Bones' Bonus, Art Basel Edition: An Interview with Golden Age's Marco Kane Braunschweiler
Bones, intrepid art-world raconteur, checks in to help us figure out what exactly happened down in Miami this year...
"I don't want photos of me drinking on Facebook or a blog, but that is the be all and end all of why many young people go to Miami. Fuck those people taking the photos: All they're doing is promoting the idea that if you're young you get to be impulsive and irresponsible."
The annual bacchanal and trade fair Art Basel Miami Beach is an art dealer convention and mega-sale that started in 2002 as a spin-off of the summertime original in Switzerland. The epitome of our last commercial art boom, Miami week is an indescribably hedonistic affair, a citywide crucible of negotiation, ostentation, and celebration at temperatures so steamy that the streets seem to sweat money. Everything wrong with the art market is on show, and though barriers of exclusivity are erected to ensure stratification and privacy (I recall a scratch-and-sniff invitation that got me through a crowd of screaming, clawing people outside a Visionaire magazine party at the Setai Hotel on Collins Avenue), it proved--in the years I went--all too naked in the end, too proud to be anything other than depressing.
Still, as with the fall auctions, it is vitally important that we stay attentive to this industry's trajectory in a period of recession. I spoke this morning with Marco Kane Braunschweiler, a very young man recently returned from this year's installment of ABMB. Braunschweiler occupied half a booth at the New Art Dealers Alliance, Miami's secondary (and younger, cheaper) fair. There, he sold books, multiples and artworks brought from his store, Golden Age (co-run with his girlfriend, Martine Syms), which sits in the Pilsen area of Chicago. His ideas, and his faith, were surprisingly heartening.-Bones
What were your expectations for the week, being so new to the Fair at such an uncertain moment in the art world?
I expected it would be difficult, I expected people to be very conservative with their purchases and to be looking for deals as far as emerging artists go.
But you didn't have a financial bottom line - a dollar figure to recoup exactly?
Oh hell yes we did, but it wasn't a lot. Our operation is modest compared to most of the bigger galleries.
So how much did you sell, or what did you sell, and who to?
I haven't done the accounting for the trip but I feel like we broke even and squeezed by a little bit in the last minute. We sold 40% books, 60% artwork, and we sold it all to younger people, people under 40. We had a lot of interest in the Chicago/Milwaukee artists that we brought [Megan Plunkett, Greg Stimac, Paul Cowan, Lauren Anderson, Paul Stoelting, Katie Kraft], and I feel like that will generate sales next year.
How did participation in NADA--all those hours grinding at the booth as a gallerist--make you think about your position in the art world: Where it's going or where it should go, and what contribution might you guys be able to make?
You meet someone and you text their number, you build a relationship through multiple points of contact--shades of meaning evolve from all these things. I followed up with a collector through email the afternoon she stopped by and she emailed back immediately on an iPhone. People know what's up; I am friends with collectors on Facebook. Shit is crazy: It really demystifies everything. These are new systems popping up.
How did the main fair [ABMB] feel to you? Could you feel the same sort of lines of contemporary communication propelling business there.
The main fair is a different thing [from NADA]. Jeffrey Deitch said something [in The Art Newspaper, a free daily handout during the fair's duration] along the lines of "I've been building my network since 1974 and you don't all of a sudden find yourself with no customers." He has a well-established product and he sells to well-established people who buy well-established artists.
NADA is a different ball game.
Exactly, we're not selling cars or mutual funds. At the main fair, people looked at my badge before my face. At NADA it was the other way around. People are actually interested in who you are, what you're doing, and trying to work with you.
There's no bottom line to be obtained now by talking to a certain [wealthy] type of person. Now people are open and ready to talk. Now that collectors aren't throwing money around, art people can't just try to catch money in a large, impersonal net.