Thursday May 17, 2007

What Art Basel really means for Miami


Plenty. Duh: the Basel engine brings important art folks to town, increases Miami’s prominence as a global art hub, and draws the attention of our ordinary citizens to art. But it’s also often pointed out that these benefits are not transitory — they accrue each time Art Basel is here. If Basel goes away, all the good effects it’s brought thus far stay. “Art Basel has planted and irrigated the seeds for the development of the art community in Miami,” says Mariangela Capuzzo.

But there’s another important piece to this puzzle. It’s not just about what Basel does for Miami; it’s about what Miami does for Basel. Where, in 2001, was an ambitious art fair from Switzerland to set up a satellite event? City size is a secondary factor, as is (let’s face it) the strength of the local art scene. What they were looking for was a city (a) as far from Basel as possible, and (b) with a certain cachet.

Let’s consider how the Basel folks might have thought this one through. They’re obviously looking for a city in North or South America. It has to be considered cool. Let’s say they start with São Paulo, maybe the hippest city in South America. Two problems: (1) how convenient is it for US collectors to travel there, plus the fact that (2) the big German festival Documenta has already sort of beaten them to the punch. The former concern applies to all South American Cities, and as tempted as the Swiss must have been by, say Bogota, at some point they must have realized that it would be easier to tempt S. American collectors to the US then to tempt US collectors to go international. Americans are lazy, we all know that. On the other hand — wait a second isn’t there a city that’s technically in the US, but that’s generally considered to be a part of South/Central America in spirit? You see where I’m going with this?

I grant that, having made the decision to go USA, the Swiss folks might have made lots of choices. New York comes to mind. But I think they were specifically looking for a place to call their own: one that didn’t have a strong established reputation on the international art scene, particularly the fair scene. And since their fair is in the Summer, they needed a spot that’d be comfortable in the Winter — i.e., well south of the Mason-Dixon line. Now your choices are down to a few (admittedly hip) spots in Texas, New Orleans, and maybe Atlanta. With everything we’ve considered, do any of these places hold a candle to Miami? Consider the presumable appeal to rich South Americans. Consider the reputation, within the USA, as a resort/vacation destination. Consider the sheer fucking spectacularness of the place.

What’s Basel doing for Miami? Not an unfair question. But I think we should be thinking just as much about what Miami is doing for Basel.

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  1. sacrilegious ?!    Thu May 17, 03:23 PM #  

    As a person very involved with all these proceedings, I have one comment which may be considered very sacrilegious…

    I think Art Basel should only return to a US city three times in a row and then move to another.

    Three years Miami
    Three years New York
    Three years Los Angeles
    Three years Seattle

    and so on.

    This would serve to give the Europeans and American collectors opportunities to energize other artistic communities.

    Why only Miami?

  2. alesh    Thu May 17, 03:31 PM #  

    Obviously, two of those places are miserable during the winter. But I think the main reason is hassle. It’s much more convenient for the people who organize Basel, as well as all the galleries, to get used to one place and stay there. It’s a fun time for all the collectors and everyone else who attends, but for these people it’s serious work, and there are endless logistics to be worked out. Originally it was only supposed to be in Miami for three years, but they decided to stay here, I think for these reasons.

  3. jonathan h    Thu May 17, 03:57 PM #  

    how long has it actually been in miami? i went last year, but i’m new to the area – will this be the third year, or has it already been five?

  4. skipvancel    Thu May 17, 07:35 PM #  

    Basel first signed on for 5 years, but was delayed a year because of 9/11. This year the signed up again, but only for 3 more years. I bet Miami loses it in 2010, probably to LA. The fact of the matter is most Miamians don’t appreciate what Basel brings to Miami and have started to gouge our visitors royally (Hotel rooms STARTING at $800 a night.) In addition, LA has an openess to art that Miami seems to have lost with our recent glossing over of every surface available. One suggestion that I have for Basel is to take the January spot at the convention center that Art Miami has vacated in place of joining Basel in Wynwood. January weather is much better than December weather here.

  5. Mauricio    Fri May 18, 02:48 AM #  

    What can I say? The arrogance of a very savy group youths… First, all of you are newcomers or too young to know much about Miami. Second, what Basel brought to Miami was first rate Art in quantities. Before, it was mostly provincial and derivative, not including the Cubans BC or After Castro. Most of it still is. The reflection of a very conservative group of immigrants. Third, give credit when is due. The first people to talk about the impact of Basel MB…well…I don’t see anywhere in this panel or in attendance. Miami before Basel was tacky.

  6. sacrilegious ?!    Fri May 18, 06:47 AM #  

    Miami was tacky before, during and after Art Basel!
    Art Basel was looking for tacky, edgy, rough around the edges and a little vapid and it found it in Miami Beach.

  7. cohen    Fri May 18, 11:51 AM #  

    If Basel leaves Miami … what will happen to its “art scene”...

  8. knowless    Sat May 19, 06:01 AM #  

    the scene will survive!!!! hopefully it’ll become a community…

  9. skipvancel    Sat May 19, 03:56 PM #  

    Is that photograph Basel? Looks more like Art Miami to me.

  10. Mauricio    Wed May 23, 12:04 AM #  

    As expected the conversation lasted about 2 dozen posts at The Next Few Hours. (Not even a joke moves them.) They really don’t know what to do or are willing to learn from other cities. Communities you say? You need two, one for the good and talented artists, another for the rest. Lip service?!