The Convention Center
The main fair itself was a labyrinth of over 200 galleries set up in white booths like a vast warehouse style tradeshow, only the attendees were dressed to impress, flashing designer bags and statement-sized jewelry pieces. The crowd was very international, with an emphasis on spoken French and Italian. There were museum-quality pieces from Miro and Warhol on display, and it was thrilling to see the pieces, albeit a bit intimidating and at least for this writer, vastly out of reach. Jenny, a friend I met this week, told me that her boyfriend asked about a small graphite print and was quoted by a cool art dealer "Oh that's just twenty" (as in $20,000!). My advice for first-time goers at the convention fair? Wear comfortable shoes and be aware that cameras are not allowed, although we did spot iPhone cameras snapping away on the floor. If big name artists don't impress, the Art Positions section of the fair may be more your speed. A dozen or so emerging galleries showed works in shipping containers which were set up near the beach, lending a more casual vibe to the experience.
While the main event was definitely worth checking out, I found myself enjoying the low key vibe of smaller satellite art fairs, such as the Ink Art Fair, which took place in a small hotel courtyard across the street from our hotel on Collins Avenue. The success of Art Basel Miami has encouraged the proliferation of smaller art fairs, with more affordable pricing for mere mortals, this writer included. I purchased an inkjet print from a San Francisco gallery at the Bridge Fair and was impressed by the New Art Dealers Alliance fair, which is a revered nonprofit organization of new art dealers and had an exciting youthful energetic pace at the Ice Palace, which was once the site for Miami raves. One of the most buzz-worthy shows during Art Basel week was a collection of 48 new artworks from artists, curated by a young Whitney curator and an artist, entitled The Station, held in a grungy, Williamsburg-worthy half-finished office building in midtown Miami. Another standout this year was In Fashion Photo, a photography exhibit in a covered parking lot near the Design District, which, in its second year run presented a retrospective of fashion photographs of Naomi Campbell.
above: The Sunset Bar at the Mondrian Hotel
Of course no pilgrimage to Miami during Art Basel week would be complete without making a round at the parties. Though this year was supposedly more low key than years past on the party circuit, we enjoyed the poolside scene at the Raleigh Hotel for Vanity Fair's Free Arts NYC/Tommy Hilfiger fundraiser, which featured a cozy beachside bonfire and picturesque sand, which didn't bode well for my stilettos! The opening reception at the new Morgans Group hotel, the Mondrian, featured a hedonistic open bar where Miami socialites were spotted double-fisting glasses of Veuve Cliquot. Another highlight of the week included a GrandLife party held at the temporary Le Baron space at The Florida Room of the Delano Hotel, fusing New York and Paris nightlife party scenes into a rollicking closing night finish.
Let's not forget the beach! Where many priceless mornings were spent contemplating the shoreline and the art-centric activities of the day ahead. My first experience at Art Basel Miami Beach was truly memorable, and so long as they continue the fine tradition of satellite fairs and off-beat parties, I will try to make my way down south for the festivities... Bravo, Miami!