Art Basel Miami Beach is a specific art fair held at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The entire week and event is often referred to as “Art Basel.” This is similar to how we all, in decades past, started referring to making copies as “Xeroxing.” There are many fairs and many events that take place during this ever expanding week. The first fact you need to accept is that there is no way you are going to see everything. It is impossible and you will drive yourself insane if you try.
What the whole week is an art extravaganza that dwarfs any that takes place anywhere else ever. It makes no difference what sort of taste you have (and if you are a collector it makes no difference what your budget is) there will be something you appreciate.
In addition to the fairs there are parties, openings, public performance art, public installation art, shows at museums and by private collectors and more. One way to go about it all is to grab a copy of the Miami Herald’s always useful guide (available with today’s paper and also all over town free) and just GO. There are lots of “invite only” events and parties but are you really going to mooch free booze? Many do, of course, but it is more relaxing and rewarding to just buy a Mojito at Tap Tap.
Over the years I have attended many private events and parties and about three-quarters of them have been boring. They are the usual “see and be seen” crap that some folks live for but that leaves me ice cold. The other quarter? Let’s just say Miguel Paredes knows how to put on an event. Anything at Wynwood Walls is a good bet (and you should stop there at some point anyway if you are visiting). Generally speaking? The events that are public are the most important and the bulk of the others are for people whose primary goal in life is to be “on the list.” I paint with a broad brush here and I apologize to those who put on interesting private events.
There are many public events put on by various by Art Basel itself. Go to the websites and look for schedules. Comprehensive schedules of events during the entire week are hard to come by—in part because there is just so much. Also, do not hesitate to wander around in various parts of Miami in and around Wynwood (keep your eyes open, this is still Miami). You can always find something, some showing in a shop or little, out of the way space that will be rewarding.
Here are some descriptions of fairs I have attended over the past several years—as well as some that I intend to be at this year.
Art Basel—this reminds me of another fair, in another city, where I leaned over and told my then 12 year old son; “If you knock anything over you don’t get to go to college.” Depending on which school you want your offspring to attend you can probably say this at most of the larger fairs. This is the fair it is all centered around and justifiably so. Galleries here often have work by established, well-known, artists but not exclusively so. It is also the priciest to enter. Art Basel takes place on Miami Beach. Art Basel’s website is very usable- miamibeach.artbasel.com.
Art Miami/Context-First of all a number of fairs will have multiple personalities. Art Miami and Context are in the same place but are distinct events. Amongst many artists I have spoken to over the years the fair THEY want their work shown in (excepting Art Basel) is often Art Miami. Art Miami is held in midtown Miami. Websites--www.art-miami.com and www.contextartmiami.com.
Scope Art Fair is another of the fairs that take place in Miami. The focus of the fair is emerging artists. Part of the reason artists might want to be in Art Miami is that it could be an indication you have already EMERGED. Emerging is a loaded term, however, as many of the artists you will see at Scope Miami are well-known, well-respected and successful. You are liable to see some that are new to you as well. Website- www.scope-art.com.
Pulse Art Fair is totally dedicated to contemporary art. They are usually situated a bit further south than the other fairs but if you are not a lazy slob you can easily walk the 20 or so blocks down to Pulse. In 2011 some of the most interesting artists I personally discovered were at Pulse. Website-pulse-art.com.
Project Miami is also in Mid Town. I have not been to Project Miami but then no one has since this is the fair’s inaugural year. Their website says the focus is on contemporary and modern art but, honestly, that is generally the focus. You will not see many “Old Masters” at any of these fairs. Website-www.miami-project.com.
There are many smaller fairs in hotels and smaller venues that are well worth taking time to see.
Aqua Art Fair is always at the Aqua Hotel on Miami Beach (for those of you who think the Miami Heat play “on South Beach”? Miami Beach is a separate city from Miami…separated, indeed, by a Bay) they have a Museum Day where anyone holding a card from any museum gets in free. They also do a great deal of public art. Find out more at their website, aquaartmiami.com.
Ink Art Fair focuses on prints and takes place at the Dorchester Hotel on Miami Beach. Basically exhibitors take over rooms at the hotel. This is one of the smaller ones, which will take up a limited amount of your time that is well-worth a look. You will see work by artists you recognize and new artists as well. This is also a place where those of us with less in the checking account can actually buy something! For more head to http://www.inkartfair.com.
To digress a bit—you can also find relatively inexpensive original, one of a kind, sort of works at the larger fairs for less than you might think. In fact you can often find pieces by younger artists at very reasonable rates—less than you might pay for off the rack paintings at hotel auctions. It sounds facetious but this is actually true. Which would you rather own and hang in your home?