This is going to be a hybrid photo post/blog post, but I am calling it a photo blog to let myself off the hook and not go super in-depth and detailed on the beast that is Art Basel. Partially that’s because I’m hardly an expert (as I will explain in a sec) and it’s pretty much impossible to properly describe and document Art Basel in one blog post. Even being a “photo blog”, it’s still turned into a long post.
Art Basel is one of the largest art fairs in the world. The original is in Basel, Switzerland in June. Since 2012 there has been a Miami Beach version in December. It’s grown to be pretty much the biggest thing in Miami all year. Tens of thousands of people come to Miami for the art and the parties. The main Art Basel fair is at the Miami Beach Convention Center, but there are numerous satellite fairs throughout Miami Beach, Midtown, Wynwood, and more recently the Design District and Downtown (and even beyond that). Some are large fairs in gigantic, climate controlled tents (like Art Miami, Red Dot, Aqua, etc.) and other are smaller events at Miami galleries or pop-ups in empty lots. A lot of Miami institutions will also have big Art Basel parties and events. There are always tons of hotel and restaurant openings since it’s a huge time of year for tourism. Miami goes a little nuts around this time.
Every year I read a lot of articles about Art Basel and start to think about possible things to tackle or check out. However once Art Basel is here, it gets so crazy (in terms of people, traffic, prices, etc.) that I start to hesitate. I work in Midtown, so I am surrounded by all the satellite fairs and walking/driving/even parking in my garage becomes a major hassle. Also last year I lived on the beach, so getting home was a nightmare. So in past years I kind of have said “forget that” and have treated it like a weekend to stay in. Kind of like when a hurricane comes through… But then once Art Basel is over I always kind of regret not taking advantage more of what’s going on (a lot of which is really awesome despite the traffic and people).
Art Basel is just so huge at this point and things are happening all over the city, that I don’t think you can sanely try and see it all or even most things. I took an approach of finding different things that interested me and seeing if people wanted to join me. A lot of my friends have a similar attitude of thinking Art Basel is cool, but finding themselves shutting down over all the traffic and hassle.
I would say this year I was low to moderately successful with Art Basel. I certainly did more than in previous years. Looking back I wish I had checked out more of the larger fairs. While I saw some very cool pics from out-of-town friends at fairs on the Beach, I don’t regret at all making the choice to not cross the causeways into Miami Beach. I do however wish I had done Art Miami or Red Dot or one of the other satellite fairs in Midtown (especially since they are across the street from work). I love Art Wynwood in February, which takes place in the same tents. A great way to see a lot of cool art in one place. I just let my self-preservation instinct kick in too much.
Instead I checked out two larger events, both of which I was really happy I attended. And I spent some time in Wynwood just walking around, checking out some galleries, some of the murals, and some of the pop-up events that were there. The two events are what I want to highlight, especially the first one.
As more of a closing before I go into descriptions of the two events- Art Basel is certainly a very cool and exciting time of year. Miami is very lucky to have it and it’s done a lot for Miami economically and culturally. This isn’t the place to get advice on how to do Art Basel, especially if you’re traveling in from out of town. However, you’ll find countless articles in October and November leading up to Art Basel with suggestions. My only advice is to try and figure out what you want to do (the main Art Basel fair with the finest galleries, more “affordable” satellite fairs, stick to the free/cheap stuff happening on the streets like in Wynwood, etc. or a combination). Then try and find the way to do that with as little driving and travel as possible (the free trolleys, Uber, Car2Go, DecoBikes, walking from your hotel). And that may mean revising your original plan and cutting a few things. If you’re more of an art “expert” and have specific types of art, galleries, or artists in mind that’s worth searching for. Otherwise it’s just finding a few things that catch your attention and making sure you don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) creep in. Because with how much there is to do it will drive you crazy if you focus on that!
https://www.artbasel.com/miami-beach- the main Art Basel website. That only covers the main fair at the Convention Center itself. There are countless other satelite fairs and events going on. I’d recommend looking for profiles in publications like the Miami Herald, New York Times, Ocean Drive magazine, etc. to help plan your visit.
The RAW Project at Jose de Diego Middle School (JDD)-
This was an event planned by a Teach For America alum, Catalina Hidalgo, who is the science coach at JDD. Parts of Wynwood (the arts district) obviously have been transformed by the galleries and the murals, but a lot of people would argue that success hasn’t been shared by the larger Wynwood community (traditionally a working class, Puerto Rican neighborhood). Jose De Diego is right in the middle of Wynwood and it’s own art programs are severely lacking. That’s clearly not a result of the gentrification of Wynwood (instead it was budget cuts and the recession), but it did get Catalina thinking about the possibility of collaboration/synergy. She reached out to different organizations in Wynwood and eventually got 36 artists from Miami and around the world to come to Jose de Diego and paint murals all around the school. It not only creates a pretty incredible environment for the students (and hopefully leads to a lot of inspiration), but the goal was also to raise $500,000 through the project (donation, sponsorships, silent auction, etc.). I went on Tuesday when it first was open to the public, but it then was open throughout Art Basel. Below are the pictures I took and you can also check out an article in the Miami Herald about the really cool project here.
Vizcaya-fy Or Bust
The second main event was with some friends who were visiting from out of town on Saturday. I am not going to lie I wasn’t super feeling the event beforehand or trying to do a lot of Art Basel stuff on the Saturday night, but I am glad they dragged me along. I had been to Vizcaya before and I love it. My visit was before I started my blog, but I had thought about doing a “throwback” blog post even several years later (it feels odd not to have Vizcaya highlighted on here). I decided instead to visit again and do a post, but have been slacking on that return trip. I do think that everyone needs to see Vizcaya during the day to get a full impression. However I was just in awe of Vizcaya during this evening event.
Vizcaya had commissioned several artists to design art (sculpture, painting, music, performance art) that they thought represented Vizcaya as an idea. Honestly, the art didn’t catch my attention very much. But Vizcaya all lit up at night with tons of lights was incredible. I am not sure how often Vizcaya is usually open at night (it’s usually only open until 4:30 PM) and if it’s usually lit up. But if you have the opportunity to visit Vizcaya at night for an event I would highly recommend it. Definitely check and see if an event is happening at night at Vizcaya next Art Basel. Vizcaya is insanely beautiful (including the grounds) and all lit up it was spectacular. Check out the pictures below the RAW project pics, although the pics only somewhat do the Vizcaya at night justice.