Art Basel Miami Beach returns, smaller but ready to party


MIAMI BEACH – It’s back. The annual Art Basel Miami Beach fair, which was canceled last year due to Covid-19, returns next week and takes place across the region. It starts on Tuesday with opening times by invitation only and is open to the public from Thursday to Saturday. It will feature 253 galleries exhibiting work in the city’s convention center, as well as a dizzying number of accompanying satellite art fairs, pop-up shows, and celebrity-staffed private dinners.

It’s a sprawling cultural circus known as “Miami Art Week”, complete with corporate branding exercises, from a sculptural forest by set designer Es Devlin (on behalf of a Chanel fragrance) to a “Yacht the Basel” -Fest, organized by the snack food Cheetos with “dynamic original works of art made from Cheeto’s iconic orange dust”.

The return of the Basel Exhibition Center in Miami could not have come soon enough for gallery owners from all over the world to flock to Florida. While contemporary art auctions are breaking records again, overall gallery sales remain sluggish. A report by the economist Dr. Mid-year Clare McAndrew from Art Basel and UBS found that nearly half of the 700 retailers surveyed saw sustained sales decline in the first half of 2021. Mega traders like Larry Gagosian and David Zwirner with blue-chip lists and several outposts recovered quickly, the report said. But many smaller dealers who had relied on Art Basel to attract new customers and introduce emerging talent struggled.

Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel, can determine the moment when Miami’s revived art craze took off: On September 20, when the US government said it would lift the Covid travel ban for most visitors from Europe and Asia in November and thus the Miami Messe is the first truly international trade fair in the USA since the beginning of the pandemic.

Spiegler’s phone was immediately on fire with messages from dealers who had not previously participated: “By the end of this week, more than 30 galleries were ‘not canceled’,” he said, noting that despite all the grumbling “Fair fatigue” There was still no digital substitute for buying and selling art in the flesh. Almost half of the exhibitors at the fair will now be from overseas and Latin America. “I’ve read all the predictions that the art fairs are over, that nobody will travel anymore,” Spiegler continued. “We have a show that is only slightly smaller than the one in 2019.”

This is undoubtedly a relief for the owners of Art Basel, the Swiss MCH Group, its shareholder Reports show they have lost more than $ 109 million since the pandemic began. However, if the return of the Miami fair is cause for MCH to cheer, the future remains of its two other art fairs – Art Basel Hong Kong, slated for March 2022, and the flagship Art Basel in Switzerland, slated for June 2022 – uncertain. Aside from the growing wave of state repression and censorship in Hong Kong, visitors entering the city are subject to a quarantine of up to three weeks. In March, if the quarantine persists, it will be difficult to imagine that a full-fledged Basel trade fair will take place, said Spiegler. And with Covid infections swelling again across Europe and triggering new bans, one can only imagine what June will bring.

These potential sales losses for Art Basel make the smooth running of the fair in Miami all the more important. To avoid crowds, tickets are now limited in time and require proof of Covid vaccination or a recent negative test and the wearing of masks. These logs may sound familiar – and comforting – to visitors from New York or Los Angeles, but they are almost nonexistent in all of Miami. Local officials have been overruled by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has tried to make himself the face of Republican opposition to the Biden administration’s virus policies. For Spiegler, however, the topic is not up for debate.

“When you bring together thousands of people from all over the world, the only thing that makes sense is wearing masks,” he said. What if a visitor to the fair, such as an art collector worth billions, refuses to accept the order for a mask? Would Basler Sicherheit physically throw you out of the convention center? “That is what it means to have a mask mandate,” Spiegler replied firmly.

Beyond Art Basel, the mood in Miami’s year-round art scene is anything but timid. Superblue, a joint venture between heavyweight gallery Pace and Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective, opened in a 50,000-square-foot renovated warehouse in the Allapattah neighborhood last spring. Meanwhile, Fotografiska, the global series of privately owned photography museums, has announced that it will move to the 42,000-square-foot warehouse directly across from the Rubell Museum in 2023.

