An Art World Gathering, Divided by Money

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Published: December 7, 2012

“MIAMI — Mera Rubell was taking time out from greeting the hundreds of visitors at her family’s sprawling contemporary art center here to vent.

“It’s the height of arrogance to dismiss — — ,” she began.

Jason, her son, interrupted: “It’s arrogance. It’s a completely uninteresting story.”

For the moment her husband, Don, had given up on trying to get a word in.

The Rubells, deans of Miami’s bustling art scene, were pushing back against a chorus of complaints that has been growing louder in the weeks leading up to Art Basel Miami Beach, the annual art pilgrimage that began Wednesday and ends Sunday.

Prominent art writers and critics, including Sarah ThorntonFelix SalmonWill Gompertz and Dave Hickey, have been attacking the art world, arguing that the staggering sums of money being spent on works are distorting judgments about art and undermining its long-term cultural significance.

“Money talks loudly and easily drowns out other meanings,” Ms. Thornton wrote in TAR magazine in a recent article, “Top 10 Reasons NOT to Write About the Art Market.”

In its special edition for the opening day of the fair, The Art Newspaper asked whether “the art world is facing a crisis of values” because of the “pernicious influence of the market on art.”

And in the eyes of many critics, Art Basel Miami Beach — or what Simon Doonan, writing in Slate last week, labeled a “promo-party cheese-fest” — has become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the art market. The fair’s extraordinary success in just over a decade, and its celebration of wretched excess, have triggered a backlash.

But the Rubells, along with a growing number of other prominent collectors, art dealers and curators, are having none of it. The backlash against the backlash has begun…”

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by | December 10, 2012 · 2:48 pm

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