North America’s foremost international modern and contemporary art fair has called Miami Beach home since 2001, 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. It attracts a sophisticated international crowd of gallerists, artists, collectors, and glitterati to the sands of South Beach and beyond.
Satellite Fairs & Events
While Art Basel Miami Beach is undeniably the main event, it’s spawned more than 20 satellite fairs, stretching from Midtown to Downtown. In 2004, Design Miami launched, a sister fair to Art Basel, exploring the global world of design, culture and commerce. Miami’s own museums and galleries present their most compelling work during Art Basel.
"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 or Midtown during the fair will offer public art and installations, unparalleled people-watching and unpredictable spectacles.
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 Miami Beach, it capitalizes on its unique geography as the nexus of North America and Latin America. In 2013, a third iteration of Art Basel spawned in Hong Kong, a city known for being the gateway between East and West cultures.
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 from their artists inside their booths. Positions consists of booths with work by a single artist and Nova features new works. Editions premiered in 2013 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 are found free and open 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 boasts a 7,000 square-foot projection wall to showcase video art.
Tips & Need to Know Details
With plenty of ground to cover and drawing crowds upwards 50,000 people, 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.
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 plenty of Champagne to get you in the mood. Allow yourself a lunch or snack break while you cover the grounds.
For first timers, a good starting place is to attend Art Basel and then select one or two other satellite fairs of interest. Don’t plan on attending more than two fairs in a day to keep from wearing yourself out.
While it’s easy to purchase tickets onsite any day of the fair, you can save time waiting in line by purchasing online ahead of time. For more information visit Art Basel Miami Beach.
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