Uncovering treasures at Art Basel Miami Beach
Art Basel Miami Beach in 2007. (Courtesy MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd.)
Thousands of art enthusiasts will flock to Miami from 2 to 5 December during the ninth run of Art Basel Miami Beach (the sister event of the 41-year-old Art Basel fair which takes place in Switzerland every June). The past two years in Miami have been a bit more mellow due to the economic downturn, but with the art market looking up after the recent successes of New York's major auction houses, the scene is primed for a 2010 Miami Basel of great parties and even better art viewing.
The main event
Art Basel Miami Beach fair (ABMB), housed in the Miami Beach Convention Center, is not for the faint of heart. The often packed house includes the main section of the fair in which blue chip galleries have booths where all works on view are for sale, including museum quality pieces, and the rest of the space is devoted to smaller sections. Art Nova, found in one corner of the fair, includes galleries showcasing work hot off the presses by two to three emerging artists. Art Positions, in another corner, showcases a single major project by one artist in each booth. And Art Kabinett gives galleries an opportunity to show small curated exhibitions within their booths. With booths in the main section labelled in rows from A to L, the best plan of attack is to go row by row through the space.
Art Basel Miami Beach also hosts a nightly program at the Oceanfront, which is free and open to the public with a bar and local food trucks, music, video and performances. Official guided tours of the fair by established art critics are available for $20 per person in English and Spanish. For reservations, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
With all that the Art Basel Miami Beach fair has to offer, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of art on display. To see it properly viewers should set aside a few consecutive days for a visit. However, in addition to the more than 250 international art galleries displaying modern and contemporary art at the main fair, there are many other art related events for both seasoned veterans and novices that can be more enjoyable and easier to navigate. For the ambitious, the related fairs mean enough art to test your time and stamina.
While the main fair includes museum quality work that can cost millions of dollars, the satellite fairs contain work that is often more affordable and introduces visitors to artists whom they may not have heard of before.
Not too far from the Convention Center on Collins Avenue in the heart of Miami Beach, is Aqua Art Fair made up of young dealers exhibiting emerging artists. It has had a West Coast emphasis since it started in 2005 and there are some inconsistencies as far as the quality of the work on view, but it is where I managed to snag a small piece for a great price by the award-winning artist Simon Evans for my own collection last year. (Aqua Hotel, 1530 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; www.aquaartmiami.com/index.html; $10 ticket can be purchased at the door and is good for re-entry all week)
NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) has a mission to make contemporary art more accessible to the general public, and is very manageable. Small, young galleries display work by emerging artists that they represent and you could get through it in an hour if you are pressed for time. (The Deauville Beach Resort, 6701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; www.newartdealers.org/miami/2010/; free admission)
Art Miami, located in a free-standing tent in the Midtown Arts District still has not figured out exactly what kind of fair it wants to be. It lies somewhere between ABMB and the smaller satellite fairs showing unknown galleries and artists, but it includes well-known galleries with top notch art. (Midtown Blvd between NE 32 and NE 31 Street), Miami; www.art-miami.com; $15 at the door for a one-day pass)
Private collections are another way to see stellar examples of art in the Miami area. The public is usually not privy to seeing private art collections but there are some wonderful opportunities in Miami during the dates of the fair when curators pull out the big guns. The most famous collections are those owned by the Margulies and Rubell families but others are worth your time as well.