Perhaps you've noticed the phenomenon of major articles about Miami popping up in the national press roughly between November and April every year. This year, a general theme of many of those articles has emerged: the serious subject of climate change. Vanity Fair led the pack in December. The New Yorker quickly followed suit. The Atlantic, the New Republic, Politico, and probably quite a few others we're forgetting ventured into the genre in the past few months.
It's certainly an interesting story that deserves national attention, but one of the main underlying reasons for the glut of similar articles over the past few months is that New York (and D.C.) journalists enjoy the opportunity to escape the cold and expense a trip to Miami on their publication's dime.
Maybe it's something we should ignore, but the writer, Jessica Pressler, issued this challenge on Twitter:
She threw the bait into our slowly rising seas, and like a snapper that will someday swim through Miami's flooded streets, we're gonna take it. #SorryNotSorry.
Locals should be particularly offended by the third paragraph, a contemptuous summation of the entirety of Miami:
City boosters will tell you how much Miami has changed over the past few years: how Art Basel, among other things, has transformed this traditionally sunny place for shady people into an international destination for artists and intellectuals. But the city remains resolutely incurious, for the fairly obvious reason that if you start thinking, you realize pretty quickly that whatever you are doing in Miami — be it drinking margaritas or sunbathing or starting a Ponzi scheme or merely existing on a strip of sand that scientists predict will be completely submerged by the end of this century — is long-term unhealthy if not kind of unconscionable.
Yes, Miamians know better than anyone that when visitors (particularly New Yorkers — ask any local coke dealer about that during Art Basel) come to the Magic City, they want to do unhealthy things. Tourism is like half of the city's economy. As long as people continue buying, we'll continue selling. We charge a pretty hefty markup on those margaritas and bottles of suntan lotion. (Our local health is relatively fine, by the way, but that's beside the point.)
Not a single local imagines that hordes of visitors come to Miami to spend their vacation during a regular week attending poetry readings and art openings and finding people with whom to discuss philosophy by the pool. Tourists may arrive armed with selfie sticks to tour the murals of Wynwood and perhaps take a detour to PAMM, but outside of the weeks of Art Basel Miami Beach and the Miami Book Fair, that's about it.
The people boosting Miami's cultural scene are doing it for locals (and they're doing a great job). If tourists want to check it out, that's nice, but no one is handing out flyers on the beach advertising performance art shows.
Pressler's stance is an example of something we've seen hundreds of times that at this point we might as well label "Pamela Druckerman syndrome." That's the phenomenon of journalists visiting Miami, spending their time doing touristy things, and then complaining the city has nothing intellectually stimulating to offer.
Pressler's take is particularly odd because she views Miami through Faena House as if it is some crown jewel of the city's cultural ascendance.
Granted, that's exactly how developer Alan Faena is trying to sell the partially completed collection of luxury condos, high-end restaurants, and fancy hotel rooms. The keyword here is "sell," but we all know what real-estate marketing is about down here, and this won't be the first time we've seen Miami's art scene appropriated by it.
The project has long been viewed with curious skepticism. We all laughed when Faena put out a truly bizarre promotional video for the project in 2013 and proudly proclaimed it would be "a place where we mix culture and art." We all knew it would really be a place that mixed pretension with money.
And, frankly, that was fine with us. It's located in an area that has long been the province of tourists, retirees, and part-time residents. Who cares what they do there? We'll check out a good bar or a restaurant there, but even when we visit that neighborhood, we kind of feel like we're on vacation.
Really, all we've heard from Miami's art community about the development is that a few local artists got some nice checks in exchange for commissioned artwork. So good for them.
It's just another giant development aimed at out-of-town buyers in an (eventually literal) sea of similar projects, except this one has some artsy gimmick.
Apparently, New York-artsy types like megadealer Larry Gagosian, who recently bought a multimillion-dollar pad, are feeling Faena's fantasy, but no one here is.
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SHOW ME HOW
Then, for whatever reason, Pressler throws some hot-topic talk about climate change into the piece.
So what she has done is labeled us "resolutely incurious" and challenged us to come at her, all while seemingly laughing and making light of the serious plight of sea-level rise.
She could have criticized Faena House, and we would have nodded, "Yep, we know." Instead, she mistook pretentious out-of-town one-percenters as representative of the entire city and its capacity for culture.
We hope she enjoyed her escape from the New York winter, though.