A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Art Market Communities

Investing in the Art Market has the same effect of slash and burn farming. Short term gains at sake of sustainability.

The current art education model is failing. Potential master’s degree students either have the choice of spending two hundred thousand dollars plus to attend top tier universities, or risk time and smaller amounts of money on state run options. Neither work. The obvious draw back of big name universities is the cost. In the state school option the risk is relevancy and in some cases quality. Art has never been something you get into because of money, but demanding hopeful students to be indentured servants of the banking industry is far from ideal. The high cost of education also feeds the art market, serving to inflate prices and detract from centers of culture.

Miami’s position in the education arena is shaky at best. Miami came in last place on a national ranking of cities’ brainpower according to, with a 10.8% high school graduation rate and an 8.59% bachelors degree rating. The connection with the overall education of cities and it’s relationship with the art community is not direct, as LA and New York ranked 41st and 32nd respectively to Miami’s 53rd. What is direct is the affect that a cultural center, like a leading university, can have on a community. And it is precisely this that is absent in Miami.

A visualization of the yearly boom and bust of Miami’s art scene. This macro trend seems to be falling since 2007; perfectly aligned with the economic fall out.

Miami has the potential to emerge as a player in the international art community, yet as of now we are still mainly defined by our annual role as hosts to Art Basil Miami Beach. Miami finds itself in a dilemma. Miami may be on the brink of being a recognized for its art scene, but remains perpetually in the state of tourist destination, a problem that respected institutions would help to change. Unfortunately, none of our universities are assuming the position of a leader in contemporary art, and Miami finds itself void of options.

Enter in Art + Research, a program from Craig Robins’ Anaphiel foundation. The program is designed to be a fully funded research residency. The program solves the high cost of current generation education woes and with a faculty including Daniel Birnbaum, Liam Gillick, Guadalupe Echevarria, Matthew Higgs, Steven Henry Madoff, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, it brings a level of credibility previously unknown in Miami. A program such as this could create an opportunity for Miami to start a transition away from being a tourist capitol to one of production and research. The only problem is that the program was set to open in 2009. There are currently no updates to the website,, and the only definite response I was given when I tried to make contact was that the project was “on hold.” This is not surprising as Robins, a property developer, depends on the real estate market for funding.

Miami is already a poster child for the housing bubble, but is it possible that Miami could become a poster child of an art market bubble? The galleries that spring up during December and then go vacant – or at least quiet – for the rest of the year are painfully reminiscent of the many vacant condos here whose sales were based on speculation. The problem is that there is a cultural drain from that kind of behavior; it is the art world equivalent of slash and burn farming.

The unrealized McMansion neighborhood, “Parkside Estates”, is a reminder of our recent past focus on an end product and not a process, or people. The lot remains empty as speculation fell out.

Miami has a couple of options, perhaps the most sustainable of which is to make a shift away from a product-based model to a production-based model. Miami clearly supports the market and its end product, museums or giant private collections, but I would like to see some more support of artistic creation. Art + Research is a huge project, it is ambitious, idealistic and could work on surer ground, but maybe the idea needs to be scaled back to make it a realistic fit for present day Miami. At a smaller scale a new precedent could easily be set and more residencies would provide support for Miami based artists as well as an international community of artists, not just galleries and collections. It is no secret that people want to come down to Miami so we should use this desire as a way of establishing Miami as a place for production. The few residencies we have – Fountainhead, De la Cruz, even Deering Estate at Cutler – are good, but limited, and if the local educational institutions such as UM, FIU, or FAU persist in exhibiting an endemic lack of concern to foster more art programming and research perhaps those with resources need to start pooling them so that interesting talent will come to Miami to live, work and teach. This would at least fill the void created by a lack of a leading graduate program and, perhaps more importantly, help tide us over until this education model fixes itself.

A quick way to see how much this switch is needed is to imagine what is spent on our museums and ‘private museums’ then compare that with funding for residencies and artist’s grants. It is not that our museums do not have a role to play, they do. But the role they play is only a small part of a community.  At some point we need to invest not in the art market, but in our own community.

I originally wrote this article back in July of 2010. I didn’t release it because I decided that I was too critical of the situation, and I was hypocritical because I was planning on leaving Miami. But that is exactly what is at stake. If Miami is going to stay relevant it must compete to keep what made it great in the first place; its artists[.]

Title Image Credit: Mattmagnum. Some rights reserved.

This post was contributed by Jordan Service.


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Art Market Communities