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Art Basel, Miami’s Biggest Art Event

Last Updated on August 10, 2023

(This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Where Miami.)

An art aficionado regards a painting of a stormy ocean
An art aficionado admires a painting of a stormy ocean at Art Basel 2019.

Few events put Miami at the forefront of the world stage as does Art Basel. From Dec. 5-8, the annual art fair, a satellite to the original in Switzerland, attracts collectors and aficionados from all corners of the globe to view — and often buy — works by both renowned and up-and-coming artists. Too large to be confined to one location, the entire city becomes the backdrop for the event.

The Center of It All

The heart of the action takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC), whose 2018 redesign was done with an eye to creating a world-class home specifically for Art Basel. Last year, more than 83,000 attendees descended upon the MBCC over the event’s five days.

For the 18th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, some 200 exhibitors will showcase works from more than 4,000 artists from six continents, with additional large-scale projects, video projections, and live performances on display in the venue’s ultra-modern Grand Ballroom.

Go Explore

Elsewhere around Miami Beach and beyond, numerous galleries and museums are pulling out all the stops for the occasion. The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU, whose admission is always free, is one of only three U.S. cities to host “Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989,” organized by the Columbus Museum of Art and curated by the artist and art historian Jonathan Weinberg, with Tyler Cann and Drew Sawyer. The landmark exhibition, which comes on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, celebrates the impact the LGBTQ civil rights movement has had on the art world.

A textured black square hanging on a white wall“This is not an exhibition that every museum would agree to exhibit,” says Jordana Pomeroy, the museum’s director. “But we like to tell different narratives. Some of the art is a little tough, but we didn’t shy away from that.” Pomeroy cites David Hockney’s portrait of transvestite actor Divine, a regular in the films of John Waters, as one of her personal favorites from the show.

Miami artists featured in “Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989,” include Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Martin Kreloff, the latter being one of the founders of the White Party fundraiser for AIDS, a groundbreaking event that inspired imitations in numerous other cities. On view is the poster for the first-ever White Party, designed by Kreloff, as well as Gonzalez-Torres’ billboard urging activism, which loomed over the site of the Stonewall riots for six months in 1989.

Also returning to Frost is Breakfast in the Park, an annual event featuring a lecture from a noted sculptor, a tour of the sculpture gardens, and a morning meal. For 2019, sculptor/photographer Petah Coyne speaks about her flamboyant, large-scale works, often made from such unconventional materials as wax, silk, and hair.A pink art installation featuring whimsical statues

Ones to Watch

Two other Art Basel artists on Pomeroy’s radar are Mickalene Thomas, whose ’70s-infused Better Nights installation shows at the Bass Museum, and Teresita Fernandez, who brings the large-scale works of “Elemental” to the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Most major art museums in the metropolitan area have organized special exhibits and events around the art fair.

Pomeroy encourages art lovers to also explore other venues around the city, particularly those in the art-making centers of Little Haiti and Little River, the latter touted as Miami’s hottest up-and-coming neighborhood. Over in ever-arty Wynwood, a couple of hours at the Bakehouse Art Complex, housed in a former art-deco bakery, provides the opportunity to view shows from the organization’s resident artists — and perhaps even catch a few at work on their latest creations.

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