Bones, intrepid art-world raconteur, checks in to help us figure out what exactly happened down in Miami this year…
The annual bacchanal and trade fair Art Basel Miami Beach is an art dealer convention and mega-sale that started in 2002 as a spin-off of the summertime original in Switzerland. The epitome of our last commercial art boom, Miami week is an indescribably hedonistic affair, a citywide crucible of negotiation, ostentation, and celebration at temperatures so steamy that the streets seem to sweat money. Everything wrong with the art market is on show, and though barriers of exclusivity are erected to ensure stratification and privacy (I recall a scratch-and-sniff invitation that got me through a crowd of screaming, clawing people outside a Visionaire magazine party at the Setai Hotel on Collins Avenue), it proved–in the years I went–all too naked in the end, too proud to be anything other than depressing.
Still, as with the fall auctions, it is vitally important that we stay attentive to this industry’s trajectory in a period of recession. I spoke this morning with Marco Kane Braunschweiler, a very young man recently returned from this year’s installment of ABMB. Braunschweiler occupied half a booth at the New Art Dealers Alliance, Miami’s secondary (and younger, cheaper) fair. There, he sold books, multiples and artworks brought from his store, Golden Age (co-run with his girlfriend, Martine Syms), which sits in the Pilsen area of Chicago. His ideas, and his faith, were surprisingly heartening.-Bones
What were your expectations for the week, being so new to the Fair at such an uncertain moment in the art world?
I expected it would be difficult, I expected people to be very conservative with their purchases and to be looking for deals as far as emerging artists go.
But you didn’t have a financial bottom line – a dollar figure to recoup exactly?
Oh hell yes we did, but it wasn’t a lot. Our operation is modest compared to most of the bigger galleries.
So how much did you sell, or what did you sell, and who to?
I haven’t done the accounting for the trip but I feel like we broke even and squeezed by a little bit in the last minute. We sold 40% books, 60% artwork, and we sold it all to younger people, people under 40. We had a lot of interest in the Chicago/Milwaukee artists that we brought [Megan Plunkett, Greg Stimac, Paul Cowan, Lauren Anderson, Paul Stoelting, Katie Kraft], and I feel like that will generate sales next year.
How did participation in NADA–all those hours grinding at the booth as a gallerist–make you think about your position in the art world: Where it’s going or where it should go, and what contribution might you guys be able to make?
You meet someone and you text their number, you build a relationship through multiple points of contact–shades of meaning evolve from all these things. I followed up with a collector through email the afternoon she stopped by and she emailed back immediately on an iPhone. People know what’s up; I am friends with collectors on Facebook. Shit is crazy: It really demystifies everything. These are new systems popping up.
How did the main fair [ABMB] feel to you? Could you feel the same sort of lines of contemporary communication propelling business there.
The main fair is a different thing [from NADA]. Jeffrey Deitch said something [in The Art Newspaper, a free daily handout during the fair’s duration] along the lines of “I’ve been building my network since 1974 and you don’t all of a sudden find yourself with no customers.” He has a well-established product and he sells to well-established people who buy well-established artists.
NADA is a different ball game.
Exactly, we’re not selling cars or mutual funds. At the main fair, people looked at my badge before my face. At NADA it was the other way around. People are actually interested in who you are, what you’re doing, and trying to work with you.
There’s no bottom line to be obtained now by talking to a certain [wealthy] type of person. Now people are open and ready to talk. Now that collectors aren’t throwing money around, art people can’t just try to catch money in a large, impersonal net.
What about the party scene, that nexus of corporate sponsorship and hedonism that has grown to define the Miami experience?
The big party, the Nike party, had projections of Air Max’s–in your face advertising, so fucking inane. The crowd was young, edgier art dealers who were in party mode, older skate dudes/bro dudes and miscellaneous people, not just art people. Free wine, free Nike advertisments, free Grolsch for exhibitors, and $14 everything else. A water was $6. The Sads, No Age and Panda Bear played, so it was very arty entertainment with just enough ‘punk’ edge to make it feel super DIY. I’m being sarcastic.
Panda Bear was fucking incredible: 2-hour set, totally glued, beautiful voice. I thought it was going to be a show with all these people getting together and watching the bands. But there was this back area, like a beer garden, and that’s where people were hanging out. I thought everyone would get together for the musical experience, but people mostly congregated in the little back area with the chairs and the huge Nike projection screen and the little closed off faux grass huts that spidered out from there.
Give people the chance to find a VIP section and they’ll take it before anything else.
It’s all because of the intensity of technological contact right now. People want to be even more exclusive.
The whole photogenic thing – take my picture! No don’t take my picture!
I don’t want photos of me drinking on Facebook or a blog, but that is the be all and end all of why many young people go to Miami. Fuck those people taking the photos: All they’re doing is promoting the idea that if you’re young you get to be impulsive and irresponsible. And I know people make money off that shit and that’s cool, but I don’t, and we don’t, and many people don’t believe in that because that doesn’t get you anywhere.
It’s nonsense but it’s pervasive.
Yeah, that is how a lot of people think. A lot of people I know here were so ready to throw down and be these shitty young impulsive things in front of older people who they feel have money.
Did you personally encounter any villains, the vampire and zombie contingent, the scary people?
Yeah! People who just love doing drugs in open settings seem to enjoy Miami.
And I’m cool with the idea of drugs, but I have a very wholesome and simple reality that I enjoy. So when that reality enters into it, I’m like, “Uh, ok, I mean, sure you can use the bathroom before me if you’ve just got to absorb some cocaine right now.”
Well it’s an environment where you can get away with being sweaty.
For all intents and purposes, Miami takes everyone’s lives and expectations and throws them out the window. Super rich people and people with nothing are together in the same places for a whole week, and it’s a crazy situation, and how you navigate it is a test, I feel.
The first night I went out to see the Olaf Breuning sculpture on the beach, and the party thereafter at the Raleigh. It was a very nice place to be. It wasn’t loud, but there was music, and drinks weren’t free, but there were hors d’oeuvres. People were very happy, and moderate, and exercised wonderful judgment.
What do you mean by wonderful judgment?
Well, people jumped into the pool with clothes on, and people jumped in with clothes off, but it wasn’t a raucous thing. It was a mediated show of exuberance and that’s sort of a metaphor for how I felt about the parties and this moment for us. They weren’t over the top. 2005 was probably when these crazy divisions started being created, because young people were selling the big work, [and their careers were] rising. This created schisms, and now those schisms are collapsing, and the parties I went to prove this.
Tell me about the parties.
The Peres Projects party, the cocaine situation, at the Bella Luna, that was good. I like what they do; it’s very pleasure-centered.
That’s one way of putting it.
I had my center, things were vibing, music was good, The dancing was really fun. I like to dance, show off new moves. I actually had one of the best conversations about art with someone in that party. We were talking about the people we really looked up to, and whose work we really liked, and it really comes down to two things: Game recognizes game, and each one help one littler than you. It’s hard to believe in people, but I go with it. I was shown immense amounts of true, blind kindness in Miami, and it made me do the same, and a lack of that has been the problem with the Art Market.
What sort of kindness? Like people buying you drinks?
Like people giving me their bed. I think the strict buying and selling, the cost benefit analysis that was the millennial artworld, didn’t allow for things like that to happen. It created clubs, and new clubs are being created now, but now people can actually get into them–and start them.