Five Tips from a Miamian & Art Basel Veteran
Art Basel Miami Beach first opened its doors in December of 2002. I started my adventures with the art fair in 2005 as an intern for Art Nexus. As part of my internship for the Latin American magazine, I organized contemporary art tours around the convention center. A few years later, I participated as a performer for artist Rirkrit Tiravanija; yet, my most recent roles include partygoer, fair voyeur, and museum staffer. I feel honored to be a Miamian who has seen how Art Basel’s initial impact created a monumental art wave that changed Miami forever, for the better. This article includes five practical and simple tips for navigating the tropical Art Basel season.
PICK A SIDE
Art Basel has spurred incredible growth in Miami and with it, the traffic. Art Basel Miami Beach is no longer about the official art fair at the convention center, it is also about all the museums’ special exhibitions, the satellite fairs, the art galleries, and the parties. Art Basel used to solely exist on the beach, but now the art sensation has catapulted festivities in every Miami neighborhood. The official affiliate events mostly happen on Miami Beach or in the metropolitan area (Downtown, Wynwood, Design District).
To make sure I complete my art bucket list, I divide and conquer based on geography.
I do the mainland one day and the beach another day. Ride-sharing, boat Ubers – the ways to get around town are tedious or wild, but it still will take you a while. It’s exciting to feel Miami bubbling over with people interested in its culture and art, but sometimes you just want to say, “Vete a tu pueblo” or go “back to your village.” Not because you don’t love the people coming but because you hate being stuck in a one-hour Lyft ride. No metro rail will take you to the beach and back. Some shuttles go back and forth between Art Basel affiliate spaces, but their schedule is not reliable. That’s why I say, pick a side you want to explore that day.
Try to go to a different neighborhood and see what they have to offer. Vizcaya always highlights local artists, and they often have an ethereal evening party. Pinecrest’s Fairchild Gardens features international sculptures and also have an incredible brunch (if you can get a ticket) on the weekend of Art Basel. Florida International Universty has a lovely “Breakfast in the Park” series where they invite a renowned keynote artist to present. This year they are featuring Elizabeth Turk. Although these are large cultural institutions, I encourage you to check out the small galleries located on the fringe of the Design District or Little Haiti to meet local artists and find out what they are creating.
CHECK YOUR PASS
During Art Basel, there are so many parties, and everyone has serious FOMO – even when they are on their way to their next party. There are several kinds of art fair cards/passes with different benefits and statuses. Check that your pass gives you access to the party before you doll up and head to that spot. I cannot tell you how many times I have worked at an Art Basel party and people cannot get in because their pass or invite doesn’t include it. Naturally, people who waited hours in traffic are upset and get nasty when you tell them they are not on the “list.” It’s awful for the staff, and it’s worse for partygoers. Honestly, there are so many bashes small and grand that it would be impossible to go to all of them in one single night. Plan your party list before you leave.
MIX-UP YOUR ART DESTINATIONS
Art Basel Miami Beach has the creme of the creme of the art market. They have classic galleries that deal the modern masters – Chagall, Picasso, etc. But they also have galleries like Pace and Gagosian who deal with the most coveted contemporary artists. If you go to Art Basel Miami Beach, you might not need to go to Art Miami. They feature similar artworks and artists. Instead, try going to Mana Wynwood which shows artworks from Latin America and Spain. Perhaps venture to Superfine or Pulse to find an Avante Garde local artist and swoop up their work before they transcend to the Art Basel fair.
To quote the expert on all things proper, Paddington, “If we’re kind and polite the world will be right.” Perhaps your not on that list you thought you were on, or the line was longer than you thought it would be, or you’re stuck in a car caravan nightmare – don’t worry, the art is waiting for you. For whatever reason, emotions run high during this extraordinary time of creativity and anticipation. Numerous people are interested in seeing that same exhibition or getting that perfect croqueta. Be kind to that visitor services associate at the front desk; he’s there to help you out. Be kind to that waitress at the bakery window; she’s trying to fuel you up for your next artful destination.
List of my Favorite Place to Stop during Art Basel Season
Museums (warning: I’m biased)