"the" Mrs. Astor

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The temperature plummeted to 50 degrees early this morning and--although I know it is not the tragedy we make it out to be--it might have been the end of the world to us. For all intents and purposes, this morning's bike ride to the gym was a dog sled across the tundra. I am never prepared for this; where is that one pair of gloves or that one scarf?

The town is warming up, though, for the formal opening of Art Basel this afternoon. Everywhere you turn you find tents set up for the event and its satellites; entire hotels like The Aqua have emptied their rooms of furniture so that galleries can rent the space. The question still here is: Money, who has it, and will they spend it.

Astronomical amounts were spent last year (I think I read the figure $5 billion, once), but that seems like a long time ago (and also when $5 billion meant something). The wags around town predict a big drop in the purchase of ultra-contemporary art in favor of "names". Gone, they say, are the days when a recent graduate of art school became a millionaire in one of those tents or hotel rooms; but most of these attendees pride themselves in finding the new "name". Who knows what will happen any more? Still, on the ride back this morning--through the icy winds--we saw Cartier's globe-like tent in The Botanical Gardens.

Yesterday we saw tents in the Design District of Miami erected just a few blocks from the sad slums of Little Haiti; this is and always has been the way of life here. A poor person is more likely to be hit by a Rolls in Miami than anywhere else. And as our attendance at The White Party was criticized as a poor choice in poor times, the finger of shame can be raised at those who populate the lavish tents and galleries this week. Will it ever stop or be fair? Not in my life time, that's for sure. But, perhaps if I lived in any place less shallow than Miami Beach, any place more concerned about what goes on two blocks away while Cartier is handing out drinks in their tent...well, perhaps I could take all this so much more seriously. But, it won't happen in my life time.


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