Could it be that the hit television show, Gossip Girl, will have a bigger impact on the future of the art market than the "largest, most important" annual art event in America"? I'm leaning in favor of Gossip Girl.
This week is undoubtedly important for the art world's governing elite. Each December, galleries, art insiders, press and collectors from across the globe descend on Miami for what is considered the most "important" week for the US art market. At the center is Art Basel Miami Beach (opened Wednesday, December 2), the sister fair of the annual gathering in Basel, Switzerland. At Art Basel alone, there are 250 galleries, over 1,500 artists shown and an estimated $250 million of sales.
At parties and dinners, connections are made, future shows are planned, loads of money are exchanged and new artists are declared the next hot thing. But what impact does the largest and most "important" event have on the interest and support of art across the country? Of the 150,000 people attending and those reading the art press, how many non insiders are being introduced to new artists or getting excited about a career in the arts?
And Scattered across South Beach and Wynwood there are more than 15 satellite fairs bringing another 1,000 galleries and 3,000 artists. In total, it is estimated that $500M+ of sales will occur by week's end and will draw in more than 150,000 people from across the globe. While the public can purchase tickets for every fair, the doors are still very much closed on the real action. Art insiders and the elite attend free VIP openings and each night get wined and dined at sponsored dinners and parties. The velvet ropes and lists come out as the established shake hands and those aspiring desperately try to join in. There are multiple events a night at places like the Standard, the W-South Beach, the Delano & Raleigh hotels.
By Thursday morning (one day into the fairs), the conclusions of the impact of this year's Art Basel will be in. Just twelve hours after the Art Basel Vernissage, the art press will have likely declared "attendance was strong, collectors were more prudent in their purchases, but sales were happening and were stronger than last year." The news for the rest of the week will likely be dominated by big name collectors making purchases and the celebrity round up of sightings and parties hosted by the likes of Lance Armstrong, Val Kilmer, Sylvester Stallone, Dr. Dre, Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins. Business will go on as usual and we in the art business will return to our homes in NYC, LA, London and Berlin.
So how is Gossip Girl, a show on the CW channel, having a greater impact on the art world than Art Basel? At a recent NYC art benefit, I found myself talking to a major Chelsea gallery owner, her teenage daughter and several of her friends (all fans of the show). Though these NYC girls are all too familiar with the art world, their peers in cities across America are not. What these girls and millions across America do share is a belief that these Gossip Girl characters are the hippest trend setters on the planet.
Though we certainly do not celebrate the ridiculous excess of these teenage television characters, making art accessible is something we believe is vital in getting people into the doors of our cultural institutions, studying art history and creating art. In the past two seasons of Gossip Girl, art and the business of art has never seemed cooler and more accessible to a young audience. The show's main upper east side characters, Serena, Blair and Chuck Bass engage in bidding wars at Sotheby's, live in penthouses decorated with contemporary art, date hot young artists and casually refer to artists like Kandinsky. The New York Times recently reported that the Richard Phillips works hanging above the bed of Chuck Bass is not a one sided love affair as the artist "admits he is addicted" to the show . Meanwhile the Brooklyn based Humphries family (the show's version of the middle class) own a Brooklyn gallery and Vanessa, who is often the moral compass of the show, works as a gallery assistant.
So while the pomp and circumstance of Art Basel -- and the Miami weather -- is a welcome break from New York City, perhaps the art world should consider taking a page from Gossip Girl and wooing a new generation of art aficionados.
In fact, new media (particularly Twitter) is making an impact at this year's Art Basel as many fairs, gallerists, bloggers and visitors are utilizing Twitter and text messaging (a la Gossip Girl) to send in comments that display live on Artlog.com
Follow Manish Vora on Twitter: www.twitter.com/artlog