Each year during Miami Art Week and Art Basel, I always wonder if people who come in town only for this week of the year think that Miami is just this giant playground of insanity. The thought is valid, only because for this week of the year, the city is on neon steroids, even more so than other crazy weeks of the year (I see you Sobe Food & Wine, Miami Boat Show, and the entire month of March).
There is no shortage of parties, galleries, panels, lunches, dinners, and branded pop-ups all over the city, and not just on Miami Beach where the “real” Art Basel event takes place. From Coral Gables to Aventura and everywhere in between, art collectors, locals, visitors, and those who unwillingly find themselves stuck in the massive traffic jams are not immune to the madness of Miami Art Week and “Basel.”
Bananas About Art Basel
Technically, Art Basel Miami Beach is only one part of the whole of Miami Art Week, but the two terms have almost become interchangeable. Similarly to how some people view Miami Music Week and Ultra. According to the website, Art Basel Miami Beach is the American show where “leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia show significant work from the masters of Modern and contemporary art, as well as the new generation of emerging stars. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, films, and editioned works of the highest quality are on display in the main exhibition hall.”
Surrounding the actual Art Basel exhibition, where you could have found the infamous banana and duct tape artwork this year, are many, many other art exhibits and events that fall under the Miami Art Week umbrella.
According to the New York Times (wow, thanks for the nod, NYT), Miami Art Week is the “most densely packed event on the art world calendar.” Judging by the heaviness of my body and the aching in my legs, I can confirm this is an accurate statement.
For the past five years, I’ve found myself lured like Alice in Wonderland into the craziness of this fabulously trendy week, and each year, it feels somewhat unnervingly strange that this is all happening in my backyard. When it comes to Art Basel & Miami Art Week 2019, here were some of my highlights.
Art Fairs: Art Miami + CONTEXT, UNTITLED, Art, SCOPE
In addition to the big Art Basel exhibition, there are close to 20 other art fairs around the city during Miami Art Week, along with countless other pop-up art galleries in warehouse spaces, hotel lobbies, and other spots around town like restaurants and bars. If you love art, this is the place for you. Literally, everywhere in the heart of Miami is the place for you.
Most of the art exhibitors are galleries from around the world that bring in curated collections of their premier artists to showcase to serious collectors, hobbyists, decorators, and people like me who can afford to look but not touch. I enjoy spending time roaming the air-conditioned aisles of the big white tents looking for pieces of art I can only dream of purchasing for a large home I don’t own. I give these artists a lot of credit because pieces are priced at an average of 10s of thousands of dollars, and the effort that goes into showcasing them at a huge event like Art Basel must be colossal. Though I wonder, how much of it actually gets sold…
There are always a few pieces each year that catch my attention, and I hope to one day find those artists when I have some extra income. I’m a big fan of promoting art and artists (as a writer myself), so I understand the value in actually buying art when appreciated. Note: Even without buying anything, it can be quite pricy to attend these art fairs, unless you have access to complimentary VIP cards. Fairs like SCOPE and UNTITLED on Miami Beach have $40 entrance fees each. Plus, you’ll surely want to sip on $30 glasses of Champagne as you browse. The day can get expensive, so it’s important to plan for that when visiting Miami for some annual “Basel-ing.”
Art + Champagne Parties
One of the highlights each year at Art Basel is the Ruinart Champagne party at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. This year, the event was “a star-studded champagne fête celebrating artist Vik Muniz. Muniz’s artwork series, Shared Roots, was the inspiration behind the evening, which fused art and gastronomy while officially launching the Vik Muniz x Ruinart Champagne Leaf limited-edition print, in which 100% of the proceeds benefit Imazon, a Brazilian nonprofit dedicated to Amazon rainforest conservation.” Additionally, famed Chef Daniel Boulud was a special guest whipping up some fancy treats for celebrity and non-celebrity guests alike.
I always enjoy this event because I can’t imagine a better sunset party than drinking Champagne in a botanical garden with great eats and chill beats to get the evening started. Each year, the event takes place on Wednesday of Basel week, and it’s a perfect entry into the creative madness that follows.
