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Sunday, December 11, 2005

So Everyone's An (Art) Critic

Okay, it’s time I turned my critical eye towards art (patrons). My initial annoyance was brought on when Art Basel began to create havoc with traffic to the beach. So I bring these things forth because I can’t let these things eat me inside. But first let me go back and share something else, vaguely related.

A few months back I was attending one of those weekend block fairs in Coconut Grove which are rapidly disappearing. The new residents, women in tight jeans, skinny heels, unreasonably colored hair and gobs of make up and eye watering amounts of perfume didn’t get it. When a couple of young, nice West Grovites (ahem) came through to look, the tight jeans were the only ones who became, agitiated by their presence. Alonso Morning, resting his lanky frame on a chair witnessed and rolled his eyes. The idea of these fairs was not as a social event to be seen, but a part of the laid back show and tell with our neighbors. The key to this was a lack of pretense and warm neighborliness. The art offerings by the remnants of what was once a thriving (okay struggling) bohemia was arts and crafts by folk, who simply enjoyed creating, (the Anti Art Basel). Okay, it was heavy on the palm frond and beach scenes and creative things to do with coconuts, but what they hay?

Now I move on to last week. Eli Broad, (rhymes with toad) one of the original Committee of 25 members from Los Angeles was prominently mentioned in the Miami New Times as one of the great art lovers of our time or some sort of bull. Really Miami Herald. Then I heard a murmur that he was at a venue close by. Oh yes, such a loving patron. Eli Broad; if his treatment of the underclass, his anti-public education stance, union busting tactics, systematic discrimination at his companies, etc., is any reflection of his soul, he wasn’t dragging his old ass around for art but to amass even more wealth and influence and to be seen by others. He wasn’t alone.

There is something untoward that I can't place my finger on, when art is presented in hundreds of temporary cubicles to be displayed to the wealthy. I can barely stand the small crowds of local art “patrons” for whom art is more likely to be used as a tax shelter, a money laundering tool, for social climbing and (a suitable) political statement. Art deBasel. But it’s good for the economy and artist so, it has its positives. I joined in.

The whole thing was sort of fitting for a town that has an annual book fair dominated by hot dog vendors. “Art” is now spacially balanced compositions that will fill an empty apartment wall, in shades to complement whatever retro/modern Scandanavian/Italian furniture you have. Only the abstract or vaguely ironic will do. Or it can be exotic, as in cultural artifacts. Black and white photos of anything unfamiliar or eerily familiar goes down well. When I see some religious or daily utilitarian article from a dispossessed culture in a White persons living room or a museum I wonder if the owner appreciates the neo-colonial message intimated. Then there is my fave, sculpture, i.e., anthrophomorphic blobs of material shaped to resemble expressions. Of course there is space for anything new, different, that can hold an eye for 30 seconds and get a write up. I thought of shitting on the floor in front of a painting of a toilet with a painting of a magazine in my hand but it had been done already.

I’m not being anti art here. I am interested in art and I appreciate much of it. I appreciate whatever interests or pleases my visual / tactile sense around me when I have a chance to. I also appreciate thoughtful criticism of art.

I guess I can pinpoint what annoyed me, outside of the traffic. I don’t like when the word “art” means that there has to be some sort of pretension attatched. There were too many who would not go to an empty gallery or museum to save their lives, just to enjoy art, but who will dress up and consider themselves cultured because they are seen “appreciating”. But hey, live and let live.

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