Miami in a vice

I remember interviewing Jake and Dinos Chapman at Frieze a couple of years ago when they were doing their ten-minute portraits in the booth there. They were full of millenarian glee at the overblown state of the artmarket, to which they were obviously contributing with their presence. “Artistic production,” said Jake between brush strokes, “is nothing to do with utility, it’s to do with excess. It’s to do with surplus.”

So Art Basel Miami Beach opened yesterday in an altogether different era. The days of surplus are over. It was widely noted just about everywhere that its opening coincided with the announcement that America was officially in recession. “The fair’s main sponsor, Swiss bank UBS AG, has recorded about $50 billion in writedowns and losses,” wrote The word schadenfreude is being bandied about widely. Art dealers are, journalists insist, fretting at the non-appearance of the Russians.

It’s amazing the amount of unalloyed, hand-rubbing glee unleashed at the prospect of the wheels coming off the Big Art machine.

Illustration: Mutant Skull by Tony Oursler 1997/98
Plaster, paint, sound, and mixed media, skull. Lisson @ Art Basel Miami