Of course, Ruinart isn’t the only brand that hosts an art + Champagne party. This year, I was lucky enough to attend another event anchored by Perrier-Jouët at a super pretentious Miami River restaurant. The party was a late-night soiree full of minor celebrities and models who you may or may not even know. A “see and be seen” party is one not to miss if only to say you were there (which I was). Over the course of the week, there are many parties that exist solely for bragging rights. Frankly, I just wanted the Champagne. Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque is a favorite of mine, and I thoroughly enjoyed sipping it as it flowed freely through the night.
Branded Events & Pop-Ups
As someone who has been in marketing for many years, I enjoy a well-produced activation, and Basel is full of them. I was very impressed with wine brand, Santa Margherita’s “Follow the Vine” pop-up event at the Perez Art Museum (PAMM). Complete with a vine maze, tasting stations, and a tented tasting room with a 360-degree video about the winery’s history, Santa Margherita created a perfect little wine country oasis next to Biscayne Bay. Bravo, Santa Margherita, you truly won Art Basel branded pop-ups this year.
Another great branded event was in partnership with Fords Gin at the Mondrian hotel on South Beach. The event was marketed as a “vibrant reception introducing Richard Orlinski’s “Born Wild” collection to the Magic City. Attendees will preview a variety of colossal animal sculptures and enjoy complimentary a DIY gin and tonic bar on the Mondrian’s scenic pool deck overlooking Biscayne Bay.”
The gin was smooth, and the DIY tonic bar was a fun, interactive way to be a part of the party. While I’ll admit that I did not see much art at this event, the view on the west side of Miami Beach looking out toward Downtown Miami is artwork itself. Another very well done, albeit lower-key event.
As I mentioned before, pop-up art galleries are everywhere during Art Basel week and so are celebrities. Combine the two, and you have an event like the New York Academy of Art art- installation themed “Bliss,” curated by Brooke Shields and Helena Christensen at the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key.
Brooke and Helena led a panel on their artistic choices during Basel week at a NYC- themed affair at the Mandarin lobby bar. We learned why these women choose the art they do, and how we can all be involved in cultivating new artists through the programs at the New York Academy of Art. It was a truly a New York City kind of night overlooking the stunning skyline of Miami.
Art, Tech, Etc…
Multi-media and digital art are so hot right now, and there was no lack of galleries showcasing this medium. Miami Beach’s very own ARTECHOUSE was in full-display of Infinite Space by Refik Anadol, described as, “The first major retrospective of the work of award-winning digital artist, the exhibition invites visitors to open senses to endless transformation and infinite possibilities at the intersection of man and machine.”
Another thought-provoking digital art space was the Canvas Miami Gallery’s “You Can’t Eat Money” exhibit by glass artist, Zac M. Knudson. A small exhibit, “You Can’t Eat Money” challenges the way that we view our modern lives and our relationship to money. According to the Canvas site, “This cogent and provocative exhibition is the biggest undertaking for the South Florida native to date and will include interactive, site-specific installations, as well as new artwork never before seen by the public. In his work, Knudson captures the zeitgeist of modern culture; our collective obsession with excess, convenience at the expense of the environment, and preoccupation with money…”
At opening night of the gallery, guests were treated to glasses of rosé by Ultimate Provence, a welcomed reprieve from some of the cheap prosecco passed around at many of the events, which I gladly drank, by the way–no knock on saving a few bucks. Even though it’s free during the event, you’ll pay physically for those 16 glasses consumed over the course of the evening the next morning.
And Then, the Bananas
It seems as though bananas had quite the moment at Art Basel 2019, judging by the headlines. If I had known that all it took was taping a rotting banana to the wall in order to make a few hundred thousand dollars, I would have done it years ago. As you can imagine, it’s basically anything goes at Art Basel and Miami Art Week, and if this makes it all look crazy, that’s because it is, but we love it.
Art Basel is truly a special event in Miami, and if you’ve never experienced this magical week in the Magic City before, start making your reservations for next year NOW. It’s slim pickings if you wait for the last second to book hotels or other accomodations. We look forward to being weird with you next year.
If you have any questions about Art Basel, Miami Art Week, or banana art, please leave them in the comments or reach out.