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A History of Violence

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Photo Credit :: MRNY
Arts & Entertainment
Hope on a Canvas:  Art Basel
By Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
November 7, 2008   photo-album 
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 When the world comes crashing down around you, when you can’t bear the headlines, or your bills, or even your bff—let art be the anodyne for your soul.  And while it might seem as if the Miami Beach Convention Center is hardly sanctum sanctorum, to walk there at the peak of Art Basel Miami Beach is to be completely immersed in a world existing solely for art.  For what is Art Basel Miami Beach if not a whole world of people declaiming, “Look what I made. Let’s put on a show.” Who can resist such ingenuous exuberance?  With the fruits of creative labors spreading as far as the eyes can see, you can’t help but consider all the people in this world who live to create.  So many artists—creating, not hating.  For if you’re creating, you’re not destroying.  It’s enough to make you wish everyone on the planet were in touch with their inner artist.

Begun in 2002, this year’s edition of Art Basel Miami Beach was the seventh edition, with more than 250 galleries from 33 countries chosen from over 800 applicants.  Even in a sour economy, people were willing to fork over the rather hefty admission fee.  And for what?  To experience beauty?  To have their preconceptions challenged—Is this art?  My kid has this on our fridge.  Perhaps it was simply to commingle with 40,000 fellow aesthetes, dilettantes, and the curious. 

How did this year’s edition reflect the zeitgeist?  Well, there was Chinese artist Zheng Guogu’s installation, “Commemorative Plaque 2008: Lehman Brothers Gate,” which included painted walls based on Internet images of Lehman employees vacating their premises, alongside portraits of Warren Buffet and Henry Paulson.  And there were Barbara Kruger’s pithy and apt text pieces, this year taken from Goethe who wrote, “We are the slaves of objects around us,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s quote, “He entered shop after shop, priced nothing, spoke no word, and looked at all objects with a wild and distracted stare.”  Clearly, people—we’ve been down this profligate road before; we seem only to have forgotten. 

But rather than dispiriting, the overall tone at Art Basel Miami Beach was one of relief—that things were not worse than they are.  For to see a smorgasbord of the world’s peoples coming together under one roof to admire (and critique) art from all over the world is to be reminded anew of the interconnectedness of our pursuit of beauty.  In the end, it’s possible to come away from Art Basel Miami Beach and posit the equation ART = HOPE.