Louise Bourgeois chrome sculpture with her drawings in the background
Guest blogger Brad Ford Smith is a Dallas artist and arts conservationist.
As I marched through 10 of the 26-plus art fairs at Art Basel 2008, I must confess that I was very proud every time I rounded a corner and spotted one of our own Dallas and/or Texas art galleries. Above are the last two candid photos from that tour de force. You can check out other candid photos in the previous posting Art Basel: Our Man in Miami.
Everybody from the galleries was happy to see a familiar face pop out from the crowd. They all sent shoutouts to the folks back home. The overall Texas opinion was that the fairs were going good. It wasn’t gangbusters, but all of them said they were making sales, meeting up with old clients and compiling long lists of interested collectors that they will spend the next few months following up on.
This was the prevailing attitude of all the galleries through out the art fairs. Galleries were taking lots names, collectors were taking lots of notes for future inquires and everyone was comparison shopping. Sales started out slow, but when the red dots did start to appear the fever seemed to catch on. The hot items this year were photographs and signed prints by artists who, if not on the covers of top art magazines, had at least been reviewed in them.
There were, of course, sales of art by up-and-coming artists, too. But when you weigh buying a painting by some fresh, new, exciting artist for $2,000 against getting a signed woodblock print from Sol LeWitt or Alex Katz for around the same price, it does make one reconsider. Should you finally pick up that blue chip artist’s print to fill out your collection, or should you splurge on something that makes your eyes dance?
On Monday night, after all the art was packed up, and all the art dealers and art collectors had left town, I found myself cooling my very sore feet at a bar in one of those exclusive, but now empty, hotels on Collins Ave. I got to chatting with Todd the bartender. He has been serving drinks in Miami for almost four years, so he has seen his share of Art Basel crowds. Last year, which by the way was the largest Art Basel fair to date, Todd was serving $1,000 bottles of Champagne five at a time. This year it was gin and tonics. Lots of gin and tonics. Perhaps the patrons were just saving their flash cash to spend on art.
Overall, the crowds were not as big as last year, but everybody seemed to be very happy about not having to fight the masses to see the art. The art itself was outstanding. The galleries tended to display solid artists with solid works, and they hung a lot more works on paper. The buyers did buy, but as I said before, they spent a lot of time comparison shopping. So the end result may not have been the over the top, Champagne extravaganza that it was last year, but it was still the best art event in the U.S.A.