Art Basel is a big art show that focuses on Modern and Contemporary art, that began in Basel, Switzerland. A little more than 10 years ago, the Art Basel franchise was expanded to include a show in Miami Beach. Since then, the Miami Beach Art Basel show has grown every year, with as many as 70,000 people estimated to have attended the main Art Basel Miami Beach event and other satellite events this year.
Though I had gone to some of the smaller Art Basel events years ago, Mr PoP had never been. So this year we decided to take a little mini trip and “get our art on” for the day – as well as to see the main event to see what all the fuss was about.
Here were some of our takeaways…
Art As Flea Market
The main Art Basel event was huge. And packed. The entire Miami Beach Convention Center was mapped out into cubicle-style mini galleries. I normally have a great sense of direction, but here I managed to get completely turned around and lost my way multiple times. There’s just THAT MUCH ART.
But the thing is, it was really hard to enjoy it. The sheer number of people and the amount of art made it difficult to really take it all in. When Mr PoP described it later as feeling “like a flea market” I couldn’t have agreed more. Yet, it was a flea market where I would have gagged to know the prices of the pieces – especially the piece that was damaged by the crowd. (There was a giant ceramic squid with tentacles probably 8 feet long on the ground with no barriers, and one of the tentacles had been broken off about a foot from the end. An expensive “oops!”, I presume.)
Friends of ours went with the intention of looking for pieces to purchase and knew they were approaching it as more of a shopping trip than a gallery viewing. In hindsight, this was totally the correct approach. FWIW, they didn’t buy anything and have found that art valuations are getting hot again.
Please Do Not Sit On The Art
After hours and hours of wandering around South Beach to various smaller venues, and then becoming overwhelmed with the convention center, we ended up at Design Miami. Design Miami is an auxiliary event to Art Basel Miami Beach, and focuses on modern and contemporary design. It’s a lot like Art Basel, but with fewer pieces that are intended to be hung on the wall and more chairs.
A lot of chairs, actually.
Were there really that many, or is it the fact that by this time I wanted a chair oh-so-badly? And yet it seemed that while there was a chair in nearly every direction I turned, each had a tiny little folded sign on the seat asking nicely, “Please do not sit on the art.” So frustrating!
Ah well, Design Miami was still quite neat and one of the highlights for me here was a Nakashima rocking chair that looked as though you could just live in it.
Is It Art If You Have to Tell The Viewer?
Case in point was found in Design Miami – a relatively plain medicine-style cabinet with a white exterior, with a door opening to a mirror-backed interior with small glass shelves. But what sets it apart from the medicine cabinet in your grandmother’s old house? The black lettering across the front that states aggressively in all caps, “OF COURSE IT’S ART YOU FOOL“.
Maybe I’m outing myself as a complete plebeian here, but if the art is really THAT defensive about where it stands in the world, it seems to indicate a real lack of confidence. After all, if a woman starts telling everyone she meets “I AM A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN YOU FOOL”, after a while wouldn’t you start to wonder if she really believes that. After all, if she believed it and accepted it as truth, wouldn’t she not need to hear it stated so often?
And The Cost…
Most of the art we came across did not have price tags. In general I imagined how much I’d be willing to spend on a piece and then estimated that it would require 2 or 3 more zeros on the end of that number, if not even a few more beyond that.
But there was one piece in particular that stuck out to me for not only its simplicity – honestly it looked like something that most people could put together in a few hours with some balsa sheets and a little white paint. But the price tag next to it astounded me.
For that? Really? At that price, the artist could at least have come up with a title…
Luckily Public Art And Talking With Local Artisans Is Free…
The parts I enjoyed the most was the time we spent in the sculpture garden erected in Collins Park and wandering through and getting to speak with some of the local artisans when we walked through the Art Center of South Florida and got to meet a few of the local artists who were present and some working on new pieces.
It’s this kind of bringing art to people and making it accessible that I appreciated the most. We all deserve to have some beauty in our lives, and public and local art can help accomplish that for many on a daily basis.
What Did All This Insight Cost?
All told we spent ~$210 on this little excursion.
- $40ish in gas and tolls
- $110 for two tickets to the Art Basel and Design Miami
- $60 for both of us eating out all day
When we do it again (I say when since I know there is still so much that we missed that I think we’ll go again in a couple years), we’ll likely skip the main Art Basel event in favor of the more satellite events. Not only will this allow us to avoid the flea-market type atmosphere of the convention center, but luckily enough it’s also the more frugal choice as most of these events are free or a much lower cost.
Anybody else ever go to an event like this? How much have you spent on art and experiencing it over the years?