Art Basel Miami Beach, and its slew of simultaneous events, comes under fire this time every year. The complaints about the giant art fair/circus, which runs December 3-6, fall into three categories:
1) It’s profligate, a spending, sexing, showboating spree sinful in its gluttony.
2) It’s brutally exclusive, a convention for, and of, the obscenely wealthy 1 percent and the industries that serve them.
3) It’s shallow, encouraging a wham-bam look at art, thoughtless consumerism and self-interested air kissing.
The first of these complaints is true. Deal with it. The second is partly so. Art worlders can be aloof but are generally quite warm to those who share their addiction. Plus, the 1 percent aside, of the 70,000 happy lemmings who attend, many are of the creative class. The third slam, that it’s shallow, is not true. There’s a history being written at these events, something of a wicked one, perhaps, but as movies are made about these times, and books are written—not just art history books—Art Basel week may be on the short list of what happened that mattered in the arts, our Woodstock. Here, Anthony Haden-Guest, who was there at the beginning, gives a tongue-in-cheek taste of what’s to come with nine brand new cartoons.