Miami’s biggest annual event is once again upon us. Art Basel – Basel rhyming with nozzle not dazzle or Hazel –once again will invade Miami with a vengeance from Dec. 4-7, sort of. Satellite venues may begin two days earlier.
Locals beware! Don’t get caught in the crossfire. Nothing here is bigger artistically, and our already gut-wrenching, teethgnashing traffic will soon make you feel like Freddy Kruger. During this week, the freaks come at night AND all day. This is a full-scale, frontal attack on your senses, cutting edge defined.
In the past few years, most of the big time venues have moved to Miami Beach. This year, PULSE flees the Ice Palace and joins the exodus from Midtown/Wynwood that NADA began in 2009, before SCOPE peeled off last year, leaving only Art Miami, CONTEXT and Miami Project as true players for real in the city. So what can we expect?
Art Basel is a bad mother – shut yo’ mouth! Yes – there will be Isaac Hayes, Erykah Badu, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence lookalikes, wannabees and the real things everywhere. Watching people is never any better than this week. Never! Nowhere!
Basel’s popularity blasted through the ozone layer in 2013, having brewed along with Panther for years. Last year, the masses came – ruining the vibe a bit, especially in Wynwood where connoisseurs had to contend with the Philistines. Forbes hilariously recommended a visit to Coral Castle to escape the throngs, like replacing a headache with Oxycontin.
Miami’s common aborigines — those with funds, shorts, low white sneakers, grotesque surgery and plaid short-sleeved shirts — will invade otherwise excellent Art Miami and the refined will rub shoulders with camera-toting tourists posting every shot onto their Facebook pages. For some context – at Basel proper, you can negotiate for a Picasso, not purchase key chains shaped like Florida, coconuts, palm trees or alligators.
Art Basel’s venues define cutting edge, not cutting board. This is not a street closure fair.
The Beach is better equipped to absorb the uncool than Wynwood, where outsiders stick out like Napoleon Dynamite on the A Train. Wynwood is simply not able to absorb such an onslaught like the Beach, which can absorb Tony Montana, Justin Bieber and your Hasidic grandmother, and genre benders still triumph over any cut and paste crowd. There are times when Miami displays of wealth can appear as crass as a Ludicris music video – cigars, Lamborghinis and Ciroc. Mostly, this is different, with thousands of insiders, an international event. The most peculiar thing you will see is the loyal army of Apple users; any other brand is an un-cool giveaway.
My 2014 strategy is this: Go straight to Art Basel when it opens. Visit Untitled, SCOPE, PULSE and NADA. Skip the Wynwood Walls, the Perez, and the Macarthur Causeway, but check out CONTEXT and Project. Investigate booths from Seoul, Berlin, London, Sao Paolo and Hong Kong. Avoid Beijing, Brooklyn, Buenos Aires and Barcelona. If I see a crowd gathering, go the other way. Arrive early. Take side streets. Park and walk. Keep my eyes and ears open for pop-ups like Zak the Baker’s planned gospel explosion. Repeat ‘til Sunday.
Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to firstname.lastname@example.org.