And business is strong in the city’s outstanding galleries. In the Fredric Snitzer Gallery, the director, Joshua Veasey, said things are as busy now as they have been at any point in his six year tenure there. He attributes to the established collectors who fled cities to the north or west and wiped out the coronavirus in their new residences in Miami, who first visited the gallery.

“There was a lot of renovation going on after being stuck inside for so long,” Veasey quipped. “These are the problems of the rich.” But the fresh faces in the gallery did not emerge from Miami’s newly arrived “Tech Bros”, from the up-and-coming new media mogul Bryan Goldberg to PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who moved from here amid a wave of Silicon Valley cheerleaders to become the city’s mayor . New, less important customers come with the more typical collector backgrounds of finance and real estate development.

What has seeped out of the tech industry is a love of everything that NFT has to offer. Art Week hosts a bewildering array of NFT-themed meetings, including all-day ones NFT.BZL Conference packed with roster of NFT artists, tech figures, and city and county mayors. One of the many new NFT marketplaces, Very rare, even recruited the engineers SuperWorld To install 20 3D sculptures in the Convention Center of Art Basel, which can only be seen there in their app – a new way of seeing influential eyeballs and at the same time paying the curatorial committees of the fair and the stand fee of around USD 60,000 (and more) bypass.

“I was skeptical at first, I wanted to see whether NFTs have a lifespan of more than five minutes,” admitted the Miami multimedia artist Carlos Betancourt, one of the few established local talents who have embraced the new blockchain-based medium. He said the key to his comfort is finding a platform Aorist, with a curator, Ximena Caminoswho has been a long-time supporter of his work. That and Aorist’s willingness to produce a real-life version of his NFT piece that can only be seen on one screen “What lies beneath” which puts the spotlight on the rapid melting of the polar ice caps caused by global warming. The result, the sale of which will benefit a local underwater sculpture park, is a pair of artificial icebergs – one of which is 6.10 meters high and 9 meters wide and in collages by Sven-Olof Lindblads photos from real icebergs and swim in the oceanfront pool at the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach.

While room rates at the Faena – starting at $ 3,300 a night to $ 5,500 for an ocean view – can limit audiences for “What Lies Beneath,” it will still be hard to see Betancourt’s artwork and its diverse styles in next week To see miami. “Into The Everglades,” his animated silhouettes of Florida wildlife nocturnal on the other side of the 35-story InterContinental Miami Hotel in downtown; “Milagro!” A 38-foot chain of 245 handcrafted charms commissioned by the City of Miami Beach will hang over a busy city boulevard; and two of his photos – homoerotic Portraits by himself as well as by his long-term partner and employee, the architect Alberto Latorre, in a group exhibition “Skin in the Game” in a beach shop.

His Ubiquity, Betancourt said is evidence that Miami’s museums and collectors have finally embraced the city’s own artists, spurred on by Art Basel’s attention to the work produced in Miami. “People had an inferiority complex here for many years,” he continued, remembering arriving from Puerto Rico as a teenager in 1980, where he discovered an arts scene that too often looked elsewhere for direction. The shift will be evident next week as local institutions proudly display work embedded in Miami’s social fabric.

For starters, Anastasia Samoylova’s “FloodZone” photos in the HistoryMiami Museum captures an often surreal visual interplay of flora, fauna and crumbling concrete; Gary Monroe’s “Refuseniks” photographs at Florida International University Miami Beach Urban Studios offer a poignant study of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union in the early 1980s who were building a new life for themselves in what was then an unraveling South Beach; and Jared McGriff’s otherworldly painting in NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale depict visions of black life that are both troubled and hauntingly adorable.

This seriously minded piece of art will be showcased as part of a weeklong tropical party. If that seems contradictory, Betancourt believes that is exactly what made Miami its self-worth as an art city, Betancourt believes, “We enjoy the party and that manifests itself in our work,” he said. “That’s what Miami brings into the equation – we do everything without an apology.”



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