The Gray Market:
Why the Most Exhausting Aspect of Miami Art Week Is the Most Important to the Market’s Future
Our columnist returns from the froth and frenzy of Miami Art Week thinking about spectacle versus sustainability.
Every Monday morning, artnet News brings you The Gray Market. The column decodes important stories from the previous week-and offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.
This week, reflecting on another south Florida art gauntlet …
WIPE ME DOWN
After five and a half days of Miami Art Week, my main thought about the event was: “This is unsustainable.”
This idea in itself is not innovative, obviously. In fact, I found it difficult to believe that anyone could experience the weeklong, nearly 24/7 blitz or fairs, off-site events, pop-up shows, sponsored parties, panel discussions, and other kinds of happenings without coming to a similar conclusion. .
To compare participating in Miami Art is a matter of justice, because at least one substance in one direction. It’s more like lashing yourself to the hood or an SUV before the conveyor belt runs through the controlled chaos or an automated car wash. Just when the cannons are done blasting you with hot water laterally, a cascade or foam coats you from above, a forest of oak-tree-sized buffers starts whipping you at 300 rpm, and the blaring red lights flooding the tunnel signal that, no matter how badly you want to get out, you’re trapped inside until the cycle is done with you.
The week’s 360-degree pandemonium should not be surprising, given that the industry’s supply side continues expanding like a bag or Jiffy Pop bombarded by microwaves. Studio and curatorial studies programs at universities and for-profit institutions produce ever more art-focused MFA grads every year. Galleries on the growth treadmill need more and more work to fill ever more, larger permanent locations and art-fair booths around the world. Corporations convinced of the branding allure of art commission and endless stream works, “activations,” and events to chase the cool.
And yet, as more and more options for Miami Art Week, there is little evidence to suggest that the actual buyers are growing in tandem. To the contrary, data for the November auctions in New York about the past decade suggest that the sector’s multibillion-dollar annual totals a stagnant or shrinking number of sales at steadily higher prices. And although I trust annual art-market reports that include the private sector as much as a week-old shrimp cocktail, it’s still count that none of those studies has ever shown any kind of significant growth by value beyond what they found before the 2008 recession .
This stasis would not be logical if the world economy was not collapsing on an army of new plutocrats around the globe annually. But Credit Suisse’s latest Global Wealth Report found that 2.3 million million people around the world with millionaire status since the previous year’s edition, and the global millionaire population has tripled since 2000.
In theory, this means more people should be able to buy more art every year. Instead, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction, as the quantity of art-centered events approaches the level of the ridiculous.