Friday December 8, 2006

The Art Basel guide for normal people

inside art basel

Art Basel is fun! You don’t need to be an expert, or have a big checkbook, to enjoy it. In fact, most people there this weekend will just be there for fun, to look. If you’re thinking about it, just go! You’ll have a good time. The Herald, the New Times, and everybody else has big “Art Basel Guides,” but if all you want is to go for a few hours and see what all the fuss is about, just read the next paragraph and go! This isn’t rocket science, and you don’t need to do any major preparations.

Art Basel is here. Google will give you very nice driving directions if you need them. The parking lot across the street from the convention center charges $10, the garage in 17th Street charges $8. It costs $24 to get in for adults, $12 for kids, students, and seniors. The earlier you’ll go, the less crowded it’ll be and the more time you’ll have to look, and maybe take a break for food at Lincoln Road; just tell the person at the door you’re coming back and they’ll stamp your ticket stub or whatever. Once you’re inside, you can find out about Art Video Lounge, Art Positions, Art Perform, and Art Sound Lounge, which are in the neighborhood and which you may want to check out, too. Unless you want more then a casual day trip, don’t worry about anything else; some of the other fairs are great, but they’re much smaller, and a bit of a hassle. The “special events” are a hassle too, especially for parking. I spent six hours at Basel the other day and I still didn’t see nearly everything.

What to expect
I have pictures of some of the artworks I liked here and here. Expect to do some serious walking! Wear comfortable shoes. The fair is laid out in rows, but when you’re walking around it feels like a complete maze. I’d wandering around at random and getting lost. They have a little map, but trying to follow it to “see everything” is an exercise in futility, and you can walk through the same area over and over and see new stuff anyway.

The people who work for the galleries are all very nice. Unlike at some of the other fairs, they generally won’t start conversations with people (which is a relief for me), but they’re very happy to answer questions. If someone tries to talk to you and you’re not interested, nod and walk away — they’ll think you don’t speak that particular language!

Oh, about “stupid question.” Yes, unfortunately there is such a thing as a stupid question. Don’t ask “what makes this art?” or “couldn’t anybody do that?’ Questions about how something was made, or details about the artist, are great. It’s considered polite to preface “How much does that cost?” with a question that suggests why you’re interested in a particular piece. (Eavesdropping on conversations between gallery employees and visitors is a good way to learn interesting little tidbits.)

Officially, cameras are banned, although these days it’s easy to sneak a little camera anywhere. I walked around with a big camera over my shoulder and photographed everything, and though I have credentials that say I can do so, nobody really checked. Lots of people take photographs, so you should be able to sneak one here and there, so long as you TURN OFF YOUR FLASH. (Yes, break out your camera’s manual right now, and figure out how to take it off auto-flash mode and to turn the flash on and off yourself, because the truth is that the camera often does the exact opposite of what you need to take a good photo. But I digress.)

Do save some time for Art Video Lounge, which is across the street from the convention center. I haven’t been yet, but in past years it’s always been great. Art positions is about a 10 minute walk from the convention center. It’s usually worth it, especially if you’re wanting to get some fresh air anyway, but mainly it’s more of the same.

By the way, here’s a link to the Art Basel website, not that it’s particularly helpful.

Stuff for free and cheap
Art Basel is expensive! For a family of four it’s $82 with parking. Personally, I think it’s worth it. If you don’t want to spend the money, NADA is free, and it’s great! It’s like a smaller, more relaxed Basel. There isn’t nearly as much to see, and not all the artwork is as impressive, but it’s very much worth a visit. There’s a parking lot that charges $10, but you might be able to find free parking on the street in the surrounding neighborhood.

I think you can get in free to Basel’s Art Positions and Art Video Lounge without a ticket, but I’m not sure. I’ll find out put the information right here by tomorrow morning. [ Update: Yes, Positions and Video Lounge are free. Also on the beach, Bridge, Aqua, Ink, and a couple of the other fairs are free. Basel is still worth the money, though.]

There’s a list of the rest of the fairs here. I’ve also been to Scope, Pulse, and Photo Miami so far, and all three cost $10. Scope was my favorite — I’ll try to do a post about it later. Photo Miami was also great; much much better then a lot of people were for some reason expecting. I wasn’t as crazy about Pulse. I generally don’t like the hotel-based fairs like Aqua, because the rooms tend to be cramped and not good for looking at art (ymmv).

Whatever you do, don’t waste your time this weekend going to the Miami Art Museum, Miami Art Central, the Margulies Warehouse, or any other place with art that you can visit next weekend, or in a month. These places are all very much worth visiting, but this weekend they’re overrun with out-of-town art people, and there’s a lot going on that’ll be gone by Sunday evening.

Other events
The big thing is Saturday night in the Design District/Wynwood. There’s going to be a huge street party, with all the galleries open, bands playing, and general mayhem. Traffic and parking are going to be the nightmare of the century, but it’ll be fun. I’m probably going to entrust myself to the hands of friends who will know what to do (Update: Though Cody Chesnutt is performing at MocaSonic!). Tons and tons of other events listed at Alex in the City (I don’t know who she is but she’s doing a great job of rounding this stuff up), The Next Few Hours (a great, “mostly kid-friendly” list), and Miami Nights (party-oriented). You might also try to slog through the Herald’s coverage: try here and here, or try the New Times, who says “We’ve got Basel’s best!”, but appears to list everything (I’m just scanning). It’s probably better in the print version. Online they say “see our Art Basel Event listings” but there’s no link, and I can’t find them!

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  1. whl    Fri Dec 8, 12:07 PM #  

    great advice. so true!

  2. Art Carnage    Fri Dec 8, 02:22 PM #  

    Where can I find Art Basel for Sub-Normal People?