Sunday, December 07, 2008

Seven Days in the Art World

"Hollywood, it has been said, is like high school with money: cliquish, catty and status-obsessed, awash in insecurity and plagued by conflicting desires to stand out and to fit in. The same might be said of the contemporary art world, particularly during the glitzy boom years chronicled by Sarah Thornton in her entertaining new book, “Seven Days in the Art World.”

A freelance journalist with a background in sociology, Thornton spent five years air-kissing her way through art fairs, auction houses and artists’ studios as a “participant observer” intent on decoding the manners and mores of this globe-­trotting Prada-clad tribe. What she learned, among other things, is that wealthy collectors buy expensive works of art for a variety of reasons — vanity, social status, an appetite for novelty and, most important of all, an acute excess of money. As one of her auction-house informers bluntly puts it, “After you have a fourth home and a G5 jet, what else is there?”

The book is cleverly divided into seven day-in-the-life chapters, each focusing on a different facet of the contemporary art world: an auction (at Christie’s New York), an art school “crit” (at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia), an art fair (Art Basel), an artist’s studio (that of the Japanese star Takashi Murakami), a prize (Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize), a magazine (Artforum) and a biennale (Venice)."
Read the review of Sarah Thornton's "Seven Days in the Art World" by Mia Fineman in the New York Times here and buy the book here.

Early Look: Miami Sales Report

The recession sculpted Art Basel Miami Beach into a humbler version of itself this week, with galleries reporting significant drops in sales.

Nearly half of all art dealers interviewed saw sales drop, with almost 20 percent saying sales fell below the 30 percent mark. Just over 15 percent reported a sales increase, while 30 percent said sales were flat.

To gauge the effects of economic turmoil on the country's largest contemporary arts fair, five Miami Herald reporters surveyed 85 exhibitors participating in the official Basel show and in five satellite fairs.
Read the report in the Miami Herald here. From what I am hearing from the ground, some of the satellite fairs are doing better than others.

Neptune's beautiful new building

Peripoint Building in BethesdaNearly everyone in DC that has been to Gallery Neptune's new location in the renewed PeriPoint Building in downtown Bethesda, Maryland keeps telling me what an amazing transformation has taken place.

Not only has PeriPoint applied to become Bethesda’s first Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building as certified by the US Green Council, but let me be the first to say that award winning architect Michael Belisle AIA should easily win whatever architectural award is given to gallery designers. PeriPoint is located at 5001 Wilson Lane, at the busy crossroads of Wilson Lane, Old Georgetown Road, Arlington Rd. and St. Elmo Avenue.

The corner site has been a landmark in Bethesda since 1927, serving first as the Sanitary Grocery store, later as USO Headquarters during World War II, and most recently as a vacuum repair shop. Today, the 80-year-old structure has been renewed, embracing the 21st century while maintaining the defining geometry of the building’s early 20th century shell.

It is absolutely gorgeous inside and out, from the cool lightning to the even cooler hollow storage/wall units and even the balcony addressing the busy street corner below.

Michael Belisle and Elyse Harrison's labor of love shows, and the new gallery is easily among the most beautiful in the Greater DC area, and also (as far as I know) the only "green" one around here, and maybe even in the entire nation.