Art

Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!

By not showing up. Collectors need to boycott this art fair
 Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!

Art Basel Miami Beach. (Photo by Mathias Stich)

I’m not going to Art Basel Miami Beach this year. I’m through with it, basta. It’s become a bit embarrassing, in fact, because why should I be seen rubbing elbows with all those phonies and scenesters, people who don’t even pretend they are remotely interested in art?

And so, here it is, in print, just so no one has to ask me again. Here are all the things I’m absolutely not going to: Tuesday it’s a lunch with Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezomolo (nice name!), then there are cocktails for artist Teresita Fernandez (I like her, she’s pretty, she’s Cuban and she won a MacArthur fellowship), then there’s my friend Lapo Elkann’s Ferrari party, which I’ll have to leave to make the dinner Delphine Arnault is having (she’s the daughter of the owner of LVMH, no less) for Berlin-based artist Anselm Reyle. He’s just designed a line of bags for Christian Dior, he’s very handsome and smooth, his work is rather out of favor now but I think he’s on his way back (though it may take a while). Then I’ll probably have late-night drinks at Maria Baibakova’s, because she’s young and cool, she’s Russian and she has a great apartment in Miami, and, oops, I forgot my promise to show up at the Rubell Collection opening party sponsored by US Trust.

On Wednesday there’s a W magazine party for hot Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, then there’s the Galerie Eva Presenhuber dinner (she has good artists, as always) and there’s also a dinner at some wonderful Mexican collector’s house where I go because I love authentic Mexican food. Somewhere there will be a raging White Cube party, and Emmanuel Perrotin will once again bring over Paris’s Le Baron nightclub, where, late into the night, dealers will come hunting for a one-night stand. On Thursday, if I’m still pumping, there’s a dinner for Berlin gallery Contemporary Fine Arts (those Berliners know how to party), and then there’s Simon de Pury’s Phillips Auction House party (it’s crazy and they have fun Russian partners), then there’s Aby Rosen’s mega-dinner party at his W hotel, followed by a debauched party in the hotel nightclub hosted by party boys Stavros Niarchos (very internationally cool), Alex Dellal (major London hipster) and Vito Schnabel (a fast talker who represents some promising youngish artists).

What’s the fun of being invited to so many things? What ever happened to the days when the best parties were the ones I had to crash? You want to know what happens over the weekend? Well, I can’t be bothered with Friday or Saturday, because if I did I’d end up in rehab.

How many celebrities will I meet? How many mega-collectors will I greet? How many curators will I schmooze and how many artists will I chat up? None, because I’m not going.

As difficult as this is to imagine in today’s climate, I used to go to art fairs to buy art. Remember when we’d go to Frieze in London or Art Basel Miami Beach to find great works by artists we were collecting, or to discover new ones? Art fairs in their first few years were the gallery world’s great equalizing playing fields, where dealers from all over the world could show up and catch your eye with something powerful, something exotic or something undervalued.

International art fairs blossomed over the past decade, and I’ve attended every single one; I’ve witnessed their decline first hand. In the early days galleries would compete and bring great material—not just to sell, but also to gain credibility and prestige relative to their peers. At a time when the auction houses were laying out large guarantees on mega masterpieces and pouring lots of money into flashy catalogs and pumped-up marketing budgets, the art fair was an auction-style environment where small and mid-size galleries could take booths just as big as those of bigger galleries, creating a level playing field from which to launch their artists. Collectors could feel they were getting a full survey of what was available that year in the art market; comparing values and tastes was made easy since you could value-shop different galleries and end up comparing a million-dollar Neo Rauch in one booth with a million-dollar Mark Tansey in another.

But today, the freshness of new discoveries has mostly evaporated because there are so many international fairs in a single year and the galleries send out the list of the available works they’ll be showing a week or two in advance, so people like me get to see what’s on view in Art Singapore, Paris’s FIAC, Italy’s Artissima or the Abu Dhabi art fair. What’s worse, the galleries aggressively pre-sell everything they can before the fair opens. Why does that matter? Because I regularly receive the email blast of works for sale from several galleries, and twice, for instance, I’ve “put on reserve” the fair’s choice Karen Kilimnik painting only to get an email from her gallery stating that someone else will buy it sight unseen so I must “shit or get off the pot.” I refuse to buy an artwork I haven’t seen in person, especially in this fragile environment, so in the end the gallery runs me over, selling it to the guy who’s willing to commit to it blind. I can’t really blame these galleries, because this has become the new status quo, but I’m not enjoying this game of pre-selling the best pieces—it’s worn me out. There are no longer any civilized rules of protocol in the email blasts other than “sell, sell, sell” and do it as fast as you can. As with most serious art collectors, I’ve been to too many fairs, I’ve seen the same stuff over and over again for years. It has lost its luster and much of its purpose, so why should I bother? It’s high time I start making more studio visits, and visiting more emerging galleries. It’s work but these days that’s the only way to get ahead.

