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Art Consumers

Art Consumers
by Taliesin Thomas, 1st year IDSVA student

Random comments overheard at the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair this year:

“How cute.”

“I want to touch it.”

“This pumpkin is awesome.”

“What are those things?”

“It’s site specific.”

“That’s cool.”

“*%&#ing junk.”

These statements seem to convey the gist of viewing a stunning amplitude of aesthetic objects presented in a commercial setting. While the artwork itself offers a fascinating profusion of concepts and material configurations, the money involved in bringing these objects to the public on such a scale represents an unabashed capitalist agenda (there is always the beach nearby to balance the scales between wanton materialist consumption and sublime natural beauty).

I have been attending ABMB on and off since its inception in 2002. Several years in a row I worked with an exhibitor gallery at Scope, one of the numerous satellite fairs that orbit the “big” fair. Over the last decade, ABMB has reached an unprecedented level of fanfare as thousands of glitterati make their way to South Beach for a week of lavish parties, private events, occasional art collecting, and late-night hobnobbing, creating a wave of gossip and intrigue that fuels the press for days on end. The 2013 installment of ABMB was the usual vagabond carnival scene: back-room machinations play out among top art world players as millions of dollars change hands between dealers and collectors. Admittedly this year I interpreted the whole display with an amplified perspective as it relates to my coursework with IDSVA. For the final paper this semester I focused on Marx’s “dialectical materialism” and the Hegelian-inspired notion of an “end of art,” arguing for art as anexperience that trumps the objective—art is to be consumed. Participation at ABMB is a stunning example of this arrangement. Stumbling upon a recent work by Barbara Kruger at the main fair, the synthesis between my professional work in the art world and the intellectual pursuit of the PhD came full circle: value is what we make it.