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During the first Great Depression in the United States, regular people were often treated to the spectacle of their betters cavorting, as if without a care, in glossy debutante parties and balls. Sometimes rich folks would in fact have ‘Great Depression’ parties, in which Astors, Vanderbilts, Swopes, and Whitneys would dress like poor people, in sacks or tattered trousers, and then come together to titter and drink champagne. As the rest of the country survived on gruel, certain privileged sectors of American society took the depression to be a bonding opportunity, a moment not unlike New York City’s blackout of 2003, when the sense of ongoing catastrophe made the conversation and the possibility of myriad sexual cojoinings even sweeter.
Now, in a global economy, of course, there is always a party somewhere; increasingly, there is also always an urchin class too, ready to press its coal-smudged face against the window of whatever convocation of its betters may be afoot. How else to read last week’s inauguration of girlfriend-to-the-oligarchs Daria “Dasha” Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow in the same week that Russia’s economy more or less collapsed? Artforum has the report: Larry Gagosian, Takashi Murakami, Aaron Young, Leelee Sobieski, and most poetically, Barbara Bush, swaying through various fetes and openings, clustered around the “sushi buffet,” pulling out the jokes: “Have you bought anything yet?” Meanwhile, noted the Financial Times, a different sort of history was being written in the Russian markets at the very same moment: “What seemed a one-way bet of high returns based on soaring commodity prices, rapid economic expansion, political stability and improving investor rights crumbled and died.”
The entire report at Artforum, deviously titled ‘Red Planet,’ is worth a read. And while the dire conclusions are tempting—something about the president’s daughter staying up late in a glamorous locale, far from a self-destructing economy, comfortable in a way that even those of us who have jobs and no mortgages are not, since after all my bank collapsed today, just saying—let’s look on the bright side. Go to Chelsea, to Yokohama, to Geisai and Shanghais, Versailles and L.A. now, before it’s too late. Like the fish that will soon no longer be in the sea, arts-world luxury will soon—sooner than you think—become a thing of the past. Go now. Get your picture taken before it’s too late.