You say “who cares? The main reason people go to Miami isn’t the art. It’s the parties, the schmoozing, and the opportunity to score some real estate in The New York Times Style section.” Not me. I’ve always gone to art fairs to see the art, but even that legitimate interest has now faded, because I’ve seen enough art-fair art—the stuff that artists self-consciously produce to show and sell at fairs—to dry out a thousand eyeballs. I don’t care for it. It’s merchandise, it’s eye candy, it’s commercial without enough real content, and, in the end, it’s just plain boring. Every year more and more people flock to Art Basel Miami Beach, people who have no interest in art. They show up to go to parties, drink free cocktails—the whole boondoggle of free fun. Meanwhile, it’s the real art collectors who are paying for these parties by buying expensive art works from the galleries: it’s our money that is underwriting all this insanity.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Miami fair, and it’s an anniversary we shouldn’t celebrate (I’m going to celebrate the second anniversary of my column in this newspaper at home). Let’s agree to boycott the whole thing; let’s simply not go. Let’s group together and agree not buy a single thing this year in Miami—not a print, not a sculpture, not a multiple, not even a signed poster. Let them sell us nothing this year, and we’ll watch with glee as the whole circus dries up and shrinks right down to the size of a pup tent.

If we succeed in stopping them now, we can then enforce some new rules in this game. First and foremost, art fairs should be for collectors only; if you’re not coming to buy art, get the hell out. Second, gallery dinners only, preferably with a few artists and curators sprinkled in to keep it kosher. That means no parties to sell private jets, no jewelry company Champagne cocktails, not even a Ferrari schmoozer and boozer. Third, those “hard to get” early-entrance VIP cards can go only to real collectors who are invited by the galleries. They should not be used like fake velvet ropes in a cheap nightclub to create a rush at the door. Fourth, no more art-fair art. Let’s make sure each gallery brings a few good things to make it worth my while to walk the entire conference center and wear out a perfectly good pair of Tod’s loafers. And, last but not least, let’s not allow any more pre-selling or shopping the goods before the fair, because if the whole place has been cherry picked before I even walk in, I am left wasting my time inspecting a pile of leftover chazerai.

Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach is a new movement designed to correct the ills of global art fairdom once and for all, and to send the dealers, the artists and especially the art-fair companies our message of protest: hell no, we won’t go! We want more quality for our dollar, especially in this crap economy where spending gives us agita. We don’t want to see one gawker, two socialites and three wannabes for every collector in the room. I’ve had it, I’m done, I’m sick of the whole thing and I don’t really care if I miss a party, a cocktail, a flirt or even a good work of art. Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach starts now, so, this year, join me in boycotting the damn thing. Let’s flex our muscles. It’s our collecting dollars fueling this perverse tchotchke bazaar on steroids, and if these people don’t fix their fair, next year we’ll riot, we’ll scream bloody murder and throw rotten tomatoes if we have to. The buck stops here, so join me in staying home, and in saving our money for good art that’s properly exhibited.

editorial@observer.com

Comments

  1. Unknowncolor says:

    Your getting funnier every month but good points. I always thought the Fairs were more about the promoters making money .yes I know the media reports 10 Gallery’s that did really well and everyone else broke even or loss money.(and all that hassle to get there)The only playing field that got leveled was the aesthetic one. Interesting comparison Tansy and Neo Ranch.Not much difference and then the thousands of artist who copy them because they sell.

  2. [...] Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!GalleristNYI'm not going to Art Basel Miami Beach this year. I'm through with it, basta. It's become a bit embarrassing, in fact, because why should I be seen rubbing elbows with all those phonies and scenesters, people who don't even …Art Basel Miami Beach's 2011 Events Include YACHT, James Murphy, Yelawolf, and GZABroward-Palm Beach New Times [...]

  3. It is interesting to see this written from the perspective of a collector; to read a collector stating that he wants to visit more emerging galleries; see something powerful, exotic and undervalued. As the director of an emerging gallery, I say bring it! I will show you these things you long to see; myself and many others who I know are out there but just can’t afford to play that game and refuse to go into debt, to risk the fledgling business we have. For that matter, we wouldn’t play it even if we could because we just plain see no real value in it. We are here. We show dedicated, hard working artists who produce work of richness and value. We and the artists we represent are just waiting for the support ……

    Michael Kaysen, SideCar

  4. [...] FairArt Basel Miami Beach at 10Miami New TimesHaute Living -Broward-Palm Beach New Times -GalleristNYall 176 news [...]

  5. [...] Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now! On Thursday, if I'm still pumping, there's a dinner for Berlin gallery Contemporary Fine Arts (those Berliners know how to party), and then there's Simon de Pury's Phillips Auction House party (it's crazy and they have fun Russian partners), … Read more on GalleristNY [...]

  6. rob strati says:

    good idea on visiting more artist’s studios – might be interesting to write about that process…how you find, contact and experience visiting the studios. I’ve been thinking of creating a website to help facilitate this sort of process…essentially bypassing the gallery system, creating an index of artists interested in doing studio visits, which collectors, curators and critics can use to schedule visits – sort of an Open Table for artists.

  7. [...] Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach Now (Observer.com) Share this: [...]

  8. [...] Basel, let alone make an offer on their favorite art piece.” A decidedly different protest than our columnist Adam Lindemann’s decision to “occupy” Miami Beach by not going. A note posted on the web site a few weeks back offers an explanation of Occupy Art Basel’s [...]

