Can we meaningfully engage with art without attending key art events?
Art Basel is happening right now, and I am lamenting being here writing my dissertation rather than travelling to the art fair. I am reading all there is to read, looking at social media feeds, and gathering knowledge about what I am missing out on. But how far will these efforts really carry me?
There aren’t many in the art world that would argue with the notion that ‘you must see the work in the flesh’ to understand it. Engaging with actual artwork is necessarily done in person - this is referring to sensory engagement. Subodh Gupta has taken this to the next level, with art that is experienced through consumption that will ultimately enter your physical DNA.
His work ‘Cooking the World’ invites those lucky enough to book a ticket to the performance to have a meal prepared in old cooking utensils from India. Food consumption and the ritual of it reflects the nation’s vast diaspora. I have been whispering to my friends that food art is the next frontier for collectors, but was not confident enough to gamble on what shape or form that would take. (A Recipe book? Images of food, both image and food made by the artist? Preserved foods that can be displayed for longer periods?) Now, with Gupta’s work at Basel receiving so much attention, I have some idea.
There is a lot more coverage available now of these events, aided by advances in technology and the growth of publishing. Gallery websites share what art news reporters find, and also disseminate details on the galleries’ performance at the art fair more readily than in the past. Artists have embraced social media platforms, and of course the more well-established bodies like the Art Newspaper continue to provide insight about Art Basel and other key art events.
Engaging with art can perhaps be done more easily from a distance now, but engaging with important players and figures in the art world certainly cannot be. There is a reason why individual and gallery schedules are mapped around these events; human relationships (business relationships!) are built here. For an art or art business professional within this network of art market activity, a presence at prominent fairs like Art Basel is a must.