In the midst of the greatest financial crisis of our lifetime (unless you’re really old,) Art Basel | Miami Beach opened yesterday. It will be interesting to see how sales are affected and what the general mood is like. Ominously, the season’s first auctions in New York in mid-November saw prices nosedive as much as 50%. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s got clobbered having to pay out scores of millions of dollars in losses due to guarantees they were on the hook to pay. Thus, this year’s fair will provide an up-to-the minute barometer reading of how the downward economic pressures are translating vis-à-vis the über-wealthy. No doubt, the fair is going to have to return to its’ intended roots.
Now in its’ seventh edition, the Miami Beach offshoot of Art Basel has had a meteoric rise. Originally created to take advantage of both the worldwide spike in art sales and the winning formula of art fairs, (Art Basel is the most prestigious art fair in the world,) AB | MB morphed into a “must-stop” on the jet-set social calnedar. The people watching became bigger than the art watching, not that the art watching was in any way sub-par. I’m sure there will still be plenty of celebrities and dilettantes, but this year will probably be best known for the bottom-feeders. If you’re in the market for art, you could make a killing.