An Art Basel Kickstarter Page Is Not Support for the Arts

by Paddy Johnson and Whitney Kimball on September 12, 2014 Opinion

Art Basel Miami convention center

Art Basel Miami convention center

Art Basel put together curated Kickstarter page for a bunch of non-profits, and the New York Times leads their story with the line: “One of the world’s most prominent art fairs is hoping to garner support for nonprofit art organizations by lending them some street cred.”

There are so many problems with the project and the coverage, it’s hard to know where to begin. Do we start by complaining about the fact that putting together a Kickstarter page isn’t support for nonprofits, but additional branding for Art Basel? The fact that they are “jurying” projects from a do-it-yourself crowdfunding site? Or should we simply complain that they are apparently not donating any money of their own to selected projects, but leaving that up to the generosity of the Internet? Exactly what have they offered to non-profits past a mention in their email blast?

Perhaps the largest offense, though, is that someone at The New York Times not only bought this story, but decided that the world’s largest art fair is the one with “street cred” to hand out to the little people. What bullshit.

Art Basel is the largest art fair in the world, and they are known for their diligent press releases accounting for sales at their fairs. Now they’re touting a page with no metrics tools to measure their impact. In other words, it’s not possible to know how many pledges are garnered as a result of the page. What’s more, the press release was sent out after the jury found just four nonprofit art organizations they support. Creative Capital has 35.

If Art Basel really wants to help fund the arts in a time of dwindling public funding, they could do more than put together a Kickstarter page. They could talk about the specific projects they are supporting via Kickstarter and send out dedicated mailers; The Sculpture Center, for example, has raised only $71.00 of their $12,000 goal to help fund the first major retrospective of Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsoo. They could use more help than just a listing on the Art Basel page.

Better yet, though, they could follow the example of other successful corporations, and establish a philanthropic fund for the arts. Putting together a Kickstarter page barely constitutes a start, and anyone who reads the Basel press release is going to know that.

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