The term “culture vulture” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person who avidly attends cultural events.” In colloquial use the term has a negative connotation; implying that culture vultures have less interest in arts and culture as much as feeding off the social cache of attending high brow art events.
Miami’s Art Basel, which just recently ended, was described by NY Mag’s Alexandra Peers as “tropical Woodstock for the wealthy.” A celebrity invasion of more partying than art. She goes on to question if the vultures might be devouring the true intent of the fairs.
Peers is not the only purist left wondering what it all means. Charles Saatchi wrote a scathing article in The Guardian relating the decline of art buying to “sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard.” Ouch!!
Is it possible that art is seeing the dawn of a populist run like we’ve seen with wine and other luxuries over the last 10 years? It could trend for several years and then fade away, left to the old guard who stood watch in the meantime. Or, could this be a changing of the guard? Saatchi, Peers and others like them may be the grandparents shaking a finger at the jeans-wearing, long-haired kids…and things may never be the same.
Saatchi says himself, “Not so long ago, I believed that anything that helped broaden interest in current art was to be welcomed; that only an elitist snob would want art to be confined to a worthy group of aficionados. But…”
Well, Mr. Saatchi, no but’s. As hard as it may be to accept, the art world may have to swallow this jagged little pill. Wealth is transferred differently in a consumer world and plutocracy, with all of its brash informality, has replaced aristocracy. Worst case scenario – everyone will start collecting and buying fine art. Is that so bad?