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A definite beginner’s guide to Miami’s Art Basel 2012

Once again, Miami’s ultimate event is upon us – Art Basel! Sorry Super Bowl lovers and other deniers, but had Sinead O’Connor been sunbathing instead of Irish, she would have sung Nothing Compares 2 Basel.

The primary and official venue for this event is the Miami Beach Convention Center. Public show days are Thursday, Dec. 6, to Saturday, Dec. 8, noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 9, noon to 6 p.m. I am among a number of folks who are hopelessly addicted to this event and have been for years. But, full disclosure, I have never actually attended it. Instead, I am one of the satellite participants.

For me every winter, two roads diverge in the MIA, and I take the one less traveled, and this makes all the difference. Here are some basic basics about the things going on in the city proper.

During Art Basel week, jumbo white tents rise throughout the city, mostly in the Midtown area. These tents move a bit like Three Card Monte – one year they are here, another they are there, but if you keep your eyes open and don’t gamble, you will be powerfully entertained and find what you are looking for, and what you don’t.

Let’s cut through the hype! Scope in Midtown, Art Asia in Midtown and Pulse at the Ice Palace remain the best of the numerous events that have sprung up over the years. Opinions are not facts, but no matter what you hear, these four are the fairs to cover, the fairs to hang out in, and ultimately, the fairs to gush over – the big dogs. The percentage of pieces that shock, stun, mortify, inspire, turn heads, drop jaws and create laughs at Scope, Art Asia and Pulse is likely to register most highly in the polling — you can trust these polls. Add Art Miami, the most traditional, and no criticism implied, most easily comprehended by those who ever say, “That’s not art!”

These four fairs absorb what’s best in art —never the lowest common denominator. If “Awesome,” and “Omigod,” ever come out of your mouth, skip these fairs and let others battle over the elusive parking spots — this is over your head, plus it’s already far too crowded. Other locales — Red Dot and NADA on the Beach — also register on our wow-of-the-month-club. However, no one needs to go to the Beach to get an easel on.

There are always new things popping up during this week. One seems to be another edition of Tribal Art Miami in the Red Dot tent. New to the scene is Miami Project, which will showcase a number of emerging talents from American galleries; this will be located next to Art Miami. Also new is Context which will feature 65 contemporary galleries, plus seven from Berlin with names like Franziska, Christine, and Eva.

Overture in Midtown will show some Warhol. Just Mad Miami is a Madrid-based crew promising to link Anglo and Latino concepts — sounds right at home. Artexpo Miami and the Miami River Art Fair are other potential must sees. Rumor has it the Heat is also getting involved in something.

If you decide to go, it can be a challenge to navigate it all. There are shuttles from the Beach for our beloved tourists, but for those of us dug in locally, you gotta somehow get there right?If you are a Wynwood goer, you can stop reading for a spell. Otherwise, pay attention.

There is going to be a lot of traffic. As a local, perhaps you’ve got the maneuverability skillz you need to navigate. If so, there is reasonably abundant free parking on side streets nearby, which is far less dodgy than it may feel to one whose amygdala is an intracoastal of fear. However, you may have to search for this parking.

Plan B, the easiest route, means getting on I-95 north, going to I-195 east, then exiting on North Miami Avenue going south. If you don’t know the territory, this is the easiest route. If driving is not your thing, there are new trolleys which may go straight on from the Omni MetroMover. None of these will get you to the Ice Palace though. For Pulse, you are on your own, but it is deeply worth the trouble.

Finally, it is way above my language ability to describe what you might find during this week — several steps beyond. Have no fear, be patient, wear your grooviest walking shoes, your blackest black jeans, a pair of Belgian architect’s specs, and you will be rewarded.

Carl Rachelson is a regular contributor to this newspaper. He has a Masters Degree in the Humanities and is an English teacher at Palmer Trinity School. He may be contacted by email at crachelson@palmertrinity.org

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