Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!

By not showing up. Collectors need to boycott this art fair

You say “who cares? The main reason people go to Miami isn’t the art. It’s the parties, the schmoozing, and the opportunity to score some real estate in The New York Times Style section.” Not me. I’ve always gone to art fairs to see the art, but even that legitimate interest has now faded, because I’ve seen enough art-fair art—the stuff that artists self-consciously produce to show and sell at fairs—to dry out a thousand eyeballs. I don’t care for it. It’s merchandise, it’s eye candy, it’s commercial without enough real content, and, in the end, it’s just plain boring. Every year more and more people flock to Art Basel Miami Beach, people who have no interest in art. They show up to go to parties, drink free cocktails—the whole boondoggle of free fun. Meanwhile, it’s the real art collectors who are paying for these parties by buying expensive art works from the galleries: it’s our money that is underwriting all this insanity.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Miami fair, and it’s an anniversary we shouldn’t celebrate (I’m going to celebrate the second anniversary of my column in this newspaper at home). Let’s agree to boycott the whole thing; let’s simply not go. Let’s group together and agree not buy a single thing this year in Miami—not a print, not a sculpture, not a multiple, not even a signed poster. Let them sell us nothing this year, and we’ll watch with glee as the whole circus dries up and shrinks right down to the size of a pup tent.

If we succeed in stopping them now, we can then enforce some new rules in this game. First and foremost, art fairs should be for collectors only; if you’re not coming to buy art, get the hell out. Second, gallery dinners only, preferably with a few artists and curators sprinkled in to keep it kosher. That means no parties to sell private jets, no jewelry company Champagne cocktails, not even a Ferrari schmoozer and boozer. Third, those “hard to get” early-entrance VIP cards can go only to real collectors who are invited by the galleries. They should not be used like fake velvet ropes in a cheap nightclub to create a rush at the door. Fourth, no more art-fair art. Let’s make sure each gallery brings a few good things to make it worth my while to walk the entire conference center and wear out a perfectly good pair of Tod’s loafers. And, last but not least, let’s not allow any more pre-selling or shopping the goods before the fair, because if the whole place has been cherry picked before I even walk in, I am left wasting my time inspecting a pile of leftover chazerai.

Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach is a new movement designed to correct the ills of global art fairdom once and for all, and to send the dealers, the artists and especially the art-fair companies our message of protest: hell no, we won’t go! We want more quality for our dollar, especially in this crap economy where spending gives us agita. We don’t want to see one gawker, two socialites and three wannabes for every collector in the room. I’ve had it, I’m done, I’m sick of the whole thing and I don’t really care if I miss a party, a cocktail, a flirt or even a good work of art. Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach starts now, so, this year, join me in boycotting the damn thing. Let’s flex our muscles. It’s our collecting dollars fueling this perverse tchotchke bazaar on steroids, and if these people don’t fix their fair, next year we’ll riot, we’ll scream bloody murder and throw rotten tomatoes if we have to. The buck stops here, so join me in staying home, and in saving our money for good art that’s properly exhibited.