About This Festival
A Four-Day Spectacle
Art Basel Miami, since first launching in 2002 long after the original fair was christened in Switzerland in 1970, has created such an art ecosystem full of diversity that there’s something for just about everyone at this four-day spectacle that takes over Miami. While the epicenter is the Miami Beach Convention Center, there are dozens of off-shoots in the form of off-beat and off-center art fairs strewn throughout the city. And not all of the art is ungodly expensive. Many incredible pieces are around $1,000, which you can take home from what's become the world's most talked about art fair.
Your Guide to the Art Basel Miami Fairs
For the uninitiated, Art Basel Miami can be dizzying. Yes, there’s the big show at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It’s particularly international and huge in scope, but we promise you’ll enjoy your experience more if you check out the more than 25 satellite art fairs that set up shop – often taking over all the hotel rooms in a beachside motor lodge. Here’s a review of a half-dozen to consider:
NADA Art Fair: This may be the most prestigious and exclusive of all those outside the Convention Center, which also translates into the most expensive art. Definitely worth it if you’re a serious collector or want to see and be seen.
Aqua at the Aqua Hotel: Our friend Dirk started this quirky fair and this “little engine that could” has become a must-see for the more bohemian, West Coast art aficionados plus it’s within walking distance of the Lincoln Road mall if you need a break from the art crowd.
Design Miami: If you enjoy your art with a fair dose of intellectual content then this is your global forum for design conversation, especially with an architectural component. The art tent is an exercise in experimental architectural design.
Verge: Another hotel art fair – at the Essex House and Clevelander Hotels – focused on emerging art. A little more slick and East Coast focused as compared to the Aqua Fair. This one has free admission, while Aqua charges $10 to get in.
Art Miami: The Wynwooddistrict has a collection of art fairs (including artMRKT), but Art Miami is the premiere anchor of this midtown area. It’s the original and longest-running contemporary art fair in Miami and tends to be populated by a more established art crowd.
Pulse: This cutting-edge fair emerged soon after Art Basel came to Miami and it’s one of the more respected hip, cooler fairs. Beyond the art for sale, there are original cultural programs, a video lounge and performance art.
Putting the "Art" in Party
Okay, admit it. You go to Sundance not because you love films, but because you like skiing and hanging with celebs. You go to the Super Bowl, not because you enjoy football but because those corporate big wigs know how to throw a swanky affair. Same here. You may not have a clue about art. You can’t tell the difference between a Warholand a Koons. But, you have a scent for a good party. Miami is quite a stage and with the amount of money flowing through the town in early December, you’ll find your share of hedonism.
The more formal events are usually Tuesday through Thursday in the form of art benefits, usually to launch one of the art fairs. These events can be snoozers for a younger crowd, but are for a good cause so they have a sizable entry price. Each year, the New York Times usually puts out a list of the more mainstream bacchanalian events that are available to Joe Public during the week. In fact, we'd advise just Googling "best parties during Art Basel Miami" a week before you go.
In sum, the Art Basel Miami festival is sort of the American art version of the Cannes Film Festival. While the creative art form is the purpose of the event, what's most noticeable is the competitive glamour, perennial tans, big money, and big names. If you like being a small fish in a big pond, this may be your perfect habitat.