Love Art? Attend Art Basel Miami Even After the Banana’s Gone

Art Basel Miami is the palm-lined city’s contribution to the iconic world of art fairs

If you didn’t know about Art Basel Miami before December, you probably do now.

It’s the massive art fair in Miami Beach where Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan displayed his artwork, titled Comedian.

You know, the banana duct-taped to a white wall? Yes, that work of art.

In the art world, Art Basel is the most influential art fair on the globe. You should see it for yourself, even though that famous banana is now consumed.

Art Basel’s impressive beginnings

In the early 1979s, the inaugural international art fair occurred in Basel, Switzerland. Founded by three gallerists: Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner, and Balz Hilt. The event attracted more than 16,000 visitors. They came to peruse works from nearly 100 galleries and 30 publishers from ten different countries.

Then, in the early 2000s, Art Basel introduced the Art Unlimited platform. It was a groundbreaking open-plan exhibition environment for a variety of contemporary media styles. In 2002, Art Basel opened in Miami Beach with exhibitions from 160 galleries across 23 countries and to an audience of 30,000 art enthusiasts.

Today, Art Basel occurs in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Miami Beach. Together they are a driving force in supporting galleries as they nurture the careers of artists.

Why bring Art Basel to Miami?

Since its opening, Art Basel in Miami Beach has evolved into North America’s premier art fair, featuring paintings, sculptures, photography, digital art, and a host of other installations from more than 4,000 international artists and nearly 300 galleries.

Miami, known for embracing eclectic and inclusive art, is the perfect city to play host to Art Basel.

Agustina Woodgate, a Miami-based artist and exhibitor, says of the city’s vibrant art scene, “The creative experimentation that happens in this community is quite special. Miami was and still is a welcoming city, open to meeting new people and adopt ex-pats and immigrants from all corners of the world. Miami is also one of the weirdest places I have ever lived in; that’s why I always come back.”

Art Basel Miami Ruben Ramirez Unsplash
Art Basel Miami attracts the world’s leading art dealers and buyers. Ruben Ramirez / Unsplash

Experience Art Basel for yourself

Art Basel Miami’s myriad galleries feature works from the world’s leading modern and contemporary artists—showcasing emerging newcomers to museum-quality works from world-renowned masters.

Meridians, the platform for large-scale installations, lends breathing room to the traditional art fair layout by featuring massive works at full scale. Other sectors like Nova and Positions highlight solo presentations from new artists whose talent is just emerging onto the global art scene.

Known for new artists and new art forms, the 2019 Art Basel Miami also ushered in new genres. This included text and slogan based works designed to make a political or personal statement. Many works shone a spotlight on activism for social and environmental change.

The fair places due emphasis on newcomers (and new art forms). However, it remains a showcase for collectors of classic pieces and the great masters from centuries ago.

“People sometimes forget that the works exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach can be created as early as 1900,” Howard Shaw, president and director of New York’s Hammer Galleries, says of the 2019 fair. “While the artists we exhibit—such as Calder, Chagall, Modigliani, Picasso—might be considered the Old Masters of the fair, we always make sales, meet many new clients, and receive a wonderful response from visitors.”

Back to the Beach

In December of 2020, the fair will once again take over Miami Beach for its biggest event yet. While the Convention Center hosts the main event, more than two dozen satellite fairs will pop up around the city. In addition, celebrity-hosted launch parties and exclusive events will showcase art in all of its many forms.

Also check out Art Basel Hong Kong, set for March 19-21. Better yet, visit Art Basel at its home base in Basel, Switzerland, from June 18-21.


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