Thursday May 17, 2007
Plenty. Duh: the Basel engine brings important art folks to town, increases Miami’s prominence as a global art hub, and draws the attention of our ordinary citizens to art. But it’s also often pointed out that these benefits are not transitory — they accrue each time Art Basel is here. If Basel goes away, all the good effects it’s brought thus far stay. “Art Basel has planted and irrigated the seeds for the development of the art community in Miami,” says Mariangela Capuzzo.
But there’s another important piece to this puzzle. It’s not just about what Basel does for Miami; it’s about what Miami does for Basel. Where, in 2001, was an ambitious art fair from Switzerland to set up a satellite event? City size is a secondary factor, as is (let’s face it) the strength of the local art scene. What they were looking for was a city (a) as far from Basel as possible, and (b) with a certain cachet.
Let’s consider how the Basel folks might have thought this one through. They’re obviously looking for a city in North or South America. It has to be considered cool. Let’s say they start with São Paulo, maybe the hippest city in South America. Two problems: (1) how convenient is it for US collectors to travel there, plus the fact that (2) the big German festival Documenta has already sort of beaten them to the punch. The former concern applies to all South American Cities, and as tempted as the Swiss must have been by, say Bogota, at some point they must have realized that it would be easier to tempt S. American collectors to the US then to tempt US collectors to go international. Americans are lazy, we all know that. On the other hand — wait a second isn’t there a city that’s technically in the US, but that’s generally considered to be a part of South/Central America in spirit? You see where I’m going with this?
I grant that, having made the decision to go USA, the Swiss folks might have made lots of choices. New York comes to mind. But I think they were specifically looking for a place to call their own: one that didn’t have a strong established reputation on the international art scene, particularly the fair scene. And since their fair is in the Summer, they needed a spot that’d be comfortable in the Winter — i.e., well south of the Mason-Dixon line. Now your choices are down to a few (admittedly hip) spots in Texas, New Orleans, and maybe Atlanta. With everything we’ve considered, do any of these places hold a candle to Miami? Consider the presumable appeal to rich South Americans. Consider the reputation, within the USA, as a resort/vacation destination. Consider the sheer fucking spectacularness of the place.
What’s Basel doing for Miami? Not an unfair question. But I think we should be thinking just as much about what Miami is doing for Basel.comments powered by Disqus