Save This Art! 15 Works Worth Remembering From Art Basel Miami Beach, and Why

(Photo by Ben Davis)

MIAMI BEACH — As most people are now aware, the “event-driven” art economy represents the art market running to stand still. At big fairs like Art Basel Miami Beach, tremendous amounts of money and resources are spent to pique the interests of wealthy collectors and their multitudinous hangers-on, sometimes with spectacular success. However, since the experience costs a lot to participate in, and is displacing sales through storefronts — which now seem so 20th century as a locus for art commerce — its merits are debatable. Artistically, it doesn’t add up to much; I dread art fairs like I dread going to the dentist, with the same sad knowledge that it is a necessary duty. How much, exactly, do you remember year to year from your frenzied passage through these things? Unless you sold millions of dollars of art or got laid, not much at all. Which means, in my case, definitely not much at all.

At the same time, the only thing that bores me more than art fairs is my own art fair ennui. If you wanted to accentuate the positive, you could say that the good side of Art Basel Miami Beach is that it functions as a kind of ad hoc annual global survey, with a quantity of art equal to or greater than the average biennial (someone once said that fairs were an example of “laissez-faire curating;” in fact, the “Laissez Fair” would be a dynamite name for a Miami Beach satellite!). The organizers do make an effort to bring in newer galleries, and at the Convention Center a visitor is able to get a snapshot of international art trends that you couldn’t easily find anywhere else — even if a certain pre-packaged sameness seems to dominate and the format itself tends to make everything blend together into a kind of “contemporary art gray,” reading as an endlessly scrolling blog of bits and pieces of this and that.


I’ve always felt that art fairs repel critical thought, but this year I realized that one way to think about your role covering the big fair is that you are on a rescue mission. Here the window opens to the public, briefly, on the back rooms of the commercial gallery world; all the best art comes out in the open — but only for a moment. Soon it will be whisked away, vanishing into some golden penthouse or cold corporate lobby, where the average person will never get to see it (unless it flips back into the auction market in a few years’ time). So, I’ve gone ahead and picked out 15 artworks I found this year at Art Basel Miami Beach that are worth remembering, from across the entire historical arc of the work on view at the fair. Perhaps, someday, this will help some art historian piece together where they ended up.

To see 15 works of art worth remembering from Art Basel Miami Beach 2012, click on the slideshow.

To see all ARTINFO’s Miami 2012 coverage, click here.