From Thursday December 7 until Sunday December 10, Art Basel will do its annual Miami Beach thing. All you need to know about this year’s main event can be found on <www.artbasel.com/miami-beach>. The rest of the goings on – Miami Art Week – takes place from December 4-10. Venues take place all over the city.
Way back when, when people wore pajamas and life was slow, people would drive to a nearby airport, park, sit on their automobile hoods and trunks, then watch the planes depart and arrive. It was a quaint custom and at that time, the best word to describe this might have been the long since overused adjective – awesome. There was a contrast between those who were flying and those sitting on the car watching. Similarly, there is a distinction between those inside Basel and those sitting on the sidelines watching. For the newcomer, it remains awe inspiring.
That is, of course, if you can get there. As all you positive people in Pinecrest know, Miami’s traffic has gone from unbearable to catastrophic. During Art Basel, it may rise to a level of apocalyptic if you do not prepare. Imagining a weekend sitting in a standstill, then swimming through throngs of tourists at the Miami Beach Convention Center may be like spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square or July along the Grand Canal by the Rialto Bridge in Venice. For some, Disney World may be less stressful, with Kissimmee more aesthetic than S. Dixie Highway.
Here is this year’s strategy:
Tip #1: Use a bike or the train whenever possible.
Tip #2: Xanax
There are alternate venues to the big house. Generous big hitters Art Miami and Context have relocated to the area formerly housing the Miami Herald before the topic of North Korean missiles obliterated everything else from memory. There is a nearby Adrienne Arsht Center Metromover Station which their website, given Art Miami’s lifespan on the new site near the bay, oddly neglects to mention. Expect lots of artwork devoted to climate change and rising waters, especially in that inauspicious location.
PINTA MIAMI-CROSSING CULTURES returns to Mana Wynwood, taking advantage of a spacious backdrop for its annual exploration of Latin America. PINTA remains one of the more agreeable experiences for those long since burnt out on Basel’s sprawling popularity.
Long running SCOPE persists on 8th and Ocean, never stale with its top shelf presence. UNTITLED embodies the cool it seeks, from its 12th and Ocean environment to its website. Others try to stake out this high ground, but seem either pretentious or desperate. NADA, with its return to the Ice Palace, is sure to be returning to its ice cold phase after being exiled to the Deauville for the past several years. Perennial big hitter PULSE Contemporary Art Fair will be stationed once again in Indian Beach Park at 4601 Collins.
Unhyped events take place everywhere during Basel. One interesting proposition is Fair, billed as a non-commercial art platform for and by radical women addressing gender inequality in the art world. Fair takes place in Brickell’s City Centre – the mall – where hopefully, Roy Moore will not be attending. Breakfast in the Park, presented in partnership with West Kendall Baptist Hospital at FIU’s Frost is December 10th’s complimentary breakfast and lecture by Los Angeles-based artist Daniel Joseph Martinez on race, identity, and the body in his multidisciplinary work.
Whether it is fair or not to condemn everyone who wishes to capitalize on Basel is complicated. Many people take advantage of the week, fly down here to rep their gallery, and just schmooze with the avalanche of iphone x carriers. Many more local people avoid the entire affair, repulsed by the putting on of celebrity SXSW, Oscar, Grammy, Cannes Film Festival airs on superficial rooftop patios. Others still exploit the crass folks who come to flaunt their Instagram chops and still-wet-and-cool-today but better hang-on-dearly-tomorrow tattoos. Bigwigs cash in by letting Citi, Cadillac, Bombay Sapphire, and BMW and a hundred others foot the bill for those also offshoring their money in the Cayman Islands since Basel sponsor UBS is no longer viable.
Yes, predatory vultures swoop down on Miami during this week carrying their Architectural Digest guide copies for sure, but ethics and the Paradise Papers are another column.
For many years, Art Basel has been the lifeblood of trendsetting movements in the Arts in a city where there are people who can afford to buy. This year’s topics will of course address geopolitics. Chances are there will be dozens of pieces devoted to current day Americana, Donald Trump, Russia, guns, race, Syria and Jeff Sessions. From its relatively humble origins, Art Basel and its satellites have exploded into global prominence, propelling Miami into stratospheric artistic altitude. Call this art privilege.