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Giappo’s Thoughts on the Upcoming Miami Art Week and the Contemporary Art Market

Posted on Jan 7, 2014 by in Writing | 0 comments

In just a few days the entire International Contemporary Art World will swarm on warm, sunny Miami Beach with the star attractions ABMB (Art Basel Miami Beach) and Art Miami as well as countless auxiliary fairs such as Pulse, Scope, Nada, and Fountain, just to name a few. Graffiti and street artists from around the globe will decorate the walls of the Wynwood Arts District with new murals. The local galleries will all be open to the public hosting Art parties and receptions every single night of this important week. The streets will be filled with Art tourists and the chatter of French, Italian, Russian and Chinese will sound oddly familiar in Miami for conceivably the most culturally diverse week of the year.

Hoards of Art enthusiasts flock like sheep to this yearly mecca of fairs, parties, VIP receptions, gallery openings, after-parties, performances, discussions, etc. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know who you are, you’ll get a sneak peek at many of the top fairs private VIP preview evenings. You’ll be courted around and served champagne mostly with the intention of getting first pick on buying the “best” work, whatever that may be. Equally, the artists gravitate to Miami with the hopes of selling work, networking with new collectors, and gaining art world exposure. The city of Miami will reap enormous benefits from tourism. This upcoming week in Miami defines the ultimate union of art and commerce!

Recently a younger fair “Untitled” by mistake sent out an email blast to their entire mailing list inviting them to it’s VIP preview evening only to retract the invitation with a second email explaining that, “The UNTITLED team is extremely grateful for your interest in our 2013 fair. It appears there was an unfortunate malfunction with our email provider, which sent a VIP email, meant for our previously determined VIP list, to our entire mail list. While we cannot extend VIP access to you this year, we would like to encourage you to apply for VIP status for next year’s UNTITLED fair, which will have even more exciting VIP events planned.” (From an article by Michael H. Miller for Galleristny.com)

Is the true nature of the Art World to be elitist? Art and wealth have been synonymous throughout modern civilization. However, can it go a bit too far?

An artist that I know recently made a comment online about how he had done very well showing at the fairs earlier on in his career. It helped him to make sales and develop a collector base through his gallery representation. However, now he feels like the fairs have become too obsessed with the VIP status and need to return to the ideals of nurturing the personal relationships between all dealers, artists and collectors.

After the recent record breaking fall auction week in NYC at Sotheby’s and Christies with Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” selling for $148m, Warhol’s “Silver Car Crash” for $105m, and Koons’ “Orange Balloon Dog” for $58.4m, which all set world records for the artists’ work and for the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction (Bacon), the art world reached a new level of ludicrousness! When the dust settled the insane week of art splurging ended with a total of several billion dollars of art in combined sales.

The Art Market has also been fueled by the more recently exposed marriage of celebrity and pop culture icons to contemporary art with such collaborations as Jay Z and Pace, Koons, Abromovic and Gaga, DiCaprio and Christies, and not to mention the currently undisputed King and Queen of popular culture, music, fashion and art – Kimye (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, for those of you who don’t know!). Kanye will supposedly be discussing Art and Design with architect Jacques Herzog this week as part of the Design Dialogues. Vanity Fair says Kanye will also participate in an Art collabo with Vanessa Beecroft at a group show called “Affordable Care” at Mana Wynwood on Wednesday.

This surge of money into the Contemporary Art World from both emerging economies and the celebrity elite has been the talk of the town so to speak. Though both negative and positive critiques of this electric activity have filled the newsfeeds of Twitter, Facebook and other social media including extensive coverage from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

“Millions are just pouring spigot-style into cty art‪ @ChristiesInc: a $32.6m Pollock, $57.3m Warhol, $32.1m De Kooning, $46m Rothko & so on!” Kelly Crow@KellyCrowWSJ

This poses many interesting questions for the Contemporary Art Market! How much trickle down from the auction frenzy into the primary market will there be at this years Miami Art carnival? Will the spending continue? How many more billions of dollars of Art will be sold this week?

Unfortunately, most of us will never experience the upper crust of the Art World. The reality of the situation is that there are many different facets of the Contemporary Art Market. If you are interested in collecting Art as an introductory buyer you have many options ranging from prices in the hundreds to thousands of dollars.  From emerging artists to mid career to more established. Now as a beginning collector can you go out and buy an original Warhol? The simple answer is… probably not!   When you bought your first car did you go out and buy a Ferrari? No you bought an old beat up “junker” from your friend for $500 to $1000. So why would you think that Art is any different?  You have to start somewhere. There are many levels of every market and Art as a luxury market (blue chip) is no different.

In this sense I believe the Art fairs serve an important purpose. They are a fantastic way to introduce new collectors and encourage existing ones to continue to support the artists, galleries and ultimately the Art Market. Though many complain that now it has become oversaturated with too many fairs. There is no doubt that it’s virtually impossible to visit every single fair during this Art week let alone all of the secondary galleries, exhibits, fashion shows, performances, parties, etc. Isn’t too much of anything a bad thing? I’m not sure?

I haven’t written this article to provide anyone with answers about the Art Market, however on the contrary; I suppose, more importantly to pose questions. I constantly hear people ask, “What is the future of the Art World?” I find this to be a ridiculous question. Though, I imagine maybe one worth creating some interesting conversation and/or debate.  As far as I know, no one can predict the future. That being said, I feel that it’s safe to say that art is here to stay and as long as people have money and love Art, for whatever the reason (aesthetic, financial, social status, etc.), the market will live on. I could bore you with statistics of how the Art Market has outperformed the S&P 500 for over fifty years and that Art can become an appreciated asset, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? You buy Art because you love it, right?

It will be exciting to see what happens this week in Miami. Stay tuned…

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