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The Rise of Simple Times: Hub Culture Salon, Miami

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8th Dec 2008

Despite the gloomy outlook for contemporary art and design at this year's Art Basel Miami Beach, the conclusion seems to be that things aren't nearly as bad as feared. While 'slow' is definitely the operative word, 'disaster' is not. You might say simple is the new upside. To get a better feel on what people are thinking, Hub Culture gathered a group for an intimate salon dinner discussion at the Raleigh Hotel Oasis.

The group included a diverse network from the global scene, stretching from New York to Shanghai to Stockholm to London:

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Hub Culture Salon at the Raleigh Oasis
Harriet Onslow
, Contrasts Gallery

James Hedges, LJH Global Investments

Indira Cesarine, Indira Cesarine Photography

Kristian Stahl, Stahl Stockholm

Gary Knight, Quintessentially Art

Nick Hackworth, Paradise Row

Olivia Cole, Sunday Times

Tim White Sobieski, White-Sobieski

Lauren Prakke, Prakke Contemporary

Lina Redtzer, Madrid

The dinner kicked off with a few comments about survival. "Someone has to survive and everyone wants to be one of the survivors," said Lina, who was visiting ABMB for the first time, with her brother Kristian, who was showing at Rock the Boat, a luxury and jewelry focused exhibition held on... a boat!

Harriet works with Pearl Lam's highly acclaimed Contrasts out of Shanghai and showed at Design Miami. She echoed the sentiment, but found things weren't as bad as feared. "I thought it might be a bloodbath, and it wasn't - we have been in demand." She attributed some changes to saving the day, most importantly the new Design Miami space, a large improvement over the old one. But could there be a cold wind blowin? General talk of introducing 18th century design to next year's Design Miami felt like they might be grasping to keep the momentum up.

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Ai Weiwei, Bubbles 2008
Tim was upbeat on the fear. "Gallerists were scared to death when they got here, but they eked it out. The difference is that this year many deals will happen in the coming week, when everyone calls and says, 'did you sell this, then, ok'."

On prices, advisors such as Lauren, (who deals at the top end of the market), are tapping their toes for sales at over 30% off list, a number that made several at the table visibly shudder. Jim Hedges, a collector, seemed complacent: the rush has gone out, so good collectors can finally take their time a bit more to consider adding the right pieces. Gary Knight, who advises high profile clients tied to Quintessentially, struck a balance, reminding the group that the art world is much more global than it was in the last downturn, pointing out that while '2009 is a writeoff', "the next couple of years will be great for buyers."

And in the end, some don't just survive, they shine. The dominant impression was of an expansive array of new and great work. It included a strong turnout on political wares (lots of Obama), which seemed to be selling well, despite groans from everyone. As Olivia put it: "Yes, the Obama stuff is selling," an idea that seems a little to... obvious... for the art world.

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See? Simple rocks.
Simple but poignant installation pieces got the nod. From Kris Martin's three ton bronze bell (titled For Whom) to a rotating palm tree on the beach boardwalk to Ai Wei Wei's ceramic bubbles on Watson Island, this idea of interactivity and simple statements was definitely a 2008 theme. Harriet noted a proliferation of simple works on paper, and Indira talked about the growing roles of philanthropy in art and fashion. While falling short of a general call to 'Save the Models', this sense that there are bigger issues to worry about than trash piled in a room struck a chord.

Additional thumbs up from the group went to Neugerriemschneider, Lehmann Maupin, Mary Boone, Daniel Reich, Cherry and Martin at Supernova, and Michael Heizer at Peter Freeman. The hating was out in force on Cindy Sherman and Craig Robins, which means they must be doing something right.

Finally, the sense that slower business heralds a return to simplicity couldn't be helped. "There seemed to be a lot more imaginary budgets" commented one, while Tim summed it up best: "I really enjoyed the ocean at 7 in the morning."

Side note: After dinner activities included watching paintball at the Raleigh beach, where teams from Visionaire, the New York Times, and Andre Balazs Hotels duked it out in a hail of popping paintfire. Among the casualties, Cator Sparks, Horacio Silva, Fabiola Beracasa, Martin Krediet, and others. Look for highlights soon in Vanity Fair. Fun.