Sunday, December 10, 2006

If art matters

Johann Dieter Wassmann, ZEIT-RAUM, 1896. 470 x 270 x 160mm.

I suspect few of the 40,000 heading home this weekend from Miami Basel chose the window seat for their return travel (excepting, of course, locals, those with private jets and those for whom the window seat was the last remaining in first class). It’s not a ‘window seat’ kind of crowd. Watching the lights of the Brittany coastline twinkle below on my way in to Frankfurt, I pine for the days when it was otherwise. I struggle to imagine Joseph Beuys strutting his stuff daily on South Beach, with his entourage in tow, or Marcel Duchamp screaming “I HAVE a reservation,” at Joe’s Stone Crab, both events I witnessed by artists who shall remain un-named. Art Basel Miami Beach is strictly Warhol territory, as is the art-world at large today.

Were Johann Dieter Wassmann to reincarnate himself in the present, I have little doubt he would be sitting in the window seat, as I am. Looking out through this tiny porthole into the night sky at 37,000 feet, I’m reminded of his work ZEIT-RAUM, the namesake for our museum dedicated to his life’s work. ‘Space-Time’, both as a work and as an institution, is a portal of sorts, a suspended moment that takes us from the mundane of everyday life into a slipstream of possibilities, where art is our chosen mode of transport and hope and dreams remain unbounded, not simply a tool for capital gain.

When I land in Frankfurt, I’ll have a three-hour delay before heading home to Leipzig, time enough to send this post and dash over to the Städelsches Kunstinstitut to spend another treasured moment with Vermeer’s GEOGRAPHER. Another time, another place, but a portal like no other. If art truly matters, this is still the reason why.

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