  9. [...] Tuesday, Lindemann wrote an editorial slamming the fair culture in New York Observer, claiming that he would not be attending any of the [...]

  10. [...] in maybe a many absurd use of a tenure “Occupy Art Basel” comes this repetition mainstay for art play Adam Lindermann on GalleristNY. Lindermann is a son of billionaire George Lindermann, and CityFile says, “it comes as small [...]

  11. matsonjones says:

    Except for this one tiny fact –

    ADAM LINDEMANN WAS SPOTTED AT THE VIP VERNISSAGE OPENING OF ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH – THE VERY ART FAIR THAT HE WENT ON AND ON ABOUT ABOVE, SAYING THAT HE WAS SUPPOSEDLY BOYCOTTING!

    How can a newspaper allow someone who writes such an article above, and then in such a bald faced way lie about it, to continue as a columnist?

    1. artBaselMiamiattender says:

      It’s a column, it’s an opinion piece with an ironic twist, it’s not reporting , nor did it ever pretend to be. Do you know the difference?

  12. VN says:

    what a hypocrite. he should be ashamed.

    1. ArtBaselAttender says:

      why? the points are all correct, to attend or not attend is meaningless, other than whatever information can be learned, which is plenty whether the fair is good or bad.
      You’re reading so literal, that you don’t understand the column , please reread it with all its double entendre , if you know what that means

  13. [...] Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now! | Gallerist NY. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  14. Bobbyhated says:

    occupy protestors kill yourself

  15. Bobbyhated says:

    advice in common for art fags and occupy protestors:
    1. get a haircut.
    2. take a bath.
    3. wear pants that fit you.
    4. stop puking after you eat.
    5. females please shave under your arms.
    6. get a real job.
    7. stop sniffing coke.
    8. shave that ridiculous moustache off your face.
    9. donate your trust fund to the wounded warrior project.
    10. get the f**k out of my country you bums.

  16. Cboutin says:

    boring

  17. Elodie St. Clair says:

    Wow. The author of this article is really bad at being a person.

  18. Tommy greener says:

    I was about to pull the trigger on an Ikepod watch. After reading this I cancelled it.

    Nice going Adam. Idiot

    1. Collecting says:

      we don’t want people like you don’t you get it, don’t read this either, no need to educate yourself
      the joke was on you, so you should be upset

  19. [...] exhibition spaces, parties and flagrant consumption, the rage of discontent finally hit print. Adam Lindemann shouted a boycott of the fairs in his New York Observer article on November 29. Charles Saatchi [...]

  20. [...] exhibition spaces, parties and flagrant consumption, the rage of discontent finally hit print. Adam Lindemann shouted a boycott of the fairs in his New York Observer article on November 29. Charles [...]

  21. [...] Some of the selections are quite obvious as high profile hedge funder Steve Cohen made a splash in the art world when he literally jumped the shark with his purchase and subsequent refurbishment of Damian Hirst’s 13 foot long shark in formaldehyde titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.  However, recently his collecting preferences may have shifted to baseball teams with interest in the NY Mets and LA Dodgers.  Adam Lindemann who also has his own Hirst in the form of  the medicine cabinet The Sleep of Reason as well as owning a version* of Urs Fischer’s Untitled (Lamp/Bear), a giant yellow steel teddy bear sculpture which was prominently in front of the Seagrams building in Manhattan this summer (*btw Steve Cohen also own a version in blue).  Lindemenn quite literally made headlines this year as the billionaire joined the 99% with his art column in the NY Observer and his call to Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach. [...]

  22. Karen King says:

    Adam, I enjoyed your take on Art Basel. I think you might enjoy my post of a year ago, ART BASEL MIAMI “IT’S A JOKE SON!” at http://www.artistkarenking.com.
    It is from and artist viewpoint. They say you shouldn’t ask a question if you are not willing to hear the answer. In the spirit of this I ask you. As a collector who has “seen it all”, almost, do you find my work powerful, exotic and undervalued, or perhaps merchandise, commercial eye candy with no real content.

  23. [...] When I was in college, an art professor cautioned me that the art world was “capricious” and termed the gallery/art adviser/critic/curator/university tenure system a “daisy chain.” Lately, the British art collector Charles Saatchi has lambasted the art world, and Adam Lindemann seems to be in an equally bad mood about it. [...]

  24. [...] When I was in college, an art professor cautioned me that the art world was “capricious” and termed the gallery/art adviser/critic/curator/university tenure system a “daisy chain.” Lately, the British art collector Charles Saatchi has lambasted the art world, and Adam Lindemann seems to be in an equally bad mood about it. [...]

  25. [...] was only a year ago that my satirical “Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!” article created controversy and prompted a couple of soapbox art writers to attack me and defend [...]

  26. [...] was only a year ago that my satirical “Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!” article created controversy and prompted a couple of soapbox art writers to attack me and defend [...]

  27. [...] was only a year ago that my satirical “Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!” article created controversy and prompted a couple of soapbox art writers to attack me and defend Miami—and [...]