Art Basel Review December 2017

Christine Alfery

Posted on December 18 2017

Campfire by Christine Alfery

Featured image: Campfire

My daughter and I were recently in Miami during Miami Art Week and Art Basel. I know of nowhere else where so many fine artists, galleries and lovers of art gather. South Beach/Miami exploded with the powers and juices of many creative people. The event is exhausting, inspiring and overwhelming.

I would like to share some of my thoughts with you as to what I saw. Granted I see art subjectively but most of you know who read my articles that I believe art must reclaim its unique, original value and I scream and shout to try and retrieve arts place within our culture. I do not believe it can be gained unless artists create unique, original work, with the self deeply embedded within their work. This subjective bias can be seen in my writing below.

My daughter Holly and I visited 6 large tents during Art Basel. These tents are about 3-5 football fields long. They were huge. One tent was different – it was the millennial tent. How was it different?

In all the tents the percentage of unique, original art was less than the percentage of art want-a-bees. What I saw in these tents was an overwhelming percentage of what I call assemblage constructions. I don’t consider assemblage constructions, art. The first assemblage maybe but after that first initial creation the repeated assemblage is just that a repeated assemblage. Assemblage work appeals to the art marketers and designers because there is no risk in them. Assemblages require very little thinking and can be anything and everything. Assemblages fit in anywhere and assemblages can be color coordinates with the sofa in the room, they are decoration. It can be a 3-dimensional work or a 2-work. Once the first piece is completed others, apprentices they might be called, can create and make works that look just like the original easily.

To illustrate my point, there was an artist who used the gummy bear form in her work. The first assemblage was gummy bears in small little cubicles glued on to a large white board and framed. To capitalize on the popularity of the gummy bear this artist created small copies of her work with the gummy bears. Some were gilded in gold or silver, some had balloons with the I Love You words tangled in the string that held up the balloon. Some, gummy bears, incorporated popular artists' work like Warhol, Basquet, Lichtenstein, as well as social and cultural identity talking points such as one black bear + one white bear = one panda bear, or used the work Chanel, and Coco. Smaller pieces, which were a take-off on the original and sold for around $250.00. I watched as one woman oo-ed and haaa-ed over a small piece with the word love in it, begging her husband with a sad yes please can I get this and when he finally said yes, she rewarded his yes with a hug and kiss and a thank-you. For me this illustrates exactly what art is not. Art is not always that feel good, comfort food we may need and that triggers our urge to buy and feel better – this feel good moment is short lived. Art should be timeless. Work like this is bought because one identifies personally with it, one collects this work of art like one collects charms for a charm bracelet. It is a McDonalds happy meal at best, nothing more. It is all related to her sense of identity, and what made her feel good, feel happy.

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