tweet-quote during #Rank that gave me cause to say Oh! Yes!
On I think, art, maturity and inclusiveness in an age relevant art world : "It is strange still feeling *a little wet behind the ears* for someone my age!"
Back next Thursday 16th with possibly a leeeetle bit more #Rank-related-art-fest