Sunday, December 7, 2008

Art Basel, Day 3: Experts see better days for art ahead

Women Resting on Metal, by sculptor Tatiana Blanco.
(Photos by Katie Deits)

By Katie Deits

MIAMI BEACH — On one of my last visits to Art Basel this week, I took a tour of the booths in the convention hall to see what had been sold, what new works had been placed, and just see whether there was anything interesting I might have missed before.

I counted three Barack Obama portraits (the one at left, titled simply Obama, is by Yan Pei Ming, and was featured by the David Zwirner Gallery), but heard there were four.

I also noticed that the full-size sculpture of a male nude by Richard Dupont had been hauled off by a Miami collector — sold, I heard, for $50,000.

And I took in a conversation called Why Buy Art Now?, hosted by Matthew Armstrong, a curator for Lightyear Capital LLC, and Josh Baer, a New York art dealer and publisher of The Baer Faxt, an industry newsletter. Their conversation was focused primarily on the financial downtown and its effect on the art market, but they did cast some light on what they believe will be the buying trends affecting art over the next few years.

While Baer noted that the art market doesn’t follow traditional economic principles of supply and demand, he and Armstrong agreed that there will be fewer art fairs and galleries in the business. Armstrong said buying “will be less paparazzi-style, not as frenzied” than in the past, and that there would be less “PR fluff” and more substance in art.

“The best art has always been there, but now there will be less ‘smoke’ around it,” Baer said. The role of the critic and the curator will return and “people will have more time to look at things, with less breakneck speed, where they have 10 seconds to decide whether to buy at an art fair, and museums are not falling over each other to get art.”

Baer said it has been “too easy for artists to produce things” — some artists have had entire production teams cranking out art to sell — and that “now they will have time to think.” Barry Seidman, a fine art photographer recently transplanted from
New York City to Palm Beach Gardens, toured the fair with
his wife, Mary Ann Kurasz. They are standing by a 2001 painting
by Peter Halley titled
Ancillary Control (Waddington Gallery).

The effect on the art produced will also be that “artists are making smaller pieces, larger editions," Bear said, and Armstrong predicted that soon the art world “will be more about art and less about superstars and money, which corrupted it and often turned it into a three-ring circus.”

After all, he said, art is about more than being in fashion. "Art should be fun, about embracing your spirit," Armstrong said. "There’s a lot more to art than money.”

There is so much to see at Art Basel that one could spend all the time wandering the aisles, but we ventured across the waterway to visit Miami’s Wynwood District.

A new event this year is Sculpt Miami, located at 46 NW 36th St. Featuring indoor and outdoor contemporary sculpture, the gallery also has dynamic paintings by American and international artists.

The metal sculptures of the 23-year-old artist Tatiana Blanco caught my eye; her wire strips created perfectly proportioned figures. And a visit to the Lurie-Kavachnina Gallery, which took part in Sculpt Miami, will be worth the trip south, even though another Art Basel has come and gone.

I'll be going through my notes in the next day or so to write about some of the artists we found interesting at this important art fair, and the museum shows that still will be on exhibit.
Christine Brown, owner of Museo, a home furnishings store
in Delray Beach’s Pineapple Grove, traveled to Art Basel
with artist Michele Guarino. Brown features Guarino’s
large photographs of water images in her store.

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