In 2011, the feminist writer and artist Eurydice Eve opened a 10,000sf art exhibit space across from Art Basel in Miami Beach titled “Occupy Art Basel” and organized as a protest exhibit, an art “unfair” in contrast to the Art Basel fair where billionaires outbid each other for pricey artworks. Eurydice’s intention was “to protest the unholy marriage of money and art.” The art was Not For Sale. The featured artists proclaimed: ‘In Art We Trust!’
In 2011, a protest movement against the corrupting influence of money took place in Zuccotti Park across from Wall Street, and Art Basel celebrated its tenth anniversary in Miami. “Occupy Wall Street” inspired a global Occupy movement: people protested extreme income inequality, the inadequate accountability for big banks after the Great Recession of 2008, and the undue influence of corporate wealth in politics and government. Populist opposition to socioeconomic elites led to the cultural wars of today.
In the spirit of the Occupy Movement, Eurydice kept “Occupy Art Basel” leaderless, did not release the names and schedules of participating artists who flew in to give protest performances, and gave no interviews despite a media storm that followed The New York Observer reporting that "protesters have moved down to Miami for Art Basel.” Art Basel warned participating galleries of the possibility of occupation.
Eurydice simply posted a long “Occupy Art Basel” manifesto on tumblr. https://at.tumblr.com/eurydice-eve/rtguzft7rwmz She printed a zine questioning the ethics of purchasing art as pure commerce; sixty six thousand free copies of it were picked up by the visitors who toured “Occupy Art Basel.”
The Occupy Movement was eventually criticized for not having a set of clear demands that would prompt policy change. It fizzled because it lacked a clear agenda. Eurydice came out of Occupy Art Basel though with a comprehensive idea for policy supporting a basic income for working artists in exchange for art for which she credited a conversation she had with a stranger at her protest exhibit.
Eurydice was stitching a flag tapestry that read “Do You Own a Eurydice?” in her “art unfair” when the idea for a Universal Artist Income first hit her. “This is how hand-stitching is magical: it frees the mind to wander off in free unsupervised time rather than focus on its usual busy work,” Eurydice later said. “I was embroidering in front of staring crowds, my mind spaced out in thoughtland. I was stitching together torn flags, expressing the emotional effect on an artist of seeing her art being auctioned off to the highest bidder. An artist from Tibet introduced himself and we chatted. He told me that he had a patron who bought every painting he made and paid him $111,000 a year in exchange for about a dozen artworks a year. He called this a living wage, but I thought it was an amazing deal. Any artist I knew would take it. My mind went to the New Deal and WPO and I couldn’t unthink it. I kept finetuning a proposal for a Universal Artist Income.” Eurydice spent the next five years writing about a national public works program for artists who would send a number of artworks per quarter that met set standards of quality in exchange for a living salary, benefits, and a pension.
Ten years later, art has only become less affordable, income disparities between the 99% and the 1% have grown, and her cause is more relevant. Inflation is at a record high and people have to choose between their passion and survival. Most artists compromise and produce what the market asks for. Eurydice objects that for artists to survive they must be able to pursue their calling. Eurydice argues that artists are essential to cultural coherence. Authentic universal art unites people and their inherent contradictions in the face of mounting chaos. Art must be safeguarded at all costs.
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