North America’s foremost international modern and contemporary art fair has called Miami Beach home for more than a decade, showcasing over 250 galleries from 31 countries inside the Miami Beach Convention Center. Through the years, Miami’s own local galleries have made their way into the venerated exhibition space, including Fredric Snitzer Gallery and Spinello Projects, further cementing Miami as a world cultural capital. Widely considered the most important and exciting time of year in Miami, Art Basel Miami Beach brings a certain electricity to the air in early December.
Satellite Fairs & Events
The fair attracts a sophisticated international crowd of gallerists, artists, collectors, and “glitterati” to the sands of South Beach, and beyond. The fair at the convention center is undeniably the main event. However, it’s spawned a slew of satellite fairs, stretching from Midtown to Downtown, as well as its sister fair Design Miami, which explores the global world of design culture and commerce. It’s also the time of year when Miami’s own museums and galleries present their most compelling work.
“It’s the quintessential place to show,” says Robert Fontaine, director of the Robert Fontaine Gallery in Wynwood. “It’s a spotlight on the newest of the new. These artists are producing the best works of their career to show at the world’s fair of fine art.”
Where art is found, a fashionable crowd is never too far behind. Designers and magazine editors throw events and parties, from luxury retailers in the Design District to the rooftops of chic boutiques in South Beach.
And speaking of parties, for those in the know and who can get past the velvet rope, Art Basel is a whirlwind of non-stop revelry. Nightclubs host celebrity-splashed soirees and “pop-up” clubs dot the city from South Beach to Wynwood, offering ephemeral experiences for lovers of nightlife.
In fact, Art Basel is all about surprise and delight. A simple stroll through South Beach during the fair will offer public art and installations, unparalleled people watching opportunities, and spectacles unable to predict.
Background & Aspects of the Fair
Art Basel Miami Beach is the sister fair to the original Art Basel, founded in Basel Switzerland in 1970. In 2001, the fair traveled to Miami Beach for the first time and has shown annually here ever since, capitalizing on its unique geography as the nexus of North America and Latin America. This year in May, a third iteration of Art Basel spawned in Hong Kong, a city known for being the gateway between East and West.
At Art Basel Miami Beach 500,000 square-feet of exhibition space is divided into seven sectors, Galleries, Nova, Positions, Edition, Kabinett, Public, Film, and Magazines. These sectors allow visitors to navigate the fair and experience the many dimensions of modern and contemporary art. For instance, much of the fair consists of the Galleries sector where individual galleries present a range of work inside their booths. Positions consist of the work of a single artist and Nova features new works. Editions will premiere this year featuring leading publishers of editions works and prints.
One of the most engaging sectors is Public. Set at Collins Park in collaboration with the Bass Museum of Art since 2011, outdoor sculptures, site specific installations, and performance art can be found free to the public. The Film sector also presents work in an outdoor venue (in addition to at the convention center) at the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center’s SoundScape Park, which features a 7,000 square-foot projection wall to showcase video art.
Tips & Need to Know Details
With tons of ground to cover and 50,000 people in attendance last year, Art Basel Miami Beach is, in a word, overwhelming. And that’s not even counting the endless satellite fairs, parties, and events you’ll also probably want to pack into your calendar. It’s important to pace yourself so that you can get the most out of the experience without kicking into contemporary art overload.
For first timers, a good starting place is to attend Art Basel Miami Beach and then select one or two satellite fairs of interest. Don’t plan on attending more than two fairs in a day to keep from wearing yourself out. Depending on the fairgoer, you may wish to let your whim be your guide as you wander the maze of booths, or use the floor map and select galleries of interest to prioritize your time. Guided tours by established art critics are also available if reserved in advance.
You can easily make a day of it at Art Basel, and the convention center is equipped with two self-serve restaurants, five cafes, and an outdoor café across the street at the Botanical Gardens—not to mention free flowing champagne to really get you in the mood. Allow yourself a lunch or snack break while you cover the grounds.