When I first heard about Tilda Swinton’s “The Maybe,” an ongoing performance piece in which the actress sporadically sleeps in a glass box at the Museum of Modern Art, I sighed and shrugged and laughed a little. Another unoriginal work becomes a cultural flashpoint — cause for media outcry, cause for real, live spectacle, an unexciting performance sold to ticket-buying tourists as avant-garde. What can you do? But “The Maybe” wormed its way into my head, and I found myself confoundedly returning to it often. It was only a week or two later, and after reading Jason Farago’s takedown in The New Republic, that I realized why I cared: middlebrow.
In an essay just published on his blog, gallerist Ed Winkleman writes about “the dialogue” in the context of the art world, a murky concept that seems to encompass everything from critical conversations of aesthetics to growing currents in contemporary art to the ongoing filtration of the art community into a disparate set of cliques each united by their own niche interests. It’s this last facet that most piqued my interest.
The town of Basel, located on a bendy segment of the River Rhein, is where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. Basel is not the place to go if you are on a budget; if you have to ask the price of a wiener and a pint, you probably can’t afford it. Each year in June the art world power elite comes together for a mutual admiration lovefest of cash and culture. Art Basel is the most highly selective and best-run art fair in the world. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the Swiss are ideal art-fair organizers.
Felix Salmon just posted an incandescent piece on the State of the Art World seen through the lens of Davos. At a meeting of plutocrats and artists, Salmon sees collectors buying art not for its aesthetic quality but for its aura: the respect and awe that comes with owning something really expensive.