The following excerpt is from an article I co-wrote with New York Times Miami bureau chief Lizette Alvarez about the impact Art Basel Miami Beach, which kicks off its tenth year on Thursday, has had on the Miami art scene.
Art Basel’s imprint has little to do, at this point, with a local gallery or artist’s ability to get through the fair’s famously rigorous vetting process. Just 3 of the 260 galleries invited this year are from Miami, and only a handful of homegrown artists are showing in the fair, which begins on Thursday.
But since Art Basel’s debut 10 years ago, dozens of new galleries have opened, and scores of artists have relocated here, lured by the relatively low rents and, partly, by Art Basel itself.
The city, for its part, has used Art Basel to show the world that it is no cultural backwater, with museums, galleries and private collections all putting on their most ambitious shows of the year in time for the fair.
Most Miamians have heard the “Art Basel Remakes Miami” narrative before, and some, justifiably, roll their eyes at it.
Most Miamians have heard the “Art Basel Remakes Miami” narrative before, and some, justifiably, roll their eyes at it. But on the macro level, there is no denying that ABMB has had a meteor’s impact on the city, which in the last decade has seen the influx of artists, proliferation of galleries, and expansion of museums described in the article, as well as a growing sense among Miami residents that their hometown is far more than a warm place where people go to vacation and/or die. Indeed, for every cynic who still considers Miami an incorrigible cultural wasteland, there is now an idealist who sees the city as a burgeoning cultural capital. I find myself somewhere in between — with my back to the cynics.
One thing I feel very strongly is that Art Basel is not the primary catalyst behind Miami’s ongoing transformation. While it certainly made the city a flashing dot on the art world map, it does, in fact, have little direct impact on Miami artists and Miami galleries, only three of which are showing in the Convention Center this year.
The true catalyst, I believe, are the individuals in Miami who have decided to do something great, and to do it here. We cover them all the time on Beached Miami (examples 1, 2, and 3), and in the process I have come to see them collectively as the crucial variable in the ongoing development of Miami culture and identity. (I expressed a similar sentiment in a Miami Herald op-ed back in June.)
“Art Basel has been wonderful to Miami, but for the rest of the year we need to start building an infrastructure,” art collector Rosa de la Cruz says at the end of the article, which you can read in full in the NYT’s Arts section. “We have to be very conscious of that, and we have to work very hard.”
Yes, with Art Basel — the fair itself and the annual extravaganza that comes with it — about to explode in Miami for the tenth consecutive year, we should remember that there is a lot of work to do, and raise a glass of complimentary champagne to the Miamians who already are doing it.