My Art Basel experience will sound familiar to almost everyone following the fairs. After a day at Art Basel Miami, most dealers I spoke to still had work available. Sales were slower than the usual mad opening rush we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years. According to art consultant Josh Baer, that’s not because the art was bad, but because collectors have become more thoughtful.
Yeah right. Collectors have not suddenly transformed into more curious and discerning people. They’re just not oblivious to the obvious: most of the art on view looked like B-rate work we’d seen a hundred times already. Even people who have nothing to do all day but buy things will eventually get bored of that.
Some of the dealers I spoke pushed the story that people were missing out on great deals. “It makes me sick that this Robert Morris piece for $50,000 at Untitled has gone unsold,” one dealer told me, remarking on how great secondary market work was being overlooked. (He considered this a steal). It was four hours into the fair.
Jitters that early in the day seemed a little absurd to me (if that’s even what they were), but the comment did gesture towards a larger issue. If there’s a quality problem amongst blue chip galleries, the cause has to do with the fact that same 40 artists are expected to make all the work that’s going to be sold at these things. That doesn’t happen without artists turning themselves into factories. Until dealers find a way to introduce some new blood into the market, we’re going to be reporting on shitty, boring art fairs.
Let the Lowlights begin.