__*Jeff On Top.* Plastic,  55x71x109 inches, 1991.__ Jeff Koons.

Jeff On Top. Plastic, 55x71x109 inches, 1991. Jeff Koons.

A boob. A flaccid penis. A couple having sex. A nude woman. And yes, there is a nude man too. At Miami’s Art Basel, there were naked people everywhere—in the flesh and in the work on display.

For “Desire,” his project at this year’s fair, art heavyweight Jeffrey Deitch used Instagram to call on nude female models. Created with another art heavy hitter, Larry Gagosian, “Desire” consists of 50 artists, from Picasso to Tom of Finland and all the way to Keith Haring, showing more “erotic work.” Artist Jeff Koons’s work of a naked couple having intercourse (above) is amongst the collection. Check, more bareness.

But wait: nudity is not art, and I, for one, barely noticed all this undress—until I did. As I walked around the white passages of the art fair, I noticed how nobody seemed shocked, or even enthralled, by the nudity on display. Attendees seemed to be more interested in sniffing for celebrities (Was that Sarah Jessica Parker? Did Heidi Klum just talk about her love for going to nude beaches?) or actively hunting for the next free booze table.

Artists used to use shock tactics to reveal the world to us. They laid bare the intricacies that made us fundamentally human and used everything in their abattoir to achieve just that. Andy Warhol pushed those soup cans on us to reveal our obsession with all things commercial. British bad-boy artist Damien Hirst bisected a calf and a cow in formaldehyde to make us contemplate death. American photographer Andres Serrano took a model of Christ on the cross and let it sink into a glass of his urine. But that was all in the last century, when we were still shockable.

Based on the work on display at Art Basel, nudity is still the apparent go-to for shock value in 2016. Here, artists attempted to use naked bodies to feed us, the outsiders, indecipherable statements about the world. Aside from Desire, NU MUSES used the fair to launch their 2017 calendar, inspired by “the forgotten art of the classic nude.” The artist Joan Semmel displayed paintings and drawings of the aging female body in the nude. A work by Richard Prince (who famously shot Brooke Shields naked at age ten) hung on a wall. I walked by the S&M-geared sculptures of Allen Jones, entitled Chair, Hatstand and Table. Artist Kenny Scharf had a painting with genitalia in full display and Eric Fischl showed First Sex. Even photographer Helmet Newton’s Big Nude was there.

Once you noticed all the nudity, it was pretty much everywhere—and its appeal drained right out of everything. If a nude model sits in a booth and nobody sees her, did it actually happen?

Clearly, I was meant to understand something bigger about nudity here, but the message just wasn’t forthcoming. That’s because attendees were being told to be shocked rather than going through the motions. The art world seemed to bow to an obsession with Kardashian celebrity and went spread-eagle with its imagery. Somewhere at Art Basel we should have been discussing a pussy being grabbed, but alas, we settled for something lesser.

In her book Glittering Images, Camille Paglia argues that the torrent of penises, spread-eagle dames and smut has not served the broader interests of art. Instead, it has provided fuel for a prejudice that the art world is filled with self-interested, entitled folk and “allowed itself to be defined in the public eye as an arrogant, insular fraternity with frivolous tastes and debased standards.” Paglia adds that the funding of school and civic arts programs have dried up and “art” as a concept has become less of a necessity and more of a “nice to have” item in the world. In sum, all this nudity (not porn, mind you) and very little to show for it.

Yes, of course, there are massive immediate issues at hand that need attention, from domestic surveillance to Medicare to the weaponization of fake news. But the art world has been our stalwart commentary on all of society including these very issues. Without art’s rightful place, what do we have? What is art’s go-to “shock value” worth when everyone and everyone is naked and no longer shocking? Is that when we eventually just become censored?

The world has changed viciously. Politically, we have seen a rise of the populist. Socially, we have seen the uprising of the protestor. The art world has yet to find its rightful place in the midst of all this change. Instead, artists are opting to show some nudes to shock us into what? Buying more art?

At Art Basel, attendees expected to see Kanye naked, hosting a salver of models in the flesh with no robe. But even that wouldn’t shock us into seeing beyond the art fair and taking the more important matters to heart. It’d just be a great clip to upload to our Facebook Lives.

We’ve seen it all at art fairs and online—videos of the most disgusting things you can think of, excessive violence and even a destruction of your childhood heroes. All for the sake of—and against—art. And thus why Elizabeth Peyton’s quiet portrait of President Barack Obama on a corner at the fair stood out in all its softness. Because of its very simplicity and unpretentiousness, it’s a powerful image, and he’s fully clothed in it.