Yesterday I posted an iPhone photo: "Best Art Of Questionable Value That Is Not At Art Basel". It was of an orange colored paper flame, its motion propelled by a small concealed fan, indifferently lit and framed by faux brick. On reflection, posting the photo was a cri de coeur. I found the object at a barber shop on the MacArthur Causeway, a faded strip of blocks once made famous by the Rat Pack.
Who remembers the Rat Pack anymore than 98 percent of the art in the many venues of Art Basel will be remembered fifty or seventy five years from now? Does it matter?
This nagging question will be bravely answered best by a large international salesforce: love it, buy it, live with it. Besides, in buying you support artists, their families and communities. You are boosting culture, whoop-whoop.
Design Miami is one of my favorite stops at Art Basel. It is adjacent to the main fair in the convention center. I favor its exhibitors showing iconic design in useful forms. There was one Parisian gallery filled with furniture salvaged from Le Corbusier's monument at Chandigarh in the 1940s. I was taken by a couch and two chairs and asked the price. "130,000 euros." (That's about $200K for those who don't speak euro.)
Of course, the price is notable. It reminds of the widening wealth disparity around the world. In other words, only a few years ago you could have bought it likely for 50,000 euros. I guessed the VIP buyers had already left the tent yesterday afternoon. Perhaps not. Art Basel has a way of pressing even existential questions into commodities.
In the main fair, the democratic flow was made visible: senior citizens, students, well-heeled art tourists, the occasional fashionistas, attractive gallery hostesses, and the scattered young and rich, identifiable by art pheromones.
I keep coming back to Art Basel, nonetheless. I could mortgage my house for that couch. I can gawk too at this huge mirror -- larger even than Anish Kapoor could imagine -- reflecting our cultural footprints, fingerprints, and other telltales. Like Miami. (For more on the Le Corbusier/ India story, read the UK Guardian story here.)