Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Art Basel Miami Beach: The View from Pasadena

Having perused at least a dozen articles about last week's Art Basel Miami Beach extravaganza, the message I get is that the art market is back, along with celebrity-studded parties, mega-galleries expanding their international franchises, collectors with more money than god, corporate sponsors, seven-figure sales, and super-star artists.
There are some obvious questions here: Is this a good thing? Where is the art? Will Miami trickle down to Pasadena? Is there anyone left who still believes in the trickle-down theory?
As I've mentioned before, I'm not against making money, and hope that Offramp Gallery will be able to participate in a few fairs soon. But would I trade the cappuccino-fueled conversations at Offramp for an international team of lawyers, accountants and sycophants? Would I give up the salon-like atmosphere that the steady stream of artists, writers and musicians to Offramp affords, to jet-set to every art fair in the world? I don't think so, and I'm fairly certain I would be miserable if I did.
But what about the dedicated artists who work hard all their lives, juggling their art career with several part-time jobs, with precious little to show for it in terms of money, security or material comfort? Why does there seem to be so little middle-ground in the art world? Is this a reflection of the economy as a whole, where the rich are getting richer as the middle class disappears? Or has there never been a place for artists in American life?
What do you think? Should every artist and every art dealer strive for jet-setting super-stardom? Or should we embrace the starving-artist-in-the-garret-art-for-art's-sake lifestyle and quit grousing? Is the not-for-profit world going the same way as everything else -- billionaire funding for museum wings to house their own collections on the high end; the imminent closing of organizations like the Municipal Art Gallery here in Los Angeles, on the bottom?

I know that's a lot of questions for one blog post, and I am the first to admit I don't have the answers, but I can recommend another great book to shed some light on the subject, Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World. Structured around seven aspects of the art world, each one a chapter in the book, we are given insider access to a Christie's auction, a CalArts crit class, the Art Basel fair, Artforum magazine, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami's studios, Britain's prestigious Turner Prize, and the Venice Biennale. It's a great read that you won't be able to put down. 

Image of the Week

James Griffith
Dark Wings (Moth 2), 2010
tar on panel
8" x 10"

Upcoming Events at Offramp Gallery

Saturday & Sunday (December 11, 12, 18, 19): noon-8pm; Monday - Friday (December 13-17): 4-8pm. ArtZone is a joint venture between Project 210 and Offramp Gallery, a one-stop holiday shop for affordable art. Twenty-seven artists from both galleries have been invited to submit art work priced at $500 or below.

The opening reception for ArtZone will be on Sunday, December 12, from 2-5pm. The exhibition is at Offramp for eight days only with these special hours:


  1. LOVE that James Griffith painting! I also love you raising the question about a "middle ground" in the art world. There is none really. As Mat Gleason used to say, "In the art world you're either a 1 or 10."

  2. I saw some great art in Miami. While it didn't make the papers, I have artist friends that went to Miami for the first time, sold out there booths, got museum shows and hopefully can quit day jobs to focus more on their art. Yes, most Miami press focuses on parties and popularity contests but that's Miami. On Monday everyone went home, got back to work and hopes they have the money to go back and party next year. It was fun!! Paige Wery

  3. this from Rick A: I saw everything at Art Basel Miami. Trillion dollar booths to alternative spaces to dudes hawking their wares on the street. The energy was electric. So many people: artists, tourists, gallerists, collectors, gawkers, scenesters, wankers, poseurs, partiers, press--the whole spectrum. So much art; total crass yuppie bullshit to inspiring first rate stuff and everything between. And parties parties parties. It was a solid GAS! If you're an exhibiting artist without a huge chip on your shoulder, and not bitter that your "career" hasn't taken off, you should GO. It's truly a huge deal. I've been to bunches of art fairs, but nothing like Art Basel Miami. Go

  4. ...but for those of us who are not partiers...well it looks like the art is less important than the pose. Perhaps it always has been, but now it's more.