January 24, 2012

An Enlightened Society Reflects Great Art. ~ Cynthia Carvajal

Cynthia Carvajal

From December 1 through 4, over 250 of the world’s renowned galleries and over 2,000 artists show their work amongst the best of the best.

Art Basel is known as “the most prestigious art show in the Americas” attended by curators and art collectors from around the world.

What is all this hype about Art Basel? I was adamant to check it out for myself this year. Living in New York City, one of the top cultural art capitals of the world, art is not just something we look at, it is our livelihood.

New York is now more than ever, a hub for activists advocating social change as well as next level artists. Inspiration is fundamental for both artists and activists to keep the flame burning.

After attending Art Basel, there is no doubt in my mind that we are experiencing a new renaissance in the art scene. Many of the turning points in the visual arts have occurred in urban centers where artists are creating at full throttle.

A similar turning point occurred when Art Basel was at its infancy in 2003. Miami locals say that the Wynwood District is instrumental to the success of Basel. The Wynwood district has now become the world’s largest and most diverse collection of international street art murals.

Visiting The Wynwood Walls was by far one of the most inspirational experiences at Basel.

Cynthia Carvajal

The raw, organic creativity of the artwork painted onto warehouses felt larger than life.

The street art was the highest caliber of art, it is redefining the definition of High and Low art.

Artworks by renowned artists such as Shepherd Fairey, Mr. Brainwash, Invader, Stelios Faitakis, Ron English, Ryan McGinness and David Sherry graced the walls of Wynwood.

High quality street art essentially is a gift to the community.

The amount of money that is generated during Art Basel adds up to $200-$400 million.

Art Basel is a big business and making money takes precedence over making the art more accessible to the community and various socio economic groups.

Art Basel has been criticized as being “the Burning Man for rich people”.  The price of tickets to get into each exhibition costs around $40 per show.

Ticket sales are expected to increase more than 13 percent to $847,000; sponsorships total around $3.5 million. Contrary to popular belief, the show does not take a percentage of gallery sales. Instead it collects money from admissions, sponsors and booth fees, which go for $590 a square meter; booth-size starts around 600 square feet, or about $33,000.

The price tag on the art is what makes Art Basel such a surreal experience. I overheard one transaction in particular of a couple casually purchasing a painting for $47,000.

The highest price piece of art that sold was a chrome skull sculpture, sold for half a million in the posh hotel lobby of the Shelbourne.

Cynthia Carvajal

While the Shelbourne was shelling it in, the Sadigo Court Hotel was kicking all of the artists and their art to the curbside.

An artist friend of mine was showing his work, so I stopped by the opening to show my support. At 5pm on the dot, the police showed up and were not letting anyone in.

The city has been issuing a cease and desist order for the hotel since September 23rd.

According to city officials, every time the red note is put on the door, the hotel takes it down and keeps operating. That led to the hotel’s owner, Rod Eisenberg, arrest for obstructing the cease and desist order on the night of the opening.

Consequently, the artists also paid the price for this unresolved dispute between the hotel owner and the city. Each artist paid thousands of dollars to participate to show their art.

The police refused to let anyone in and kicked out all of the artists that night, many who were planning on staying at the hotel.

I spoke with artists who flew to Miami from Canada, Spain and New York. They were all devastated that they invested thousands of dollars to show their work to an empty room.

Many of the police directed the guests who showed up to the opening of the art event at the Sadigo hotel to the convention center. That is where the “real” Art Basel is, with out explaining why the artists were being kicked to the curb. It upset me that the cops told me to go back to the convention center where I just came from.

The convention center felt like Disneyland for modern art. All of the art was displayed with perfect lighting and art that would make the perfect addition in a multi-million dollar loft.

The art displayed was marketable, pieces hung were the ones that would sell, sell…sell. There was a lack of culture and controversy and I hoped to find it at the next convention.

The word that was spoken most at Basel was “Scope”. Not Scope like the mouthwash, Scope as in the best art show of Art Basel. The highlight of Art Basel 2011 was the Scope art fair. With an impressive list of international showcasing galleries, Scope represented a wide selection of works such as renowned artists – Ron English, Buff Monster, Blek le Rat, Retna, Aakash Nihilan.

Scope art show is the best representation of the social commentary and cultural stances of the 21stcentury. The pieces of art shown at Scope were immensely rich in spirituality, dualism, and sexuality.

Cynthia Carvajal

Art critics and art historians have argued for over a decade what the next movement after post modernism will be? Postmodernism is defined as the “dominant cultural logic of late capitalism”. The term “postmodernism” comes from its critique of the “modernist” scientific mentality, objectivity and the progress associated with the enlightenment.

Postmodernism claims that there is no absolute truth and that the way people perceive the world is subjective. The term refers to the period of globalization, multinational capitalism or consumer capitalism.

The art on display at Scope reflected a new movement.

A rejection of postmodernism in favor of exposing the current dualism of placing consumer capitalism on a pedestal vs. the growing spiritual side of artistic awareness.

This new movement, call it the “Realization,” a new kind of enlightenment, seeks to take us back to our human core by exploring how we ended up in this cultural capitalist mess of consumerism, and how to get out of it.

Wynwood District at Art Basel:http://vimeo.com/33811392

Sadigo Hotel Arrest: http://vimeo.com/34542297


Cynthia Carvajal is originally from a small mountain town in Colorado, Cynthia relocated to San Diego to be closer to the ocean after completing her degree in Behavioral Sciences. After 4 years working for a non-profit theatrical organization, Cynthia decided to shift gears and move to New York.  She traveled internationally as a performance artist and came full circle back to the oceans after a life changing experience swimming with wild dolphins in Key West, Florida. “Making eye contact with a dolphin swimming 4 feet away from me, shifted my awareness. I realized we can also coexist harmoniously with our environment.” After that moment, she realized that one of her life missions was to protect whales, dolphins and marine-life from human harm. This experience prompted the creation and vision for Ocean Lifeline. A few months later, Cynthia relocated to the big island of Hawaii to film dolphins, manta rays and the plastic beach. The production was supported by the organization, New York Women in Film and Television as the Fiscal Sponsor. “People living in big cities such as New York live a fast paced lifestyle” Cynthia says. “Many of us do not even encounter nature at all on some days. The OLL projections and videos remind us that we are still very much connected and a part of the oceans.”

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