How SCOPE Changed the Game

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The art game changed permanently in Miami in 2006. Whoa, you say. Art Basel began in 2002 after the scheduled 2001 fair was cancelled because of 9-11. Well we can argue, but let me break it down.

It was December 2006 when SCOPE MIAMI premiered its 40,000 square foot pavilion in Roberto Clemente Park on NW 2nd Ave and NW 34th St. Ironically, that part of NW 2nd remains somewhat similar today compared to the space between NW 20th Street and NW 29th, where most of Wynwood’s most dramatic gentrification has permanently and undeniably altered the neighborhood.

Prior to the grand move to Roberto Clemente, SCOPE operated out of a hotel room like Aqua does today. I attended the fair for free, though I get a bit mixed up about whether it was free or I snuck in. Back then, I was still using my alternative-entrance guile as often as possible as a substitute for today’s legitimately earned Press Pass. Nevertheless, I know I didn’t dig into my wallet to enter nor buy an Ai Weiwei. I stumbled in.

So why do I suggest that the 2006 SCOPE changed everything? Because despite the presence of the Rubell Family and Margulies Collection already working the neighborhood, only those in the know were visiting, that is, until SCOPE came up with a brilliant idea — a daily shuttle. The Scope Shuttle provided service from the TownHouse Hotel and Art Basel Miami Beach to Scope Miami and the Flamingo Sculpture Garden every half hour for the duration of the fair, and that shuttle moved masses of curious people from the Beach to a neighborhood they had never heard of, never seen, and thought they might never want to see it again. It didn’t turn out that way, did it?

I distinctly remember driving down NW 2nd Ave one way and Miami Ave another way, and there stood ONE pop-up establishment operating between 20 and 29 Streets. A few years later Panther, Joey’s, and the Wynwood Walls popped up alongside a few other galleries, and that my friends, is all she wrote.

Most all of the houses and apartments are long gone in Wynwood between 20 and 29, and those that are not yet gone will soon disappear. Broken glass remains and lots of street art, but most of the original gangsters are nowhere to be found. Some vestige of cachet exists, but Wynwood does not have the street cred it had. More on that some other time.

SCOPE Miami 2006 redefined the satellite fairs which proliferated, drew the hippest of the underground hip, and gave everyone who was hungry and thirsty for something special a chance to experience a mint city.

Its 40,000-square-foot, artist-designed pavilion was something we had never seen, comprising shipping containers, tents, and lots of art projects. Conceived, designed, and constructed by Scope founder and president Alexis Hubshman, architect Charles Mallea, and expert tentmaker and owner of Event Star, Alain Perez,  the experience of the fair began when you got off the shuttle. Agustina Wood-Gates created Where the Wild Things Grow, a large-scale urban garden of 1,000 waterproof, handmade, green fabric cones. This led to the Sanchez Brothers Between Life and Death: holographic projections inside a real crashed bus. In addition to its ninety exhibitors from fourteen countries, Scope Miami 2006 presented a few dozen other specials, performances, and screenings.

There were bars and tea rooms, a café and VIP Lounge, a chance for a Grolsch, and sound by Derek Cotè sponsored by Land Rover. SCOPE awarded more than $75,000 in awards and artists grants. It was on!

I don’t know if SCOPE realizes that its mission then, to turn viewers into users, turned viewers into addicts who could not get enough, but along with Art Miami, UNTITLED ART, PULSE Art Fair, and The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), SCOPE remains something that has made the week after Thanksgiving in Miami a permanent go-to for thousands and a bucket list item for others.


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