Art Basel Miami Beach Preview

Erica Agyeman

Art Video Nights 2012, courtesy of Art Basel.The ongoing debate and uneasy relationships between commercial art galleries, public museums, and private collectors renewed, with the eleventh installation of Art Basel Miami Beach opening this week.

Art Basel Miami Beach officially kicked off Wednesday with a series of VIP events attracting art collectors and stars like P Diddy, Tommy Hilfiger, Will Farrell and Owen Wilson.  The day began with opening remarks from the directors of the Swiss based art fair, governmental officials from both Miami Beach and Basel Switzerland, and the fair’s main sponsor, UBS, all of which spoke to the importance of collaboration and cooperation with the Miami art community.  Norman Braman, the Chairman of Art Basel Miami Beach Host Committee, noted the tremendous growth the Miami arts community has enjoyed since the art fair began. He mentioned the recent National Medal awarded to the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, the growth of institutions, such as the Pérez Art Museum (formerly the Miami Art Museum, renamed in honor of its largest benefactor real estate tycoon Jorge M. Pérez), which is slated to re-open in late 2013.  And, the abundant growth of local art galleries, expanding from only eight in 2001, to the more than 140 galleries currently operating in the Miami-Dade area.  Indeed, Miami’s art community has transformed over the last decade and the fusion between its fashionably commercial and ostensibly non-commercial realms reflect similar shifts in the art world as a whole; the partnering of these interests simply becoming more transparent. 

 For the art fair attendee, the connections between local and international, institutional and commercial art worlds make for an exciting line up of events and programs.

The Video Art series, presented in conjunction with the New World Center, Miami MoCA, and ArtProjx, will broadcast 20 videos upon a 7,000 square foot projection wall at Soundscape Park as well as within the Miami Beach Convention Center itself. Highlights of the series include Rashaad Newsome’s “Shade Compositions” scheduled to screen Friday night and a dusk to dawn presentation of the 12-hour film, “bliss” by Ragnar Kjartansson.

Art Public, a series public artworks and performances is produced in collaboration with the Bass Museum of Art and curated by Christine Y. Kim, the associate curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA.  Highlights include Adam Pendleton’s “Black Dada Flags” and two billboards by Gary Simmons, whose work was also included in the Rubell Family Foundation’s outstanding 2009 exhibition, “30 Americans,” iterations of which are still touring museums across the United States.

Impression, courtesy of Art BaselThe Art Salon and Conversations series offers a number of artist talks, panel discussions, and lectures, with particularly strong representation by museum curators and directors, including Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum New York and LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Michael Goven.  Of note are the artist talks: South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere in conversation with Co-Director of Serpentine Gallery London, Hans Ulrich Obrist , and artists Hank Willis Thomas and Mel Bochner in conversation with independent curator and cultural ambassador for the Morgans Hotel Group, Adam Shopkorn, both on Saturday.

The fair itself boasts representation from 257 blue chip galleries specializing in modern and contemporary art, hailing from 31 different countries and five continents.  Outside the convention center, are more than 25 art fairs, more than 1385 galleries, and more than 4000 artists exhibiting artwork this week.  A visual cacophony of experimental, emerging, established artistic voices that one Basel organizer noted, is unique to the Miami Beach iteration of the fair.  It is a reminder that while the art world’s historic divisions to protect and support the existence of critically thoughtful and possibly unfashionable works from the demands of the commercial market are far less distinct than in the past, the 2012 Art Basel Miami Beach visitor experience will not be limited to the convention center, but surely include the colossal number of concurrent art fairs, public programs, performances, and street art events taking place this week. 

Art Basel Miami Beach is located at the Miami Beach Convention Center and is open to the public Thursday December 6 through Sunday December 9, 2012, noon to 8 pm daily, Sunday noon – 6 pm.  For more information and ticketing, please visit:

Erica Agyeman is a curator and contributing writer to the IRAAA.