Attending Art Basel Miami Beach for the first time, Briana Dolan weighs in on this year's Miami Art Week and the surprising disappointment that followed.
Twenty years ago Art Basel landed in Miami, Florida and shifted the trajectory of the entire region. Not that Miami was absent of art culture before 2002, but in positioning Switzerland’s premier art fair amidst the humid, sandy shores of south Florida, the land of cocaine-infused nightclubs merged with an at times untouchable art world and an entirely new, colorful entity was born. Since then, Basel, or ABMB as it is sometimes referred to now, has had a lifeforce
of its own. Fashion, celebrity, genius and the absurd orbit around a week in December in which seemingly the entire world descends, by air, by wheels and by yacht, to see and be seen in Miami. For some, it is a pilgrimage with purpose; for others, it’s a quest to match expensive clothing to remotely similar artwork for TikTok fame. Many, many arrive and, a week later, return home inspired, confused, or for some, significantly less wealthy.
Art fairs, for the most part, are built on the same model. Exhibitors display their wares on white walls. There is at least one bar. Attendees receive a map and everyone weaves through the walls at a predictable pace. Art Basel, as it turns out, is the same. As is Art Miami, Context, Spectrum, Red Dot, Untitled, and the rest. No these are not night clubs in Miami, but satellite fairs that were erected alongside Art Basel, ballooning Miami’s Art Week into an enormously expensive parade of show and tell (or sell, as they’d prefer). Some fairs, like Basel, project an intentional coldness that only the most elite VIPs can find comfort in. Others, like Art Miami and Rot Dot, were a welcome retreat to the frequent Miami downpours. Some of the art was extraordinary, some was not. The biggest takeaways, though, went beyond the confines of each fair. The city was packed and no show was any less busy than the next. Millions exchanged hands and an exhaustible amount of art was sold. Despite the mounting fear of recession, the demand is there.
In facing the entity that exists because of Art Basel- not the inside of each fair, but above them all, in and around the city, and spread through the channels of added hype and hysteria through to all corners of the world- there is a muffled disappointment echoing through. The magic and mystery surrounding Basel lacked the magic. The most captivating works on view toed the line of reality and a dream state, inviting fair goers to lose the environment altogether. Much of it, however, had attendees looking instead at one another, finding the fellow art consumer just as illuminating as the art to be consumed.
In final review- Every art extravaganza has both highlights and lowlights. This year’s lackluster highlights in Miami leave space to grow as the world re-enters major events in full force and dreams bigger for 2023. We close 2022 with a rejuvenated anticipation for the new year.
For a deeper dive on Miami’s Art Week 2022: