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Lanced by Lance: Art Basel Miami’s Belated Sixth Annual Sour Grapes Soufflé

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Sixth Annual Art Basel Miami Sour Grapes Soufflé

I failed this year to reprise my annual cynical Art Basel Miami Sour Grapes Soufflé, reserving my curdled commentary for the serious art-market mess back home.

But critic Lance Esplund, who actually did make it to last week’s fair, today more than made up for my delinquency with his pungent report for Bloomberg that could not be more scathing (or more titilating). It included a novel (or navel) market indicator, which Esplund probably could not have published in a family newspaper. Bloomberg, on the other hand, loves inserting sex into its online cultural headlines, as evidenced by today’s Miami dispatch. Web surfers, after all, notoriously hit on sex-related language (i.e., “hookers”).

Here’s Lance’s seductive art-market signal:

Perhaps in Miami, sex sells better than art; or maybe
they’re somehow related. Rumor has it that the success of
ABMB [Art Basel Miami Beach]  is in direct proportion to the number of prostitutes
that decorate certain hotel lobbies.

We trust that Lance kept his reportorial distance at all times. On a more serious note, Esplund reports:

You would have to be completely
blasted not to sense the air of unease tormenting the place
as dark little Euro bulletins [my link, not Lance's] burst through the sunshine…Word on the street…was that most six- and
seven-figure works idled on dealers’ floors….

The overall tone of the fair—where European
visitors were fewer than last year and sales were weaker—was that the end [...of the fair? ...of the art-market recovery?] might not be far off.

Notwithstanding Lance’s deflating commentary, the fair’s organizers, in their press release wrap-up (which gave no sales figures), maintained that “many galleries report[ed] strong sales” and “high-quality work remains in strong demand, with steady sales throughout the week.”

A roster of dealers contributed upbeat comments to the post-fair press release, including Lucy Mitchell-Innes, president of the Art Dealers Association of America and director of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, who marveled that “many more women collectors [are] making their own independent collecting decisions.”

Women making decisions about art purchases? This doesn’t strike me as 21st-century news, let alone something to get excited about.

an ArtsJournal blog