The ninth edition of the Art Basel came to a close as I was boarding my early morning flight back to New York this past Monday. As it is my custom I attended and ran around Wynwood for 3 days basking in the most colorful array of artwork ever. I have been familiar with the fair and it’s become my favorite Miami event for the past 4 years. I guess the arrival of so many visitors (46K, this year, and a record) and the transformation from city to museum makes it a lovely sight and entertaining place to navigate. Not knowing what to expect every year I set foot every early December in Miami with the highest anticipation of the fair. This year’s was no disappointment: it was blessed also with the most incredible blue skies and cool temperatures making it perfect to be outside.
The gritty details
The single most noticeable thing for me this year was the overwhelming shift to Wynwood, Design District and Midtown. These areas have always been a part of the fair, yet never as prominently as this year. With the recent opening of at least a dozen new restaurants, which I will give you the details later, and the participation of every abandoned, empty and existing warehouse! It was a madhouse; the crowds walking on that street would suggest you were in the main fair, not a satellite as is this area… I made my way around on Friday night, and Sat night and lastly Sunday afternoon. Each time was just as buzzing. There was no lack of floating bars, street vendors, food trucks, gallery parties, and people having dinner in the newly opened restaurants. All this would paint you a picture of people making good profits from the freshly arrived and thirsty visitors. The word coming from the artist community was a bit different, one gallery owner D. Naly said “if you add all these people together they would not be able to afford buying pizza, let alone a 5 grand painting” he was not too thrilled with the swoons of people after the free drinks. Another artist said he was pleased with the uproar of visitors being attracted to the area, but did say it was still hard to sell art. One fair attendee made a good point to me “right now it’s easier to sell artwork for 2 million than artwork for 2 grand”. If you see the rave reviews ArtInfo is pumping out you too might agree. Overall I had a feeling the beach fairs and parties were for the snob and rich artiste and the rest of the young, fun and broke went to Midtown and co.
Food & Parties
As I mentioned before Miami has seen the opening of about a dozen new restaurants especially in the mainland. I had dinners at Sugarcane (A) Fratelly Lyon (D-) Baires Grill (B+) Mandolin Aegean Bistro (A+) Sardinia Enoteca (C-) and finally Joeys (B+). I can without doubt tell you the single worst experience on this trip was at Fratelli Lyon where service is atrocious and food is a bland mix of overcooked pasta and no salt. However, there is Sugarcane, which is a tapas Asian fusion which was delicious and pleasant. No trip to Miami is complete, AB or no AB, without an aperitivo at Smith and Wollensky at sunset. Enough about food, and more about parties, the scene was artsy and just about every club, lounge and bar had an event; a lot of imported singers and musicians from NY. Eve or the ex White Room, presented Blondes, which was interesting, and The Electric Pickle was pounding great music by various dj’s. Great looking people and some not so great with their stupid ironic mustaches, made for fun people watching and a feeling of real diversity, not just an array of Latin Americans and Cubans!
I highly recommend this event to all who like art, or want to escape for a weekend of partying and fun. Don’t come to relax because the traffic and the madness will not allow. The city is really alive and the waves of energy are sure to be felt!